ONLINE MARKETING TOOLS TO KICK START YOUR ONLINE BUSINESS
To be able to manage your website in a way that is conducive to the good performance of your business is crucial in the market these days. Having an online presence is an essential aspect of you and your business becoming successful.
Without it, you might as well give up the ghost.
And giving up the ghost never made anyone a successful entrepreneur.
A professional-looking website is the initial gateway a potential customer has of your business.
Whether you are a SaaS company, selling a service of some kind or a simple product, the niche you are in has no relevance.
You need a website.
Remember, the first impression is everything, especially in business.
Those of you who run your concern in the traditional brick-and-mortar model are doing yourself a mighty disservice by not having a website. Even if you are small-time, in today’s market a website is something you really can’t do without.
Having piqued your interest, the next question to ask is:
But I have no technical ability, how do I go about creating a website and an online presence that will be profitable for my business?
The answer is simpler than you think:
There are countless tools out there which can help you with this problem, with more popping up all the time.
One of the first things to consider is how to go about building your website.
BUILDING YOUR WEBSITE
There are a number of options here if you lack the budget to hire a professional web designer to build you a site from scratch that is both functional and attractive to look at. This option, particularly for the cash-strapped start-up, can be prohibitively expensive, though.
Some of the best platforms on the market are WordPress, Squarespace and Blogger for this. When it comes to value for money, however, I think WordPress is the best.
WordPress is probably the most technically demanding of the three, however. If you have at least some knowledge of coding, then this can be an excellent choice. If not, it may take a little more time to get used to the navigation system. The WordPress platform is a CMS — or content management system. With this, it is very easy to make updates with news and up-to-date blogs etc.
When it comes to price, the basic software is free, making it a good option for those operating on a shoestring. However, if you feel this package doesn’t meet your standards, you can opt-in for the paid version.
WordPress is also very popular globally, so with this popularity comes a vast choice regarding plugins, resources and themes to create a website that is simple to navigate as well as being easy on the eye.
The platform can be as hard or as easy to use as you want. You don’t have to be a code master to get a basic site up and running in an hour or so.
My first ever website — which I created myself — was the free WordPress version, which I had for three years until I chose a paid version from the Squarespace platform.
Now, I am wholly satisfied with my Squarespace website at the moment (though I do need to update it with relevant info), but I would advise anyone thinking about creating their own company website to go with the free WordPress version at the beginning to get used to its configurations while learning the ins and outs of publishing on websites and blogs.
Once your website is up and running, it is then time to think about selling your wares.
There is plenty of e-commerce software on the market.
Some better than others.
If you are a business which sells products, then you obviously need an online shop.
This should be a FOCUS today
E-commerce software gives you this possibility.
For this, at least at the very beginning, I would recommend using the software from the WordPress website again for its basic functionality that allows you to create an online store with a digital shopping cart relatively quickly. However, you will not be able to do this before you have added the suitable plugins.
WooCommerce, a WordPress plugin that can solve all your e-commerce problems, can be up and running in minutes if you’re even a little tech-savvy. With its basic features, things like shipping and a payment management system are all included. If you demand more, they are available through additional plug-ins and extensions.
In regard to SEO functionality, WooCommerce lacks some of the basic features available to other e-commerce platforms, though you can add WordPress SEO plug-ins to rank you higher up in the Google search engine algorithms.
All security issues, the most important aspect of any e-commerce platform, are secure when using WooCommerce for online transactions.
Again — and similar to WordPress — the basic package is free, though for the more advanced options you will have to pay. The cost, however, is not prohibitive and shouldn’t stop a newbie entrepreneur establishing their online store.
The go-to platform for burgeoning online retailers, nevertheless, has to be Shopify.
This e-commerce platform, which is subscription-based and starts at $29 a month, is similar to WordPress in that it is idiot-proof and quite simple to build and then customize an online store to your personal requirements.
If you are mentally challenged when it comes to technology, there is an additional ‘Shopify Guru’ service that offers twenty-four-hour support via chat, email and by phone.
The support the platform gives in the form of troubleshooting guides is another boon for those amongst us who feel starting an online store is a step too far.
The platform also makes it possible to download add-ons for things such as accounts, shipping and social media from the app store to your website.
Shopify is a reliable solution to the ever-expanding number of platforms for e-commerce solutions.
Finally, I shall talk briefly about the best social media tools a small business can utilize for its business needs.
SOCIAL MEDIA CONSIDERATIONS
Spreading your net far and wide is a no-brainer for the advertising of your services or products.
Hootsuite integrates all the major social media sites so that you can schedule posts way before you want to deliver them.
The convenience of Hootsuite cannot be underestimated: going from one site to another, back and forth scheduling posts, is a huge time suck and not an exercise the owner of a growing business needs to focus on. Hootsuite manages all these in one, also covering collaboration with other partners etc.
Another platform, Buffer, is a social media management platform for web and mobile that allows you to manage posts across several social media platforms, such as Instagram and Twitter, all from one convenient interface.
Buffer’s main features are its custom scheduling tool which gives you the ability to schedule posts as often as you feel you need to. Additionally, there is an analytics and insights feature which is fully integrated. This allows you to chop and change things in regard to your scheduling from the data it gives you.
A powerful tool for business when used correctly.
There are many other platforms on the market such as Everypost that offer a variety of both Hootsuite’s and Buffer’s functionalities that small businesses can use to good effect. Taking control of your social media presence is so important these days, especially with the growing competition. Using these tools mentioned correctly will up your game and give you, it is hoped, a competitive advantage on the market.
‘The internet affords a level of relationship with consumers hitherto unfathomable’.
— Lucas Donat