By Jo Barnes of Your Lifestyle Business
“Stand six feet apart, wear your mask, and stay home” has been the world’s slogan in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has made public safety a high priority to us all. It’s also the time to ask, “How are we keeping our small businesses safe?” I’m not talking about wearing masks and social distancing (please keep doing that!); I’m talking about financial safety.
Now more than ever, it’s crucial to focus on business adaptation. The world is shifting, and as small business owners, we need to be ready to shift with it.
Rest assured, you’ve already done the hard work by building a business in the first place. But now, I’d like to share with you seven simple steps to create a dynamic online presence and how to use that presence to grow your business exponentially.
1. Design or Redesign a Website to Create a Dynamic and Interactive Experience For Your Customers
It’s likely you already have a website for your business, and if you haven’t, I strongly recommend you create one!
In this day and age of open-source software platforms like WordPress, you could create a nicely designed website in a single day for nothing more than the cost of a hosting package.
However, it’s not good enough to build your website like an online static brochure simply describing your products or services with some pretty pictures and customer comments.
In the highly dynamic and interactive online world we’re living in today, customers are looking for a story, a personality, and a reason to buy from you rather than your competitor.
So don’t just build a website; create an experience.
Add a video from you, the founder, telling the story of your brand. Create informational, educational, or inspirational posts about your products and services, answering questions your target audience likely has.
Don’t just show your products or services; showcase them. Use multimedia to highlight product features, customer testimonials, and brand benefits.
Facilitate live chat, so customers can ask questions, give feedback, and feel like real people are behind the business.
Your website is a dynamic online version of your offline business. And just as you’d want to wow your customers in a face to face transaction, get creative and come up with ways to wow visitors online.
2. Choose a Social Media Platform to Master
With a dynamic website in place welcoming all your online customers, it’s time to start developing your social media presence.
You may be tempted to join all the different social media networks as it seems an obvious way to increase views. However, I don’t recommend this strategy.
Effective social media management can result in thousands of website views every week. If you’re spreading your energy across several platforms, unless you have a huge team and unlimited resources, you’ll quickly get overwhelmed, and you may end up building a presence nowhere.
Start by picking a platform that works best for your audience. Each social media network has a different target demographic. Sprout Social says that 79% of Facebook users are 30-49 years old, and 72% of Instagram users are 13-17 years old. So if you are a clothing company targeting teen girls, then your energy is going to be better used on Instagram than Facebook.
Start with one platform, go where your customers already are, and expand as you grow.
3. Work with Influencers to Increase your Business’ Exposure
One of the fastest ways to grow your online presence is to work with people who’ve already built theirs.
Known as ‘Influencers,’ these are the people and brands who’ve built huge audiences and regularly use their voice and brand image to influence purchasing decisions.
Go to your social media platform of choice and, using hashtags or searching competing and complementary brands, look to see which accounts have not only the most followers but, more importantly, the most engagement.
It’s no good finding someone with a million followers and zero likes, comments, or shares. In fact, for most small businesses, microbrands are far more effective.
Find smaller accounts with maybe a few thousand followers and hundreds of likes, shares, and comments, and reach out to see how you can create a collaboration. Perhaps you can send them a free product to try, or you can offer a trial of your service for free. Maybe you can pay them to talk about your business.
There are many different ways of structuring an influencer deal. Having a person with a large digital presence using or talking about your product or service is a great way to jump-start your online journey.
4. Create Online Sales Funnels to Make it Easier for People to Buy From You
A sales funnel is a visual and descriptive path that moves prospects from brand awareness to product purchase.
This path will likely start on your social media channel and end on your dynamic website; however, sites like Facebook & Instagram are currently experimenting with end to end sales channels. So it won’t be long before a prospect can buy directly from within whatever platform they’re on.
A typical funnel takes a prospect from awareness to a lead, to purchase intent, and finally conversion.
It’s your role to ensure you meet the prospect’s needs at each stage of the funnel and make it easy for them to buy, no matter what stage they’re at.
Offer a seamless experience throughout, so no matter how a prospect is introduced to your business, your branding is uniform, your message is the same, and your tone is recognisable.
Most importantly, however you choose to structure your funnel, make sure that at each level, it’s a simple click to go from where they are to your products page and your cart page.
5. Build an Email List
Now you’re building up followers and website views, it’s an excellent time to start growing your email list. The goal of an email list is to have a direct line of communication both with prospects and customers.
You’ll naturally build an email list of customers as they buy from you, and you store their contact details.
But how do we build a list of prospects and then turn them into paying customers?
By offering an incentive.
What can you offer for free that can be accessed at scale? For example, let’s say you post a video about your brand on Instagram with a link to your free offer, and it happens to go viral, generating thousands of email sign-ups. You want to make sure that whatever you’ve offered for free doesn’t cost you to deliver it!
Some examples could include;
- A discount coupon
- An informative pdf or worksheet
- A free downloadable ebook
- A free video or email course
Pretty much anything that can be accessed or downloaded digitally will work.
The key to a successful email list is sending content that interests and engages your audience. Exclusive offers are a great way to do this, brand updates, product launches, behind the scenes information, educational resources. Anything you feel will resonate with your audience.
Treat your email campaign as a way to catch up with friends. Keep your tone friendly and informal while also maintaining your professional demeanor.
6. Collaborate with Other Brands in Similar/Complementary Niches
Like influencer campaigns, reaching out to other business owners in a comparable or complementary niche with a well-established website and audience and offering to add value to their audience is a great way to increase your brand exposure.
Perhaps you can offer a guest article for their website. Maybe you can interview them on a podcast or vice versa. You could run a branded contest together, offering each other’s products or services as prizes. You might even do a ‘story takeover’ for a day and take over each other’s IG or FB stories, showcasing your brands respectively.
This strategy is a win-win for both parties. You provide great content that adds value to the site and business you’re working with, and you get your brand in front of a targeted audience.
To get the best from this strategy, it’s essential that you only work with businesses similar or complementary to yours. If you’re working with someone in the home improvement business, for example, but you’re in the entertainment industry, chances are you won’t be hitting your target audience.
Continually look for opportunities where you could add value to other brands’ audiences, and they could add value to yours.
It’s a collaboration waiting to happen!
7. Run Facebook, Instagram, Google, or Pinterest Ads to Increase Exposure
I remember the days of radio advertising on the morning slot for thousands of pounds or getting an editorial spot in the local newspaper as long as I took out a full-page ad.
Perhaps you still follow this ‘throw something at the wall and see if it sticks’ strategy.
If so, I strongly urge you to turn your attention to online advertising.
On Facebook, not only can you select age, gender, location, interests, lifestyle habits, marital status, and more, you can drill down to a person’s buying behaviors; it’s that targeted.
It’s also much cheaper than offline advertising, which is surprising, bearing in mind how much more effective it is.
Pinterest, for example, has an option for you to run promoted ads and bid on top search positions for as little as £0.10. Instagram, Facebook, and other sites have similar options.
You can be as creative as you like, advertising product videos, brand information, lead generation pages, blog posts, podcasts, images. You name it, you can drive an ad to it. The goal is to encourage people to click a link back to your website and purchase your product or service.
And if you’ve created a great customer experience on your website as discussed in point one, you have a great chance of converting your visitor to a sale.
There is no denying that this has been a tough year. Our lives are different today than they were ten months ago. The way we communicate, do business, shop, and live in general has evolved.
This has provided small business owners with an opportunity to reflect on their businesses and look at ways to adapt and grow.
Moving online is a natural progression for a business, and the pandemic has simply expedited the inevitable.
As small business owners, we need to socially distance ourselves from our old shop rules and embrace being digitally present.
Jo Barnes is the founder of Your Lifestyle Business, a blog dedicated to empowering solopreneurs to build a business they can run from anywhere in the world. As a globe-trotting lifestyle entrepreneur Jo has explored 30+ countries in the last 10 years while building 6 & 7 figure online businesses and is currently locked down in Thailand. 😎🏝