How to succeed in taking your business online
This month we have a guest post from brand and online consultant Stuart Mack. He has worked as a management and brand strategy consultant for over 15 years. As businesses look to future proof their selling channels in a new reduced contact world, Stuart writes about the route to establishing an online space to connect with current and new customers.
Delivery, digital subscriptions and online services and products have not only weathered the Covid storm but in some cases have thrived during the Coronavirus outbreak. Those businesses that were already running well online have continued to reap the benefits over lockdown. If it wasn’t already crucial to sales: a functional, well designed and well promoted digital presence it’s now mandatory.
This article will briefly break down the thought process to planning, designing and building an online presence that allows you to connect with current and new customers. It will run through from practical planning, creating your online presence and then promoting it. But let me warn you it isn’t a silver bullet and when executed poorly can have a negative impact on your brand.
Prior to building your online presence you have to know what you want it to achieve. For example, do you have a product you can ship and therefore the goal is to sell and deliver those products.
Do you sell a service that can be packaged and sent digitally, or even a service that you could convert to a digital product and then sell online?
You have to define very clearly
What you are selling (what problem you are solving) for whom and why you are different or better than your competitors. Then define your objective, is it to sell and ship products? Is it to provide consulting services? Is it to promote a trade? Once you have defined this you will be able to understand what you want your site to do…create awareness or funnel a browser towards the checkout and clicking ‘buy.’
Moving online will create new processes for your business. Fielding more enquiries, setting up online meeting software, shipping your product. How are you going to run customer service? How are you going to ship your product? How will it be packaged? How will you deal with returns? Perhaps you’ll need a new email account with a variety of handles – ‘accounts@,’ ‘returns@,’ ‘customerservice@.’ You might need an online payment system connected to your online accounting software. (LINK)
All of these questions will be specific to each individual case however being aware of how the new business model will work practically, end-to-end prior to launch means that you’ll be prepared for the unexpected.
Keeping it simple
“your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”
Once you know what problem you are solving for your target audience & why you’re different/better for your audience you have to communicate this.
“Nowadays consumers expect a simple, clear and beautifully communicated brand. Inspiring copy, beautiful imagery and a seamless & consistent online experience. If you aren’t up to scratch, you’ll be discounted with a browser turning to a new site in the click of a mouse.”
Spend time thinking about your competitors, how they look, how they speak, what makes you unique, what is authentically you, how do your customers want to be spoken to? Authoritatively, irreverently? It all comes into how you are perceived…key but not all elements are:
- Price point
- Tone of voice
- Visual brand (logos, colour palette, image style)
- Interactions along customer touch points
- User experience online (fast loading, simple yet engaging)
There are many ways to communicate who you are, why you’re different and it’s an often-overlooked part of the process in my experience…but it is the key to it all. Without this clarity you’re directionless.
Once you have defined:
- What you are selling and to whom,
- why your target audience should choose you over competitors,
- what your brand stands for,
- how that is visually & verbally communicated (succinctly),
- how your process will work end-to-end,
- what you want to achieve with your site,
You’ll be ready to look at designing and building your website.
We’ve all seen the Wix adverts that claim you can have a beautiful website and logo in a day. In my experience this isn’t wholly true. UX Designers and Developers exist for a reason – they generally know what they’re talking about.
Self build or outsource?
With a website you can either have a go at it yourself or outsource to someone who does this for their career. There are a plethora of online software options available to build a site, the main four are:
Personally I don’t use Wix, I find it harder to achieve the aesthetic results I want from it. Squarespace has a number of pre loaded templates that can be adjusted and is very user friendly. Shopify is aimed at an ecommerce customer and WordPress allows for much more customisation but the learning curve is steeper.
Depending on what functionality you require each option is right for different budgets, time available to invest in learning, and different objectives.
How do people find my website?
Yes…so I’m sorry, you’ve done all of this work, written all of the copy, created images that really tell the story of your offering for your customers…unfortunately that’s not going to have people falling over themselves to call you.
You have to be found – you have to promote your website.
Online marketing comes in many shapes and sizes:
- Organic SEO (search engine optimization)
- Paid for Search
- Content Marketing
- Social Media Advertising
- Sales Funnels
- Partner websites
Each of the methods above which I won’t go into in detail on this article may be right for you. You have to understand your customer, where do they hang out online? Which social media would they use? Are they searching for your solution on Google?
These methods should be consistently evaluated and monitored to ensure that you are getting a return on your investment.
There are a million ways to promote your business…that’s where the fun begins.
Great examples of online businesses
To finish here are some examples of businesses that are doing great work online in beautifully promoting their solutions to a defined audience. Whether you’re promoting a shippable product, online service, or trade – when people aren’t walking past your physical store front, ensuring that you can be found online and that you’re communicating your solution in the best way possible is essential.
Soho House Group:
What is IR35 and does it apply to you?
IR35 describes two sets of legislation that HMRC has designed to combat what they consider to be tax avoidance by workers and the firms hiring them. HMRC maintains that these workers supplying their services to clients via an intermediary such as a limited company, are actually employees and so should be taxed as such
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