Little did I know in 2003 when I started emailing my clients regularly, that I was taking my business online . Within a year I discovered WordPress and Blogger and my online offering grew. I was able to market weekly, share insights and create my own ‘website’ with a price list. And I was emailing my customer base every week with valuable content.
For many, there is still a huge resistance to taking busines online, or even just taking some elements of a business online. It has maybe been something at the ‘to do’ list, and something that you would ‘get to when I have the time’.
Now, Covid-19 has changed the world and the business landscape. Many have to go online if they want to survive. For some, this might just be temporary, and things will go back to ‘normal’ when we are no longer social-distancing or self-isolating. But maybe, this is the nudge you need to move your business into a brand-new space. And you do not need to be fearful. You do not need to be technical.
Here are some of my ideas about how you can get started in a more digital, online world for your business, no matter what your niche or industry:
Ensure you have all your customers’ email addresses and invite them to sign up to your newsletter. You can set one up easily enough on MailChimp. The basic package is free. You can’t add them and ask them to unsubscribe if they prefer. The law states that they have to OPT IN and not OPT OUT. They can of course unsubscribe in the future, but not at first. For us, who have been doing online business for many years, we understand the value of an email list. A business is only as strong as it’s email list. The bigger the email list, the more money in your bank – and that’s a fact!
Consider setting up a Skype account for your business. This too is free, and you don’t have to be seen on screen. You can use it for audio only, but it might be useful for coaching, team meetings, training session etc.
You need to become more visible on social media too. But it is no use just setting up social media channels but getting trained to do it properly. There is no point throwing a post into the ether and hoping for the best. To be heard in a noisy online space, you need to make your post effective.
Set up a YouTube channel. If you deliver training, or support your customers and teams in person, you can now film this and put it on YouTube, either as a video that the world can find, or only accessible if people have the link.
If you sell products at markets and at physical outlets, now if the time to think about your online options:
- Selling on your own website gives you more control, but you need to ensure your site is user-friendly, it works, and that your site is SEO’d (Search Engine Optimised) so that people will find it when they are looking for your products on Google, Bing, Yahoo or other search engines. Webzang is your best option!
- Amazon is a great way to sell your products. Yes, they take a percentage, but they do all the customer service for you, they store your stock, and all you have to do, is drive the traffic to your listing. And you can pay to have your products seen by more who search for your products
- Etsy is great if you make things. It is also user-friendly but has become a bit expensive over the last few years, but worth giving it a try.
- I don’t recommend eBay for business. It isn’t very professional to send your potential customers to eBay, and it is not really set up with all the business ‘bells and whistles’ that other platforms have for business
This is the most brilliant system and is also free. Whatever you do on Google Drive is accessible online and offline, but you can share documents with anyone who is online too. It is great to work on tasks together, collaborate, develop and share:
- Google Sheets is like Excel Spreadsheets. I use it for planning, lists of tasks, stats – whatever you can do on Excel, you can do on Google Sheets
- Google Docs is the same as Microsoft Word, but again, if the document is shared, anyone can access anywhere and admin rights on the document means others can contribute. It saves you from emailing Word docs to and fro.
- Google Forms is great to set up questionnaires, submission forms, applications
- You can have a shared image folder for anyone who has access, to get the images
- Google Slides, online or offline, is an online version of PowerPoint
Asana is a project planner and a great way to set tasks up for teams, with deadlines and to receive reminders etc. Teams need Asana to get things done!
Slack is vital if you have a team. It is too easy for people to contact work colleagues on Facebook Messenger and I think this in intrusive. I want to be able to open Messenger knowing all messages will be for pleasure. I have moved all my business communications onto Slack, where you can put people in different teams to receive relevant communications, send files, private messages and keep business away from pleasure.
Working from home is challenging. We sit still for way too many hours or we struggle to focus, so I use the Brain Focus app on my phone. This is for the Pomodoro Technique, which is a brilliant way to stay focused, and get things done, as well as taking regular breaks. The app is free, and perfect to keep you on track. On the free version you can also block notifications from 2 other apps, so you aren’t interrupted or distracted.
Find collaboration opportunities! There are others in your niche who you could work well with, who provide a synergy and who would compliment your offering. Reach out. You might be surprised what comes back!
Or is this the new normal? Who knows…
Let’s take the ‘bull by the horns’ and use this opportunity to grow online….