If you are a small business and are not entirely familiar with how to make a transition to online, the time has come. COVID-19 has totally transformed the way businesses work and worklife patterns have changed too.
The time has come to get into building websites and marketing yourself digitally. Use social media and other online channels – the sooner the better. Plan out how to take your business and your customers online. It’s just another way of transacting – which we cannot afford to ignore at this point of time, when the world has gone digital.
So how do you then start? Here are some tips to take your offline business and customers online.
• Decide to make the shift to online
First of all, make the decision. Decide – do you want to switch on your offline business and turn completely online? Or do you want to gradually transition from your offline business to taking it online completely? Consider your current situation, understand what is your objective. Once that is done, go ahead and craft an action plan and then make the shift.
On the Internet, there are many advantages. You get to extend your reach and connect with people without falling back on the marketing methods you used when you were offline. The benefits of being online are you can track your conversions – it’s first-hand information, it’s cheaper and much more dependable.
• Build an engaging website
Your website will highlight what you want to say. Everything that you want to sell, will be visible online. And like running a shop or an office, you can monitor the website. If you are a small business, and you may operate from a home office, but you would know your environment influences how people see your value.
You should understand that your website is your address, your shop with all your product displays. It attracts customers. It runs the sales conversations, that will ultimately lead to clinch the deal. When you make the transition, consider selling your online services to your existing customer base. Perhaps they will be excited about your new venture, and come forward.
• Identify your target customer
Knowing who exactly you’re hoping to sell to, will make it easier to find them online. And, if you already have a customer base with your offline business, you will obviously have a good idea of who your target audience might be. Essentially, the TG or target group includes everyone who might be interested in your online business.
If you don’t have a distinct customer base, the best way to identify it is to talk to real customers. Or you can instead conduct a survey with your current customers and try to draw similarities & comparisons. In this way you create a description of your customer, in terms of demographics and psychographics, which will give you a clear picture of your target customer; plus, you will have a customer database handy.
• Build your online audience
Once you have a functioning website in place, and you know the characteristics of your customers, you need to start establishing an audience of potential customers. You can either start by building your email list or build a following on social media.
Another way to decide which way to invest your efforts is to ask your customers and see which online platforms are they most active on. Then, you could go for building an audience on social media.
With your online business, you’ll use tools like: Content marketing (offer helpful, useful information in the form of blog posts, audio, or video — or some combination of all three); Social media marketing (to spread the word about what you do on platforms like Facebook, where people already congregate online); or guest appearances on other websites and podcasts ( to help spread the word about how you serve your ideal customers).
Online, you must keep reaching out messages of your business – so prospective customers notice and respond. Figure out who your target audience is and on which platforms do they spend most of their time. This will help you choose suitable platforms, for you to build your presence and visibility for your products. .
• Use email marketing to communicate
Once you have an email list, it will give you a channel you can use to engage your readers, serve them in regular intervals, with helpful information and resources. This will attract them. You can also make special offers from time to time.
Email marketing can also be used. Remember, don’t email too often but at the same time, it won’t work if you don’t email often enough. Find that perfect email marketing balance and then keep moving ahead. This is something a new online business owner must tackle.
• Build enticing online offers
You are online, and you don’t have the benefit of knowing your online customers personally. But you will have to use subtle methods to understand their needs and build products and services that help meet them. Fortunately in India we have so many festivals – practically every month, and the options are wide. Plus, we can see how brands are over-busy with their promotions, trying to create customer ‘delight’!
At the same time, keep track of competitors’ audiences. Looking behind the scenes of the businesses you compete against, will give you a better idea.
And, then the online world offers many helpful ways to gather intelligence about our current or prospective customers. Apart from emails, you can create blogs, ask questions on social media platforms, create an online poll or organize tweet chats, facebook live etc
don’t forget to review your site and social analytics to understand real behavior. Numbers don’t lie, so cross-check with hard data to best understand what’s really happening in your online business.
Believe it or not, this way, you can now run your business quite successfully and make your products or services available to the maximum customer base.