Starting a new business is exciting and daunting. The reality is that 8 out of 10 start-ups fail within the first year. Whilst there are no recipes for success, there are many resources waiting to be tapped, all that will make failing a bit harder.
Lists are good, right? So, here’s a list of stone blocks for your fortress.
Working alone in a business that provides digital services to various kinds of businesses, comes with an advantage. Each new job comes with new requirements and different goals, one should expect that from dealing with businesses in different sectors. The plus here is that over time I get to see the similarities in businesses operating in different sectors.
How can that be of any help? Lend me your eyes, and take a look at this list of basic building blocks, available to any business. The game plan behind this list is basic and effective.
Are you saving money on marketing, dropping the small stuff to get going or depending on slow and outdated software, until you can afford improvements? Saving does not make money! Remember the bible story of the master, 3 servants and the talents?
- What do you bring to the table?
- How will your clients find you?
- How do you convert visitors to clients?
- How do you make your clients come back?
- Are you making progress?
That’s the list. Don’t be fooled by the length, each of the headings above covers a group of sub-headings that encapsulate roughly 3 months worth of work. The framework used here are taken from my work sheets used to create working models for clients. Products and services is the starting point that makes the most sense, but that does not make it more important, each of these headings have their place and all are equally important. Let’s go over them in a bit more detail.
What do you bring to the table?
Products and Services
The same considerations apply when presenting your products on shelves in your shop, or online. What do you have to consider?
- Your products must be clearly visible and easily accessible.
- Grouping products in categories makes it easier for clients to find what they came for.
- Adding dedicated help to the floor, someone to help customers with questions.
- Presentation, in general neat and organized, but also clearly point out bargains.
- Sandbox, have real working items available in your shop for clients to try first.
- Price matching, especially if you have lots of opposition in your area.
- Clearly point out endorsements, affiliations and accreditation.
- Make sure checking out (paying) is secure, easy and streamlined.
This list can go on for days, and are unique to each business. The aim here is to get your website and shop to look and work exactly the same, and both optimized. A part of optimizing your business will be knowing your opposition, current trends and do some homework on what worked in businesses operating in other sectors.
Why do people use you
By knowing what your clients think of your business, you can make improvements to the client experience and maybe draw more clients. But this does not go without limitations, as long as you work hands on in your shop, you will have a good idea of what clients think. Unfortunately you lose this the moment you have to attend to more than one place at a time.
A website is just the tool for managing your business, when it comes to multiple locations and knowing what your clients think of your service. This part will be dealt with later and in more detail, in the section about with Google Analytics, later in this post.
The takeaway here is that your website must be able to show you the right information. Good data for analysis can be used to improve your clients experience. Applying this will show you why your clients make use of your business.
Make it easy to deal with you
With this you can easily make improvements to your sales and after sales sides. The big selection of implementations here includes hardware and software options, some being:
- Split transactions, arm your sales people on the floor with tablets, this way your staff needs less training and can immediately supply the client with answers to all his questions. That’s not all, as the your sales person assists clients he makes up the first part of the transaction. Leaving the paying bit to last, this way you cut your cashiers work load in half, and the service time, meaning your clients wait less. Good one, hey?
- As In the example in my previous post setting up an online support system is now easier than ever before. By implementing the system as explained the previous post, you improve your clients experience with after sales service, which are then made available to clients before they buy. This not only proves your credibility but also adds to the analytical value.
Which ever way you decide to go, making sure your business is easy to deal with from your clients point of view, is crucial and your website is the perfect tool for that job.
Point out your competitive advantages.
With this one you have to take care. The reason clients buy from you or make use of your services are not necessarily the same as your competitive advantage. You do not want to tell the opposition why you are making money, instead you want to show your clients the advantages in buying from you VS. buying from your opposition, and then advertise that.
How will your clients find you?
This one you will eventually know by experience, but do you have time for that when you are starting out or a young company? I don’t think so. That is why the aim of this section is to find ways to determine the most effective ways, that you set in place that clients find and make use of your services and products.
Luckily we have an array of digital tools we can use, at relatively low-cost. By using these tools we can mount multiple campaigns and then compare and make improvements fast. Reducing the time it takes to find out exactly where your core business comes from. Maybe you are convinced that you already know, and not by using modern digital strategies, you are only tapping 60% of the potential market. How will you feel when you discover that?
Something that jumps out, when comparing social applications for business use, are consistency, and effort. Basic concept, the more you put in the more you get out. Apart from general business ethics, you have to know the little bits and pieces that makes your posts work better. By this I mean length of post headings, what’s the perfect length of a tweet, how many characters in a Facebook post and more. Here is a great post explaining all of that.
Search engine optimization
SEO are often blown out of proportion, yes it is important, and makes a difference, and you most definitely must use SEO best practices, but when your website is designed to be a business tool and not an advert, you will be able to easily maintain a high quality score.
Once again, employing a person to be solely responsible for social, SEO and marketing is an investment in your business that is driven by results. Meaning that you can measure your efforts and calculate the cost efficiency.
As years ago you needed to add a receptionist to handle the phones and faxes, now you need a skilled person to manage your website. I will always recommend hands on in-house training and mentoring for at least 3 months.
There are many facets to complete a marketing campaign, various strategies, social engagement, defining goals, planning and implementation. Digital marketing is an ongoing process and consistency is an integral part to get the results.
The starting point will be an audit of your existing facilities. Doing an overview audit will give you a clear idea of your demands, which then forms the basis to build your campaigns on. Here is a list of various things to get in place before starting: Branding,Website, Blog, Social apps,Forums,Email.
With platforms above in place we can move on to the next step. Create the marketing strategies that we will be putting to work.
In everyday business partnerships are often formed because the partnership will produce benefits to the business. Employing the internet adds a new dimension that was previously not available.
Unlike big expensive costly partnerships, think small. With the internet you can create partnerships all over the globe. The key is to know which businesses to partner with. So, back to the homework.
What you are looking for, are companies that offers products or services that goes hand in hand with your products and services, and at the same time does not pose a threat towards your cash flow.
You can only start working on building partnerships, back links after your website is live. The reason..you got it, you will be using your website to introduce yourself to thousands of people, and in this process move the newly met and qualified people to your quiet place.
And then work it from there. Easy.
Your website is a starting point at no extra cost, you can make various PR channels available to your clients and the rest of the public. A way to kick-start your relationship building.
2 years ago ppc (pay per click) or paid advertising was an additional extra. At this time paid advertising changed from a “nice to have” to a “must have”. It gets better, in the past you would easily get hits simply by creating a ppc advert, but with the increase in competition, we reached a point where you have to plan and optimize your advertising. Otherwise you will not get results.
How do you go about optimizing your adverts? Once again this falls back to your website and keyword research. During extensive testing I found that keeping your adverts organized and separated works best. Basically one page per product. The page must contain your selected keywords. Going about making up ads in this way ensures higher quality scores on more effective groupings.
Paid advertising is a big job, and another reason to add to your reasons for employing a skilled person.
How do you convert visitors to clients?
User experience and usability
Walk in store or online business, when it comes to making sales, you need to say the right thing at the right time. I worked in a bar for many years and the crucial difference in small sales or big sales are suggesting another beer when the client has 2 sips left in his glass. At that time he is contemplating if he should go or stay.
Here is some food for though, and I will be using a pub as an example. When a customer walks into your business, he is planning on spending money, but no one likes to spend their money, it’s better to keep it. Maybe that is not always the case, but I noticed as times became more financially challenging, customers became more reluctant to spend their hard-earned cash.
Let’s work with the situation as above and assume that your client walks into your shop reluctant to spend money, but he needs the product (a beer). At that time the client is experiencing an array of negative emotions, on a small-scale. The secret comes in with how you greet him, first contact. This is where your work starts… but before we get to that, what happens if you give him his beer and leave him. I can guarantee that the client will have one beer and leave. Maybe two and leave experiencing the same negative emotions.
How do you change this? There are many ways, and I will not go into detail but it’s your work as a sales person to change the negative feelings into positive feelings.
Third party certification and endorsements
Clients want’s to know what you can do, and not pay to find out. By making your qualifications and certifications and all other types of endorsements clearly visible you are building credibility.
This does not only apply to your website, but also to any physical business. Displaying customer testimonials in the right places on your website is a simple and effective way to build credibility.
Go ahead and list all members of your organization’s skills and find ways to make the important points stand out.
Promotions and Merchandising
Take note I did not say “Specials and Discounts”! Here are two points with regards to merchandising.
Stock pressure: Customers buy more of the product that are stacked more on the shelf, the same as people always taking the fullest 2 Lt coke off the shelve, even though everyone knows they are all exactly 2 litre.
Pricing: By placing your price points correctly you can entice clients to buy your more profitable products.
Promoting products on your website works well and are implemented easily, showing related products below a product are one way, and placing links to promoted products or creating a promoted products section is important. This gives clients that quick access to what they may be looking for.
Analytics plays a key part in determining which products to promote, something you lose with a cheap 5pager website deal.
People do not want to deal with robots all the time, so be careful and do to not over automate. You can automate A LOT, but always make sure that you do have a real person engaging clients, so it is becomes clear how important a dedicated person for this job is.
Adding live chat/support to your website works to apply some personal touches, but many other ways exist.
How do you make your clients come back?
After sales service
Clients are more likely to buy a product that is bundled with support after the sale, especially for more technical products. The car industry is a very good example, motor plans have become a key selling point.
Your website is just the tool for adding various applications to carry out after sales service and support, at hardly any extra cost.
Email and CRM
Even though email is one of the oldest ways to communicate online, it remains a powerful tool and are still one of the most used internet applications, despite the ever-growing competition from social networks. The email and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) combination works well to keep in touch with customers and by keeping them up to date with your latest offerings, chances of them returning are better.
Third party offers
Just like OPM (Other People’s Money) on the internet we have OPA – Other People’s Audience. This works both ways, for hosting another companies adverts on your site or getting your site in front of Other Peoples Audience.
Support and community
A popular way to keep customers in the software sector are communities. By setting a community that deals with your products and services online, helps to retain clients. Although this is popular in software sectors, you can create a community for anything.
Referrals and Reviews
It is a well know fact that word of mouth is the best marketing tool out. Your website can capitalize on this by making product reviews and social sharing painless. The popular world-wide BNI (Business Networking International) are built on this formula.
The result you are looking for, will be to turn selected clients into your marketing helpers by becoming their marketing helper. It is a proven fact that a bad customer experience will be repeated on average to 26 other people, where in contrast a good experience on average gets repeated 4 times.
Giving customers something to talk about after they experienced your super service, must have a positive effect on word of mouth. Getting the timing and a method that works for you, will need to go through some trial and error. Give your visitor the right information at the perfect time, and they will repeat that. This one can be very tricky.
Social media evolved into a business machine, maybe you are in disbelieve or giving it a go. It boils down to that every one jumped this waggon in the past 18 months, and once again if you tackle it without the right strategies in place, you will have a poor experience and lose those benefits. Here are some points that needs consideration:
- Post format.
- Post content.
- Times to share.
- Where to share what?
- Additional elements.
- Graphical content
- Trends and ethics
This short list is really just the start, a good idea will be to work through the topics in this list, and that way you will see the magnitude of social media and get on your right path.
Bribery yea! No not at all, sorry. The question here is if someone gives you something, do you grab it and run like a barbarian to the next offering, or do you politely thank them?
In addition to using good manners in your business transactions, you can take it a step further by using your website. (You saw that coming hey?) to easily add a customer rewards system. Coupons are one of the popular online rewards choices.
Are you making progress?
All the way down to here, I referred to this step, so let’s jump right in. Choosing not to use any form of analytical applications will deprive you of the fuel that will sustain this entire effort explained above.
Here is an explanation of the entire process as basic as possible. Start by determining your strategies, make up your posts and send it to the various selected places. Now use analysis and see what worked and why. Build on that.
Easy, and with the huge choice of insights, analytics and monitoring apps available today, you can with ease implement and take advantage on stats from almost all the platforms you will be using.
A/B testing works well, as you get very clear answers, which gives you the ability to optimize quicker and more accurate, definitely something worth using.
Just as it is good to know, how your campaigns are fairing, you also need to know, how your competitors are fairing. The key here is to look at offerings from your clients perspective.
I’m not saying corporate espionage, but you can by spending time online get all the crucial information you need about your competitors. This is how your potential clients find them. Simply browsing is one way, but locking on selected elements of your top competitors and constantly monitoring them is what benchmarking is about.
Ultimately you want to keep record of what your competitors are doing and have the ability to respond with a well calculated and effective response.
Feedback and Surveys
Surveys are becoming more popular online, the reason being that with a good survey in place you will be able very targeted information. This is useful for the more difficult questions that may need answers. The bonus is that you get your answers directly from the public.
Openly taking feedback on your site is a daunting thought to many business owners, but it works in so many ways. It is a higher risk situation yielding higher rewards. Placing someone in charge with the necessary complaint handling skills are crucial.
It is not just about complaints, you will soon realize that allowing feedback from clients often results in good testimonials or give you an indication which of your products or services needs more attention.
Key Performance Indicators
Let’s agree on one thing. If you implemented as much as possible mentioned in this post you will end up with an overwhelming amount of information. How are you planning on processing all of that?
Take a good look at the data that you have constantly coming an and point out the quantifiable data and focus on that. You can take this a step further and provide the various departments in your company with related information. Empowering each head of department with information on where to pay attention.
Thank you for reading this hell of a long post, all the way here 🙂
Are you looking at in investing money in a digital business model like the one above? Please consider hiring me.
Let’s get your business digitally correct. This post gives you, my basic framework that I use during a contract. I offer three (3) time spans: 1, 2 or 3 Months. The price scales down for longer time spans. You will be glad to know that the complete framework will be applied during any of the 3 time span options.
To find out more or get an obligation free quote, simply send me an e-mail on your letterhead to firstname.lastname@example.org My operation is mobile, that enables me to work with you, in your office anywhere in KZN. #browserbusiness