Guest post by Jessica Donnovan (learn more about Jessica at the end of this post).
It still amazes me just how many small businesses have yet to attempt building an online presence. Or possibly even worse, how many small businesses start a website and spend the next several years watching it sit without so much as a single person to ever stop by and visit. These days there is no excuse as to why your company is not leveraging new customers via the Internet, period. The increase in customers is just too easy to pass up.
The Internet has become an integral part of most people’s lives. We use it for work, recreation, studies, shopping and so much more. Virtually anything a person could want to buy or know more about can be found somewhere online and relatively quickly as well. Many companies exist because of the Internet — it is the foundation with which they were built upon — while other companies have been able to utilize the enormous audience to increase sales and profits ten fold. Many local shops are now able to reach new customers world-wide, expanding their businesses more than what could have realistically been imagined. Yet, with all of this taking place, some companies have still not taken the leap forward. It is great that you had the initiative to start a business, but now where has that initiative gone when you need it the most?
One of the most common reasons I hear from business professionals about not expanding online is that they don’t understand it. They don’t understand it? You are not tech savvy? You don’t know how to use a computer? Stop and think about this for just a moment. It is impossible to avoid using computers any more. Everything that we do involves technology — your cell phone is a computer, your car is a computer and you operate those things just fine, with no fear of "breaking" something. But when it comes to the desktop computer, you instantly turn to jelly and look for the best direction to wiggle away. It has to stop. It is time to make that leap, to become proactive with your business, to market your business in a new and exciting way that you mistakenly thought you couldn’t do. Marketing your business online has never been more possible than it is right now.
Tips for Moving Your Business Online
Each and everyone of you will have a different experience as you begin to build an online presence. For many small business owners, money is most certainly an issue that will arise. Hiring website developers, renting server space and then marketing the website can all cost a lot of money, and it will add up quickly right off the start. Don’t let these potential set backs, set you back. Instead, use them to your advantage to come up with creative solutions to stop problems in their track. Here are some suggestions to get you going:
- Work within your budget – As I mentioned already, financial restraint is often very important for small business owners. This is where your creativity should really blossom. Rather than shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars that you don’t have, do some of the work on your own. Your local library will have a large selection of books that guide you through possible problem areas, such as building a website or buying a domain name. There are also free programs out there like WordPress (http://wordpress.org) that will allow you to setup a great looking website on your own within minutes. Anyone can do it, including you.
- Take your time – It is easy to get in a rush, which I can assure you in the long run it will cost you valuable time and money. You have already waited this long to build an online presence, another month or so isn’t going to hurt you all that much. So be patient, take your time and be sure that everything gets done correctly, the first time.
- Ask for help when you need it – These days, your chances are pretty good that you know someone fairly technically savvy who would be willing to help you out. This may be your spouse’s co-worker, or a friend’s teenage son or daughter (they often know computers), maybe even your own kids or relatives. You might even check with the library or community center in your area. They often offer free classes that cover various areas of expertise, including computers and business.
- Discover new ways that your business might benefit from being online – Success is usually not as simple as the first idea that jumps into your head. In fact, my experience has been quite the opposite. Success often comes from a culmination of multiple ideas that have been, in one form or another, blended into one seamless great idea that I am able to move forward with, which means that you shouldn’t be afraid to take the ideas as they come to you and figure out new ways to mold them into your business plan. Maybe an online store is not the best option for your business. Maybe you would benefit more from some sort of forum or online community where potential customers could discuss and get excited about the type of product you sell, and once that happens, buying from you would come naturally.
Bring it All Together
In reality, once you have made it this far, the hard part is over. Now it is time to look over everything you have done and find new ways to improve upon the virtual foundation that you have just built. You have already overcome what thousands of other business owners are afraid to attempt, and I think you will be pleased to see the end result. Just remember that there is always help out there, there are always ideas out there and there are always new ways to improve an existing structure, you just have to want to do it.
About the Author
Jessica Donnovan has been building and improving online businesses since the mid-90s when she decided a nine to five just wasn’t for her. Now days she spends most of her time working for the leading online real estate license education resource, Real Estate License Direct. Stop by and check out their real estate internet marketing tutorials when you have a chance.