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Why being online is important for startups and small businesses

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Web Summit

BY: Heath Muchena

Reasons for investing in online presence

Ever since we entered the electronic era it has become increasingly part of the global business culture to search for products and services online and make transactions. It’s therefore crucial for any business looking to thrive that a virtual version of the company, particularly for new and small businesses, is accessible on the web.

Establishing an online presence for your business means that your company has 24/7 visibility. It’s also the most innovative way of building your brand, engaging with your existing clients or potential customers, and creating networking opportunities. In addition, being online extends your business’ reach beyond your physical geographical location and allows you to access markets you may not have been able to otherwise.

Furthermore, you can cost-effectively promote your offerings beyond borders and create a demand for your products or services in previously inaccessible markets, giving your business unlimited growth potential.

The importance of establishing your business on the internet

The internet democratises commerce due to its anti-monopoly nature which gives small businesses the opportunity to create far-reaching impressions and the chance to compete with larger and more resourced corporations on an even playing field. However, to gain competitive advantage online is not a matter of simply just creating a generic web page in hopes that customers will come flocking because if that’s the assumption then you’re unfortunately mistaken.

The Digital Economy Survival Toolkit is a book that highlights why being online is important for startups and small businesses. It gives insight into why any business should invest in having an online presence. It also covers the key elements that make a website effective and how to successfully launch a new product and fund a startup.

Knowing what it takes to be successful business on digital platforms is important and every entrepreneur should learn why strategic networking is truly the nexus between entrepreneurs and success. In today’s world of remote working, knowing how to use virtual staffing to better your business has become vital. Communicating with customers via webinars and understanding the importance of branding your webinars is also key to successfully launching a profitable online business.

In terms of growing reach and traffic, entrepreneurs need tools that enable them to ensure their businesses have competitive SEO rankings because without brand visibility there’s no way to drive large volumes of traffic to a website. Other crucial aspects that give online entrepreneurs the edge include knowing how to combine email and social media to maximize the impact of marketing campaigns.

So before you introduce your company to the world of internet users, which according to Internet World Stats is roughly just under half of the total global population and set to significantly increase over the coming years, you need to have a clear strategy outlining your objectives as far as what it is you hope to achieve by establishing your company’s presence online.

Setting up your digital real estate

Having a basic web penetration strategy allows you to have an idea of what to expect and to estimate the rate of return for the resources you will invest in setting up your online presence. Most small businesses and startups do not always have access to large budgets which can be allocated to this however, it should be encouraging to know that the prices for building a decent website are fairly reasonable depending on the scope and you can get started by simply:

  • Picking a unique domain name and selecting a hosting service package – you can get free web hosts and portfolio sites online but it’s best to have your own domain name which you can personalise for your business.
  • Finding a design that best fits your brand – with almost an unlimited number of website designs available, you want to find one that gives your users the best experience and reflects your aesthetic.

Key elements that make a website effective

There are several actions you would need to take in order to give your small business the edge it needs to successfully compete in an extremely competitive world. A good website should incorporate some, if not all, the elements listed below:

Captivating headlines –

Every website should clearly communicate your business offering to potential customers from the start.  It is therefore important to have simple but impactful headlines. Your headlines and subheadings should describe what your business does in a straightforward manner. Remember, first impressions are everything and if your content is not engaging from the get-go customers will most likely bounce off your site.

Comprehensible value propositions –

Once you have briefly outlined what your business offers, the next step is to show your audiences why what you do matters. Here you should focus on showing the benefits or advantages of your products or services by explaining the main features.

Success indicators –

Since the internet is inundated with sites promising consumers all kinds of benefits, it is crucial that you show why customers should choose your products or services over the competition by proving how those who have already chosen your business have benefited. This is also an opportunity to gain the trust of any potential customers.

Resources and content –

Customers tend to initially visit websites with the intentions to find out more information and not necessarily to make immediate purchases, which is why most businesses are enhancing their offerings by providing potential customers valuable content relevant to their products and services.

Calls-to-action –

Ultimately, the purpose of your website is to convert visitors into customers. To do this effectively, it is imperative that you include a call-to-action on your site. For maximum impact you can have one at the top of the webpage and another at the bottom. Good call-to-actions are designed to inspire an immediate response from your audiences with the most popular ones being “call now” or “visit our store today”. You can also use call-to-actions to generate sales leads by including a “find out more” option where website visitors would be prompted to submit some basic personal information such as email addresses in order to access more comprehensive content.

Optimising your website – 

Creating a compelling website which functions effectively is the next step towards cementing your company’s presence online. In order to achieve this you need to ensure that your newly created website is optimised. This allows your webpages to be easily discoverable in search engines and rank higher in search results, making it easier for potential customers to find you. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) involves adding valuable content to your site and using keywords to drive organic traffic to your website.

To make your website search engine friendly and for best performance, there are several areas you could focus on including:

Keywords –

These are essentially topical words or phrases that are used for emphasis. They are also words used by search engines to find relevant pages on the web.

Businesses should aim to create content around topics pertaining to their business offering which can help them rank higher in search results so that people looking for information related to those keywords have a greater chance of landing on their webpages.

Your choice of keywords should help visitors and potential customers understand the purpose of your page.

Content –

For your website to gain prominent visibility online you have to create content that is well-written and error free. Producing great content not only helps your website rank higher in search results but also keeps your audiences engaged and establishes you as an authority in your desired sphere of influence on the internet. Above all, make sure you create quality content that gives readers value.

Responsive Design –

With more people accessing web content via mobile devices in comparison with desktop computers, it is crucial that you use a responsive or mobile optimised design for your website.

Search engines such as Google also recommend responsive design since it makes it much more convenient for visitors to have a single URL.

Setting up your website in this way helps web pages load faster because your website will not have to be redirected to another page for a mobile device.

The secret to success for small businesses and startups –

Now that you know why it’s important to set up a presence for your business on the internet and understand the importance of online participation, as well as what it takes to have a functional website, you can rest assured that you’re not lagging behind the competition.

The secret to succeeding in the digital era rests simply on knowing how to utilize the web to your company’s advantage. What’s great is that the internet acts as a great resource for finding techniques to enhance your business and because the developments on how best to thrive online are ever evolving, you too have a fair chance of boosting your business prospects and no one can claim to have the upper hand as long as you stay updated on the developments.

The writer –  Heath Muchena – Author of Digital Economy Survival Toolkit & The Digital Entrepreneur Manual