How to Take Your Small Business Online
Starting a business is a huge decision, and takes 1000% commitment. When I decided to start my online custom apparel company, RushOrderTees, we had no idea what we were in for. Since 2002, we always focused on the details of every action and every print that comes out of our facility. In this article, I discuss what I learned about starting a small business online, and what it takes to be a small business owner.
Tip #1: Do it better, don’t focus on price. When you are first starting your online business, doing something better than your competitors, don’t just do something cheaper. When you’re better than bigger or more established companies, that becomes your differentiator. You can build on that… a strong, loyal customer base and begin to separate yourself from the competition. Don’t focus on everything, focus on one or two things and be the best at it. Once your company grows, you can more readily branch into other services or products.
Tip #2: Use existing web platforms. You don”t have to know complex coding algorithms to build a decent website, and there are many website builders out there that allow you to easily build a site for less than $20 a month. Assuming you are doing your sales online, pick a website builder that has an easy to use e-commerce option. The e-commerce option should allow customers to use credit/debit cards, as this is the preferred method for most consumers.
Tip #3: Marketing drives your business. You need to drive traffic to your site, and more traffic (usually) means more customers. Advertising online has never been easier, and you have several options. You can utilise social media advertising through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and many others. You can also use paid search advertising, like Google Ads. Perhaps most sustainable way to drive traffic to your site is search engine optimisation, which involves organically ranking higher than your competitors on different search engines. All of these skills require a great deal of training, so you may want to consider hiring a freelancer who specialises in these skills.
Tip #4: Truly sell your product. How you word your advertisements, product descriptions, and blogs will determine how interested a customer will be in what you are selling. This wording also involves using keywords that are specific to your industry, and your competitors will most likely be using them too. Like online advertising, copywriting is a skill that not everyone possesses. You can hire someone, or study your top competitors copy to get an idea of the right style of copy to use.
Tip #5: Network for talent and opportunities. Having excellent networking skills can provide you with opportunities you didn’t even know existed as a small business owner. Whether it be with a local supplier, a marketing firm, or any other business professional, having a strong network will provide your business with more exposure. The longer you get to know your network and the stronger the relationships you build, the easier it will be to work with these professionals in the future. You can also get a strong sense of how to utilise your network, and how they will fit into your overall business goals.
Tip #6: Quality blogging. It may seem like a small task, but consistently adding to the blog on your website can have huge benefits. A blog can act as content for your social media, and can provide content for other sites that link back to your site. A blog also keeps your customers informed, and is a chance to show consumers that you are a subject matter expert in your area of expertise.
Tip #7: Go with your gut. At the end of the day, when you start your own business, you have to make hard decisions. The worst thing you can do is take no action at all, so learn to trust your experience and intuition. If your decision doesn’t pan out, use it as a learning experience, and move on.
I hope this helps you with your first steps. Best of luck making your business idea a reality!
By Michael Nemeroff, Founder and CEO, RushTees