For many small businesses, surviving in a competitive environment is difficult enough even without the added burden of finding ways to meaningfully drive growth. Of course, entrepreneurs don’t go into business looking to just survive. There are many different ways to grow your business, but the most disruptive and easily accessible tool available to businesses today is the Internet.
The fact that your business might create tangible products, and interact with customers directly in the real world doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the tools that digital technology puts at your disposal. Unlike more traditional options, the Internet allows you to grow your business in ways that don’t require a large initial investment, and don’t have to be directly proportional to your budget. Most importantly, these online strategies come in every possible shade of user-friendliness, meaning you don’t necessarily need an IT expert to get started. Let’s take a look at a few great ways that business owners on a budget can take advantage of these opportunities.
Personally build your business’ network on social media
While a lot of small businesses go to the trouble of creating social media accounts, very few actually use them, and even fewer take the time to do so effectively. Your business’ facebook or twitter account is good for a lot more than just occasionally announcing promotions, or half-heartedly trying to build a follower base. A good marketer can help you do those things very effectively, and they certainly do have their benefits, but your best work needs to come from the top.
A great example of an entrepreneur whose approach to social media could be described as disruptive is Elon Musk. By actively engaging with customers, other industry leaders, competitors, and political figures on Twitter, he has raised his and his businesses’ profiles enormously. Seeing a business owner engage directly gives people confidence that they’re being heard, and makes the act of reaching out and offering feedback, ideas, and opportunities more gratifying. Furthermore, it gives you the opportunity to easily and publicly reach out to other relevant people and businesses at a moment’s notice. If you want to offer some feedback or to pitch an idea at another business, you can just tweet at the CEO directly instead of potentially wading through red tape.
Build an online store
List shippable products or remote services on your site, and begin promoting them digitally. Putting a store on your website isn’t just for classic e-commerce businesses. Local or regional brick-and-mortar operations have everything to gain as well, because it allows them to break out of their local area into new markets. This holds true whether you’re a local microbrewer, a small business consulting firm, or a screen printing shop.
Your online store doesn’t even necessarily need to reflect your primary service. For example, a coffee shop can’t very well ship a cup of coffee, but it can offer branded merchandise and proprietary coffee blends online. This additional revenue stream allows the business to boost its income while also building customer loyalty and expanding its geographical reach.
Capture user information
A side effect of adding a store to your website will be that your site will have a lot more potential for attracting relevant web traffic. Users that buy your products, register on your site, or just read your blog can provide valuable data, whether that’s contact information like email addresses, phone numbers, or shipping addresses, or passively gathered information, such as which site pages are viewed the most or for the longest time. Even if you aren’t collecting the volume of data that larger businesses use for big data analysis, your small business still stands to benefit a great deal.
The simplest and most common way that smaller businesses use customer information is to create an email list and use it to regularly send out newsletters and promotional material. This is a great idea, but it’s certainly not the limit of what you can do. By digging in and using only Google Analystics to analyse what potential customers tend to look at most, you can gather clues to improve your content strategy and design to make your site more appealing. Further, by examining how users interact with your shopping cart, you’ll be able to determine at which step shoppers most often abandon their carts, giving you the opportunity to identify problems and to improve the process to capture more sales.
Digital technology is an affordable and accessible way to reach new markets, interact with and analyse your existing customer base, and to build your business’ network. While there are many complex industry-specific tools that large and small businesses can take advantage of, you don’t have to break your budget or hire an entire team of experts to start driving growth online.