In the digital age, you don’t need a brick and mortar storefront to run a business. Many successful companies operate almost entirely online.
Digital operations are especially appealing for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which have fewer employees and bootstrapped budgets.
Get set up for success by learning from our tips to run a small business online:
- How to optimize your online storefront.
- Operations tips for online small businesses.
- Marketing ideas for virtual SMBs.
- How to get your finances in order.
Website Design: How to Optimize Your Online Storefront
Your business’s website is its virtual storefront. Here’s how to make the most of this digital real estate.
1. Build a Functional Website
Turn on your virtual “we’re open” sign by building a website for your virtual business.
Keep it simple and start with these basic pages:
- About Page: Make a connection with customers by telling them about you or your company’s origin story.
- Products and Services: People need to know what you’re selling if you want them to buy it.
- Contact: Make sure visitors know how they can get in touch with you.
2. Use SEO to Help Customers Find Your Site
According to a study by BrightEdge, half of all web traffic comes from search engine results.
If your prospective customers can’t find your website on Google, you’re essentially losing half of your potential business.
Implement search engine optimization (SEO) on each page of your site to ensure that your website shows up whenever someone conducts a Google search that’s relevant to your business.
3. Optimize Product Pages and Services Pages
One of the best tips to run a small business online is to make every page on your website work hard. Your product and services pages should do the selling for you.
Maximize your product pages by:
- Uploading high quality photos of your products from various angles.
- Writing detailed product descriptions.
- Sharing information about product materials and dimensions.
- Using a call to action, like “Add to Cart”.
Optimize services pages by:
- Describing what you offer.
- Explaining why customers need it.
- Anticipating and responding to customer objections with FAQs.
- Using a call to action, like “Book Now”.
4. Build Trust
Customers are wary of online scams.
Earn customers’ trust by:
- Adding customer testimonials to your site.
- Enabling customer reviews on product pages.
- Establishing profiles on review sites like Yelp and Google.
- Becoming accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
- Maintaining an active social media presence.
These techniques will add credibility to your online business.
5. Pay Attention to Analytics
Your website shouldn’t be a “set it and forget it” part of your business. You should regularly update and strive to improve your site’s effectiveness.
Use tools like Google Analytics to scrutinize your website and learn what does and doesn’t work. Monitor data about time spent on pages and bounce rates to see where you can improve the usability of your site and increase sales.
Operations: How to Run a Tight Ship as an Online SMB
Running your startup like a well-oiled machine minimizes waste and maximizes profits. Keep reading for operations tips to run a small business online.
6. Streamline Processes
Efficiency is key when you run an SMB — especially if you only have a few people on your team.
Identify repetitive tasks, then write down processes your team can follow. Not only will you cut down on the time it takes to figure out how to complete each task, you’ll increase efficiency with organizational consistency, as well as create a system that will allow you to delegate the tasks that aren’t best suited to your strengths.
For example, if your customers frequently email you with similar inquiries, create templates that you and your team can copy and paste into responses.
7. Hire Help
As the owner of a small business, there are lots of tasks that only you are equipped to handle. Free yourself up to do those things by assigning other time-consuming jobs to other people.
You can also use digital tools to automatically handle specific tasks, where possible. There are a multitude of digital tools designed to increase your business’s productivity. Automate repetitive tasks with software services from businesses like Zapier, HubSpot, and Hootsuite.
Once you’ve automated as much as possible, outsource anything you can feasibly let someone else do. If you’re nervous about the cost of hiring help, start small by paying for a virtual assistant, intern, or part-time contractor.
Marketing: How to Reach Customers Online
Marketing connects products and services to the people who need them. Get creative with these marketing tips to run a small business online.
8. Use Social Media to Spread the Word
An active social media presence adds credibility to your business and keeps it top of mind for your followers.
Create accounts on social media networks where your customers spend time, and share posts regularly.
9. Create a Newsletter
Social media is a useful marketing tool, but due to each platform’s restrictive algorithms that prioritize paid media, there is no guarantee that all of your followers will see your posts.
However, a newsletter from your business will certainly land in the inbox of anyone who’s signed up for your email list. Send newsletters to update your customers about your products and services, share success stories, and build connections.
10. Start a Blog
For example, say your business offers a time management tool for restaurateurs. You could write a blog post filled with productivity tips for restaurant managers, or a how-to guide for maximizing time in the food business.
Finances: How to Keep Your Books In Order
A business isn’t a business if it’s not making money. Check out these tips for financial success in your small business.
11. Accept Online Payments
If you’re running a small business online you absolutely need a way to accept online payments.
There are a wide variety of options. Do some research to find the payment processor that charges the lowest fees for your volume of sales.
12. Hire an Expert
As a small business owner, you probably want to DIY as much of your business as possible. There are some things, however, that are better left to the experts.
Outsource tasks related to bookkeeping, accounting, and payroll compliance to avoid costly mistakes.
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