• Lynne Horton

How do I get my Business Online?

If the global pandemic has taught the business world anything, it is the necessity of being able to conduct business online. It is now more important than ever to have an online presence but does that mean you have to have a website? I say maybe not!


There are lots of ways to be online without necessarily having a website.


Before recommending ways to be online I prefer to think about where a business actually is and what it does before drawing any conclusions.


Why may you ask?


Well, I have built enough websites to know that more often than not, after big initial ideas, websites become neglected. They serve as a brochure and anyone who has had a thousand brochures printed knows that eventually they end up on the top of the stationary cabinet gathering dust.


Being online is much more than a few pretty pictures gathering dust. Being online is just that. Being ON and Showing UP. If you are not changing your site, advertising your wares, shouting about your message or engaging your target audience, you are not going to show up.


Where you start out online depends on a number of things and different businesses at different stages of growth will need different digital platforms.


So here are my tips for you if you are in business and wondering what to do next about being on line. You should be considering all of my points below before you decide what your online presence may look like.


Ask yourself what you want to achieve by being online. Once you have your answer next ask yourself, what do I do?


If you are a maker >> Jump to Moving Online Advice for Makers

If you are an advisor >> Jump to Moving Online Advice for Advisors and Educators or Jump to Digital Advice for Online Service Providers and Advisors.

If you wish to start selling online >> Jump to Advice for Creating an Online Shop

If you are a shop on the high street or do you provide a tangible service from the premises?

>> Jump to Advice for Moving a Shop or Service Which has Premises Online


Moving Online Advice for Makers


If you are a maker, what do you make? Is it tangible, touchable and needs posting and packing? Do you send worldwide or just local?


You can of course have a website and there are a whole host of platforms that will make it easy for you to sell. But selling online through your own website is a fulltime job. Do you have time to do that if you are busy making?


Take stock of the resources you have and what you can realistically achieve. If you have a team of people maybe you can sell via your own website.


However if you do everything in your business ask yourself could you manage a website as well? If you are still not sure, ask yourself: How well am I doing so far? Where are my current sales coming from?


If you are on Facebook and Instagram and it is working great, then think about: Are you making enough money? Are you happy to continue with what you are doing? If you answer yes then a website may not be your greatest priority and that is probably ok. If it is not broken, why fix it?


Having said that you must also consider the fickle nature of social media platforms. Here are some things to be aware and cautious of.


Never build a house on rented land.

Facebook and Instagram regularly change their rules and algorithms. This means one day you are riding high and the next the social platform wants you to pay for the land you built your businesses on. Whether that is in terms of who you reach (the eyes Facebook puts you in front of), or want to charge you a commission.


Don’t exclude your potential customers.

Social Media platforms are closed to members only. Customers need to have an account to find you in the first place. This may be ok if you are selling locally or to young people (Instagram), females and middle age people (Facebook) but if you ever want to grow, you are limiting yourself.


How do I avoid the above?


Find the middle ground.

Join a platform like Etsy, Amazon, eBay or any other that will market your products for you. This will save you a lot of expense and effort.


Simply go to a search engine and type in your product and your target market .e.g. “Handmade candle suppliers near me” or “best bath bombs for mothers.” Look at the top results. What shows up, who shows up? Are there any adverts at the top. If there are Amazon ads do you think you could spend more than amazon to get your product up there? If not, join the network, adjust your costs to deal with the fees and then learn everything you can about making money from that platform.


I promise you this may seem like a lot of work but it is much less than trying to build a website and then getting it to show up in the search results before ETSY, Amazon, Not on The High Street etc etc.


Moving Online Advice for Advisors and Educators


The first step is to ask yourself where do you advise from? For example, is it on your own premises, your customers premises or online?

If you advise from a business premises or deliver a service to a customer at their premises you are likely to qualify for a Google My Business page. Taking the time to complete this page and keep it up to date is crucial for your business and should not be overlooked. You will also need a website. As an advisor you have to be trustworthy and this will require a place to call your own that is publicly accessible for people to check you out.


Once again I advise you to go to the internet and search what you offer and who you offer it to, such as “accountants near Liverpool”, “accountants for taxi drivers.” Once you have identified your competition try to stand out from them. On your website be honest and open. Show testimonials, case studies, trusted partners, software and clients. You are likely to be in a competitive market, so show credibility.


In addition to this you will be expected to have a social presence somewhere. How much energy you invest in this will depend on the nature of your services and ideal clients.


Business to business services should generally focus on LinkedIn unless your ideal business client is in a female dominated industry, in which case Facebook may be more appropriate.

Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are great for visual or business to customer outreach.


Basic tips for your Social Media presence.

Find your platform, even if it is only one place and concentrate on what you can do and do it well. Post regularly and be real and helpful.


Digital Advice for Online Service Providers and Advisors.


You probably will need a website to showcase and control your own content and services you provide. You would possibly need a booking or appointment system on the site and perhaps a way to hide your resources behind a payment system. This way people can only access your information after payment. Keeping resources in public places like YouTube is not a good idea. After customers have paid for the initial service, they can then share your link to anyone they choose and that second person will not have to pay.


Again when building your website do some internet research. If you run online beauty courses for example, go to Google and type in “beauty courses online” and see who comes up. If there are a lot of courses on managed platforms like Udemy or Lynda or Alison, then check them out! Are the online learning academies paying to advertise the courses? This maybe a great option to get your product in front of your audience


If people are running their own courses, outshine them.


You may have great success using social media, to reach your audience. However you do this, decide upon what you can do and be consistent. It is fine to give away a teaser (.e.g.the initial chapter or course for free) but avoid overuse of freebies if you can as you will attract the wrong audience in the long run.


They say every person on your email list is worth £1. I have found this is true as for every 100 people on a mailing list usually only 1 or 2% will commit. Try to get every customer's email address if you can and get consent to keep in touch with them (be careful remember GDPR) Remember never build a house on rented land, so even if you do use a learning platform like those mentioned above, think of a way of getting customers to your own content on your own site and capturing there details.


Advice for Creating an Online Shop


Truly moving your shop online takes resources, patience and hard work. There is no easy option. This blog post would never do the subject justice, as so much is involved but here are a few things you need to think about initially.


Do you need to build your website from scratch?

There are so many aspects to an online store, you have to account for;

  • Secure payments

  • Postage rates

  • Returns policies

  • Taxes in the country you ship to

  • Different currencies

  • Stock control

  • Legally shipping certain products

  • Proof of postage

  • Tracking packages

  • Safety of products you are selling….

And so on and so on. This list just touches on the mechanics of being online. This is before product, pricing, place and a host of other stuff.


If you have limited time, space and money please do not attempt to launch a shop from the ground up. There are so many platforms that allow you to sell online such as Ebay, Amazon, Etsy and a whole host of others. These platforms can take care of 90% of the items above that I describe as the mechanics for you. The best of these platforms can take care of 50% of your marketing for you. Only when you have firmly established your business on any of these platforms should you consider going it alone. Now this is not a hard and fast rule for everyone but you should consider this as a great introduction to your first online enterprise.


The fees for online platforms can be difficult but when the time is right offer your own store and a discount code for people to use when they “shop direct.” This is a great way to build your business if the selling platform allows as it does the hard work of marketing for you. Even if your profit margin on this platform is minute, if you can capture the customer and have them coming back to you for more it is worthwhile. The lifetime value of the customer means a whole lot more.


Advice for Moving a Shop or Service Which has Premises Online


If you have a business on the High Street, depending upon size and reputation you may not need a website. However in these uncertain times many people are desperate to keep the doors open during lockdown so want to move online, if you are considering a website, you may be lucky enough to already have a pool of customers who cannot wait to get online and order your products again. Virtual haircut anyone?

In addition to a website to make sure you are truly found online by customers who do not yet know you, then you should ensure you have the following in place;


I cannot stress the importance of a Google My Business page. If you want a customer to find your shop by typing in “carpet shops by me. ” You absolutely must have a free Google My Business page (even if you do not have a website, in fact get a Google My Business page before you get a website). Claim or create the page and then complete all sections. There is lots of help on Google to help you to do this. This is quite a good place to start https://grow.google/smallbusinesses/#?modal_active=none


Depending on your product or service you may need to prove trust or quality so consider Trustpilot, review sites, Facebook reviews etc. Never pay for links or reviews on these and be wary of sites that charge for the review service. Google does not trust paid for links and if aware of the service will likely just ignore and not publicise any such reviews.

So remember you may not always need a website.

Social media is free and can be trusted. However never base your business model solely on social media.

If you qualify for a Google My Business page, create one.

Online businesses may well benefit more from established platforms rather than using precious resources trying to make a website that competes with these platforms.

The most important point, do your research!


Dream High provides FREE business mentoring and advice to new and existing businesses in the Liverpool City Region. If you would find out more get in touch


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