For small business owners, there’s never been a better opportunity to compete with larger businesses.
Why? Because online technology has levelled the playing field. Digital gives you access to huge markets, easy ways to save time, interact with customers, and a way of reducing your costs.
And Welsh businesses are reaping the benefits of adopting online technology. Cardiff University’s 2017 Digital Maturity Survey shows that 76% of businesses which fully embrace digital technology have increased profits.
Using digital technology doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Here are 4 easy ways that you can start growing your business online now.
Make your website stand out
If your business doesn’t have a website yet, why not?
The Digital Maturity Survey highlighted that 85% of Welsh businesses have a website. As it is often the first point of call for potential customers, you could be losing a lot of customers to competition if you are not online.
If you don’t have funds to pay for a web developer, you could use a website builder like WordPress or Wix. The latter is a free DIY website builder which will create an instant website for you based on what you want, or allow you to create one using customisable templates.
The golden rule with any business website is to make sure your online presence is visible. You also want to make the customer journey as seamless and easy as possible. When customers arrive at your website, make sure that they can navigate around easily and find what they’re looking for. Ensure your website contains accurate, concise information, with clear signposting and calls to action.
Give your website some TLC!
A website which is rarely updated will turn off any potential customers and have a negative impact on your search engine ranking. Search engines (like customers!) love fresh new content which is engaging and interesting.
Blogging is a great way to improve your search engine optimisation (SEO) and position you as an expert in your field. Try posting regular articles which contain useful information for your target audience, but avoid obvious sales messages. You may find that customers start sharing your blogs and linking to them. This will help build your online presence, your reputation, and word of mouth.
Get to grips with social media
Online technology provides an easy way to interact with customers – and social media is the best example of this. Gone are the days of the 9-5 business hours. Nowadays customers expect to be able to contact businesses 24/7, and get a response! Customers are now much more likely to contact a business on Facebook or post a tweet than pick up the phone. Quite simply, if your customers are on social media, then you need to be too.
Before you start, think about your target market.
What social media platforms are they using? There’s no point setting up a Google+ profile if your customers are all on Twitter. You need to do some research and find out which social media platform will best suit you and your customers. For instance for B2C you may find that Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram work best and likewise LinkedIn for B2B. If you’re a social media novice, it’s better to just use one or two channels and focus on these rather than try and juggle multiple platforms.
You can also look at what your competitors are doing and learn from them. What are they doing right, or wrong? What social media platforms are they using, and how much engagement do they have with their followers? Look at their online presence and read their online reviews.
As with your website and blog, posting interesting, valuable and engaging content is key to the success of your social media strategy.
Find flexibility with remote working
These days business doesn’t have to be restricted to the office.
Remote working applications allow you to work anywhere, at any time, without dropping the ball. The cost-saving and flexibility of remote working makes it an ideal fit for the small business owner – less money spent on renting office space, less time spent commuting, more productive working and a better work-life balance.
Office 365 is probably one of the most well-known online (cloud) remote working platforms. It has different pricing plans for businesses ranging from Essentials which provides business email, file sharing, online storage, and Skype, to the Premium package which includes all of the above as well as Microsoft Office apps such as Word and Excel.
If you want to mix remote and office based working, there are apps available such as GoToMyPC. Once you have created your account using your office computer, GoToMyPC will allow you to login remotely using other computers and access your desktop on the go.
Visit the Superfast Business Wales online learning page where you’ll find free online courses available to help you find out more about remote working.
Online invoicing software
The faster you send out an invoice, the faster you will be paid. Makes sense doesn’t it? So, why would you rely on snail mail when you can send out an invoice in minutes?
Luckily there are plenty of tools which can make managing finances much easier for you, with the click of a button. Online invoicing offers a host of benefits for businesses – it’s fast and simple, cost-effective, provides 24/7 access, is environmentally friendly, and it puts you firmly in control.
Zoho lets you add your company branding onto ready-made invoice templates, automate payment reminders and invoices, accept online payments, and upload receipts via your phone camera so you can keep track of your expenses. It also lets you produce work estimates and log the amount of time you spend on particular jobs. And, if you’re still attached to snail mail, you can use Zoho to buy credits so you can send your invoices in the post. Prices start from £0 and go up to £18 a month. There are plenty of other online invoicing tools out there such as QuickBooks so shop around and work out which one is best for you.