The economic downturn may have meant that many hard-working people have lost their jobs, but for some, it has been a blessing in disguise. Being laid off and forced to start over has encouraged many to become self-employed and set up a business of their own. Thanks to the rise of the internet, this task has never been simpler. An online business can be run with very small overheads and it is easy to access a very broad market - there are 1.6 billion people online today, and your product or service is bound to appeal to some of them. It’s no surprise, then, that many new businesses are being run via the internet, including the one covered in this Forbes column. But just because it’s easy to set up a website, doesn’t mean it’s simple to attract and retain the right sort of customers. Read on for a few online business pointers.
Make Yourself Accessible
You already have a website, but that might not be enough anymore. Think of your website as a shopfront on a back street. How many people are likely to wander past your door and come inside to browse? Not too many, unless they are specifically directed there by referrals or advertising (more on that later). What you need to do is make your presence as expansive as possible. You can do this, primarily, by setting up social media profiles on all the major sites. Once set up, you can join local business groups, or run competitions in order to attract people to your page. Putting your business on Facebook or Twitter means that people don’t have to come to you first - you’re going to them, existing in their space and initiating conversation on their terms. Another thing you can do is seek out business directories for both your local area and your market sector, and add your website to the listings. That way, anyone searching for vendors using these directories could stumble across your company.
Get the Right Help
Feel like you could use an extra pair of hands? Harness online recruiting to get help from interested freelancers. It might be that you’re ok with tracking down new products, contacting wholesalers and shipping companies, and dealing with disgruntled customers, but lack the skill necessary to perform website alterations, for example. The internet is full of job boards and freelancers who will be able to help you out. This employment can be for as little as an hour, or you can hire a full-time ‘virtual assistant’.
Use Advertising to Your Advantage
Advertising online can get you great returns. Imagine that anyone searching for ‘buy computers’ was shown an ad to your PC sales page, and that you only had to pay a few cents if they click through. Rates can be cheap, but be sure to choose the right keywords - selecting very valuable words will mean that your ad budget won’t stretch far!