How to Grow an Online Business
Buying and selling products online is nothing new, but the ability to grow your business so it reaches new heights may be. Your business is more than just uploading products to the internet and hoping for the best. It takes skill, research, and patience to push your company to the next level online.
You did it! You thought of an idea, created your own product or service, and have decided to take it to the next level. Putting your business online has so many wonderful benefits. People all over the world can see what you have made, you are technically open 24/7, and you have the ability to grow larger than ever before. Sure, it can be daunting, but take it step by step, and you will be able to scale your online business for continued and future success.
Commit to Success
It may seem like a no brainer, but it’s unlikely your company will grow if you don’t want it to. If you are content to have a small shop that only takes in a certain amount of orders then putting in the labor and resources to grow your online business may not be the right move for you. If you find yourself saying, “Heck yeah I want to grow!” Then the first step is commitment.
Be realistic when setting goals for yourself and for your company. To be the best entrepreneur you can be, you’ll need both the physical and emotional capacity to grow. Develop goals, make a plan, and take each day as it comes. If your company is competent and able to compete you have a better chance of scaling your business to reach new heights.
With growth, comes competition. In addition to committing to your ideas and your product, you’ll also have to commit to keeping an eye on your competition. There are millions of products online and it’s your job to make sure yours stands out. Don’t just look at your product, and your competition, through your own eyes. Look at it through the eyes of your customer. The customer has thousands of options to choose from, they don’t have to be loyal to you. They don’t have to purchase your product, so figure out what makes them want to.
It’s easy to lose sight of the competition when you’re focused on yourself, but don’t forget that you’re not alone out there. The excitement that pushes you forward is a great thing, but if you forget about your competitors, it’s easier to fall behind them. Analyzing your competitors and considering your product through the eyes of the customer will allow you to make the necessary changes for significant growth.
You have to figure out what your product can do that sets it apart. In this day and age, it’s hard to come up with a completely new product. So get creative. Take time to figure out the special “add-ons” that only you can provide. These add-ons don’t have to be huge, but they do have to be significant and needed. Think about what you would want to see, what you might need, and turn those thoughts into actions.
But your company can’t be just all about you. To be truly successful, you will need to network in order to grow your company outside of its own four walls. It can be tempting to stay hush, hush, and keep everything between you and your tight knit team. But don’t forget that closing yourself off from the outside world is not always in your best interest. Of course, protect your product and its data, but don’t be afraid to reach out to make connections that are mutually beneficial.
Networking is a very common chore for individuals. In a lot of fields and companies, it’s the only way to get a job or advance in your career. So why would it be any different between companies? Think about it as forming alliances with other people, not as giving away your information. Having more people on your side is always a good thing. You never know what will happen today, tomorrow, or a year down the road. A solid connection can be incredibly valuable.
Taking the time to invest in your company’s future as well as your product builds a sustainable foundation for yourself and your employees. Things have changed greatly since the early era of selling online, and they will continue to change. Stay up-to-date with these changes as they occur to stay invested in your company’s online future.
Grow Big, Grow Wide
Business starting to boom? Great! But now you have orders coming in, shipments going out, and your head is barely above water. To truly create a long-lasting business you have to hire the best of the best. When things start to move forward at a rapid rate you must rely on others to make it all work. Remember it costs money to make money. Now may be the time to invest in people to help you grow your company.
Just make sure you invest in the right people. For example, not every company needs a full-time Social Media Manager. You might only need one for 10-15 hours a week. Think about what you need and who you need to make it happen. Sorry to say, but you probably don’t have all the skills required to make your company the best it can be on your own. There are people out there that can help. You just need to find them.
After you have the employees you need, you’ll need customers who want to purchase your product. It’s easy to get burnt out if you need to rely on upselling at every possible moment to keep your head above water. So make what you offer customers clear and easy to understand. If you can, make it fun! Improve users’ experience on your site by thinking about how they navigate it. Is there an easy trail for them to follow? Those who are visual learners tend to follow the path you lay out for them. Come up with a checklist of necessary information on your site. Then layout the quickest path for customers to get it. The quicker people are able to learn about your products, put them in their cart, and check out, will work in your favor. The longer it takes to find information and go through the checkout process, the more likely customers are to abandon their cart. Make it easy, make it fun if you can, but most importantly, make people want to buy what you are selling so you can grow.
So you have customers, but how do you keep them coming back? Email marketing is one of the oldest tricks in the book. We all hate being bombarded with sales emails, sometimes from pages we did not even realize had our address. Be smart and transparent with your email marketing campaigns to keep your customers from hitting “unsubscribe.” Know your audience. Email marketing requires research to find out what will work in your favor.
Once you have momentum, you need to grab on to it and not let go. Hire the best and give them the tools they need, give customers a reason to buy what you sell, and test out email marketing to continue your growth.
Track Metrics, Stay “On Brand”
What is the point of research if you ignore the data? Metrics can be an incredibly useful tool in making decisions for your company’s future. Your customers’ reactions to past efforts will tell you so much about how you did, how much better you can do, and where you may have slipped up along the way. This is especially important when you are just starting to scale your business. Use your own data to improve your website and, in the end, it will save money and make you a bigger profit.
If you are using social media to help advertise your business and products, one major metric you should be paying attention to is, Cost Per Click (CPC). Let’s use Facebook Ads as an example. You go into your dashboard, load up your post, set your parameters, and decide how much money to put behind it. If you spend $100 for a week-long ad, Facebook will track how many people viewed, clicked, and “reacted” to your post during that time. When the ad is finished running, you can go into your dashboard and see the CPC. The CPC tells you how much money you spent for every “impression” the ad made. It’s a good gauge for how well you did at creating the ad, and how far the ad reached. If you are putting a lot of time and money into online ads, evaluating and tracking your CPC will help you make decisions for future success.
When you start putting money behind what you do online and on social media, you need to be on brand. Consistency is key here, especially when it comes to social media. Your handle should be the same across all channels. When you start your pages, make sure your company name is available on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and wherever you want to advertise yourself. If it is taken, reach out to the person who owns the handle you want. You may get lucky, and the person will hand you over the name for free (rare), or for a low fee. With the huge amount of profiles on the top social media sites, companies small and large have this issue. Don’t be discouraged if you do.
If you want to create pages for various products or lines you sell in addition to your company, make sure there is some commonality between them all. Your brand is one of the best selling points that you can cultivate. People who trust one product will start to recognize your brand in others. They can become the loyal customers that every business looks for.
Branding is important because it differentiates you from your competitors. So what’s the first rule of branding? Break the rules. Customers don’t want everything in their lives to be “cookie cutter” (unless you sell cookie cutters). If everything looked the same, how would you stand out? How would you be the best you could be?
Make some calculated risks. Taking risks and breaking the rules means taking a chance. Things may not go back to how they originally were, but you may be the better for it. Life isn’t meant to be lived the same every day. So make your plan, stick to your passion and see where risks and rule-breaking can take you.
So, your company is growing, your product is selling, and the sky’s the limit. When you invest in your company, doors open. Things that you never thought possible are now possible. It takes time, it takes research, it takes choices, decisions, and communication. It takes all these things to make sure your company keeps growing. Hang on tight, have the right people by your side, and know through it all that you aren’t the only person to have gone through this. What matters is how you deal with whatever comes your way. Give yourself and your company what it needs to grow, to succeed, and most importantly, to make you and your customers happy it exists.