Small business ownership is not for the faint-at-heart. Whilst on the outside small business owners like afterfivebydesign might bask in the role, they will often reveal that theirs is a life of self-sacrifice, juggling a multitude of responsibilities and constant focus on the business at least until it’s off the ground.
In fact, whilst many see them as enjoying the benefits of doing what they like most and having no ultimate boss to face, this is only part of the picture. Many of them confess excessive worrying and agonising about the many decisions that they face.
From a digital perspective, there are several ideas that can assist small businesses. Here are our favourite five tips that are focused on ensuring that one is set up to grasp opportunities and engage in quick wins.
1) Make sure you understand the click ecosystem in which you need to thrive
The digital marketplace can be a complicated place with so many channels, competing websites, 3rd party platforms, directories, social media platforms and search engines.
Understanding the flow of traffic is crucial. One needs to be clear about how people who already know about the business are reaching the business and how those who as yet are not aware of the business can stumble on it.
This exercise serves to highlight which are the essential platforms in which one needs to invest.
2) Online Competitor Audit
Before building one’s own website, it is essential to analyse who exactly is the competitor, where is his or her location, what are the major products or services and most essentially the unique selling proposition.
This is needed to ensure that your website is geared towards building a brand image that is different from your competitors. In a densely crowded market, standing out is not an easy task.
A solid competitor audit is needed to identify the most important features that the websites in certain sectors have. These features need to be present in the website that you will provide for your market.
A serious competitor audit will take note of the best-of-breed competitors and also identify those which need to be followed closely or on a regular basis.
3) Website Design, Development and Testing
Since the website is the online headquarters, it merits special focus. The design of the website’s interface needs to mirror the brand such that there is consistency across all traditional and digital channels.
The core business units need to be present on the main page and any central facilities should be prominently displayed. Website design needs to keep in mind the target audience or segments to which it needs to appeal.
When it comes to website development choosing a solution that is suited to the business at hand is a make-or-break decision. The right type of content management system, e-commerce or e-business system along with customer relationship management systems that have to be roped in, are all part of the overall factors to be examined.
Aspects like search engine optimisation, online campaigns, social media and content marketing have to be balanced out according to the needs of the small business.
Small business owners face the question of in-house website design and development versus outsourcing in different ways than larger firms. Smaller teams and less budget means that decisions are weighed in a different manner.
Asking an employee to design and develop the website means taking him away from the daily job and employing an agency can mean relying on 3rd parties and disclosing some information about operations.
A balance is often found by establishing a working relationship with the right sort of agency. In choosing between agencies, one should not only look at the portfolio of projects but also look at results delivered and ask for testimonials.
A small business would also be better off dealing with an agency that providesall the different related services as in this way one avoids developing many business relationships with a variety of firms.
On the other hand, if one opts to tackle some of the digital marketing in-house, one is bound to discover an excess of many competing tools which can be used to handle different aspects of digital marketing.
Small firms do not usually have enough time to test out different tools until they identify which is the best for them. The best tools are the ones which are not a hindrance in daily business operations. The litmus test of any tool is asking those who already use it if it has improved or hampered their daily operations.
4) Think in terms of evolution
Once your website is launched, keep in mind that a website is an ongoing project and once it is launched it needs to be maintained, monitored and kept fresh. Information needs to be accurate and up-to-date at all times. Plan your digital campaigns and social media activity accordingly.
5) Monitor and measure
The failure to monitor and look at analytics on a regular basis can mean that there are some opportunities and quick wins that are derived only from the insights, which you might miss.
If you’re too busy to look at the website regularly you will never get familiar with the click data.
Small businesses know that they do not have the luxury of big teams, time and resources backing them. Digital marketing needs to be approached with the attitude of quick continuous learning where lessons are learnt quickly, adaptations implemented wisely and information shared with colleagues to ensure that at any point in time, the business is improving and strengthening its digital stance based on knowledge and experience.