A beginner’s guide to getting your business online

23 Apr 2020

Image: © Monster Ztudio/Stock.adobe.com

PhD student Artem Bielozorov outlines the first five steps to quickly build your online business presence.

Regardless how big or robust your business is, establishing a strong online presence has never been more important. It allows businesses to engage and interact with a wider audience, helps them understand their customers’ needs and tailor a quick and relevant response. More importantly, it may generate vital cash flow for businesses struggling now during the Covid-19 pandemic and in the future when the current restrictions are lifted.

A carefully thought-out online strategy helps business owners see the big picture and envision what their success will look like in the future, which in turn increases the chances of avoiding uncertainties and driving higher returns.

Unfortunately, lots of companies (in particular SMEs) do not have these strategies, so here are five reliable techniques to help move your business online successfully.

1. Build your social media presence

Having your company profiles on major social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter is essential as they help you direct an audience to your website, and a good proportion of social media users are potential customers.

Any business that seeks growth in the online environment should focus efforts on developing strong social media marketing. Leveraging these platforms by providing engaging content in the form of text, images and video will draw users to your business page. Simply provide a link to your website so that customers can access it for more information about your company, and perhaps purchase your product or service.

Use relevant hashtags and descriptions to properly categorise your posts, and follow others in your industry posting under the same topics to keep an eye on what your competitors do. You can also encourage your audience to review your business and its services and share their experience.

2. Attract more organic traffic from search engines

Search engines are the major source of traffic for most websites on the internet today and optimisation of your website for relevant keywords is an important aspect for moving your business online.

Your site’s speed, mobile usability, meta descriptions, link profile, reading level, citing of sources, content quality and so on should also be optimised according to best practices.

However, if your business is new and you have not yet built a strong online presence, it is going to be very challenging to get ranked at the top of Google’s results pages for any keyword that is marginally competitive without excellent content. This brings us to the next point.

3. Create an efficient and engaging content strategy

The most important way to build your online presence is to through an efficient content strategy. This should clearly define when, how and where you can post and share high-quality content that brings value to your audience on a regular basis.

Your content strategy is the blueprint that directs your entire online marketing. You should seek to figure out what content will help your target audience make informed decisions and inspire people to take actions that will enable your business to grow.

Content strategy is definitely a long-term project and it will not pay off overnight, but every business owner needs to understand the importance of embracing this online marketing method.

4. Use email marketing to develop relationships with your customers

Most people who leave your website will not come back again. This means that if you don’t get their email address, then you will have no way to get in touch with them in the future.

Building a mailing list is among the most efficient and cost-effective ways to grow your online business. However, to succeed with email marketing, you need to give something of value to the customer for free in exchange for their details. For example, you could create a free report or e-book that will help people in your industry to get valuable insights.

Next, it’s time to develop a relationship with that consumer through step-by-step campaigns. For this you can use platforms such as GetResponse, Mailchimp or Constant Contact. Don’t forget to create a branded email signature and include social media links in your emails, along with any relevant links to important company marketing pieces.

Remember: trying a hard sell in every email will likely result in people unsubscribing from your mailing list.

5. Make data-based decisions with analytics

You cannot rely on ‘gut feeling’ to be successful in online marketing. You need to back up the feasibility of every activity with data.

Analytics are essential for managing, studying and understanding metrics in order to determine the ROI of marketing efforts, as well as identifying opportunities for improvement.

Analytics report every action a visitor takes within your digital space and social media, which helps you understand what marketing activities are bringing in revenue and what attempts were in vain. There are multiple tools and techniques you can implement in your daily marketing activities to help turn your data into information. Then you can compare and contrast this information and direct your marketing efforts towards what works and away from what doesn’t.

No ‘one size fits all’

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution when it comes to moving your business online and there is no online marketing approach that will get you instant sales and instant traffic.

All the techniques you consider will take time. But as long as you’re adding value and you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’ll eventually make your business grow online.

By Artem Bielozorov

Artem Bielozorov is a PhD student at the School of Business at Maynooth University and Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland research centre for software research. He has a master’s degree in international management and leadership from Lauder Business School in Vienna. Bielozorov investigates organisational capabilities and key success factors required for implementation and reuse of cross-channel delivery processes in the digital retail context.