Kim Little is Newfold Digital‘s Senior Vice President Commercial Lead of Web.com and Product Management.
It’s never been easier to start a small business than in the age of e-commerce, but the internet’s endless expanse can also be daunting for those who may not know where or how to start. However, aspiring entrepreneurs shouldn’t be alarmed by this seeming barrier to entry. The internet’s infinite reach points to the boundless opportunity that “dreamers” can capture by selling online.
The tools to build an effective online presence are more accessible than ever, and that simple fact should encourage many who have considered starting a business in the past to finally take the first step. Even for those who aren’t digitally savvy, services exist that professionally design a site to your specifications at a reasonable price point and with a speedy turnaround time.
For those ready to turn their “million-dollar idea” into more than just a wish, here are a few tips on how to get started.
1. Cast a wide net across marketplaces, but make an effort to own your selling channels.
With boundless competition in the digital world, small businesses just starting out need to be scrappy to get noticed. That means doing everything possible to have their products appear across major marketplaces as well as their own stores, meeting customers where they are.
Social platforms and marketplaces, like Facebook, Etsy and Amazon, also hold value for new businesses, serving as useful tools to widen brand reach, stay searchable and build credibility with an already robust customer base. Web presence providers know this, and they make integration easy by offering builder packages that cooperate with these marketplaces, making getting and selling online a snap.
Business owners need to view marketplaces as extensions of their selling operations, but it’s important not to over-index. Platforms like these make money off of fees and eat into sellers’ profits, so a wise course of action is establishing credibility and then funneling customers back to your company website. Building brand recognition is often the hardest part of getting your business off the ground. Third-party marketplaces can be a great place to help with visibility early on, but ideally, you won’t be too reliant on selling through these channels.
A business’s ultimate goal should be to capture as much revenue as possible, and leveraging an owned website as its top-selling channel is a great way to avoid surrendering a portion of hard-earned sales.
2. Do your research, and invest in your online presence.
There are plenty of nuances involved in the process of creating a viable website, with design, security and search performance all playing crucial roles in driving traffic and conversions. Things like SSL certificates, SEO capabilities and professional design templates are all important to look for.
When looking to start an e-commerce business, it’s important to know what features you might need in a web host. That’s something that will vary considerably across different types of businesses, so it’s vital not to rush into the first option without careful consideration.
Things like SEO will require time investment upfront but are well worth the returns they provide. By making sure you’re optimized for organic search, you can attract not just an uptick in traffic but an increase in the right kinds of traffic for your chosen keywords. If this seems daunting, you could always turn to professionals who can help you with SEO marketing management.
3. Develop an effective marketing strategy that drives efficiency.
Bigger isn’t always better in business, and while large enterprises win out on volume, small businesses thrive on efficiency. Pricing products appropriately, catering aggressively to the most relevant target market and working to sell as efficiently as possible will lay a healthy foundation for your online selling operation.
Effective marketing strategies are a major driver of efficient selling and profitable business growth, so it’s critical to identify the right audiences and have your digital strategy cascade from there. That can be achieved by adopting the right SEO strategy and optimizing your site for search as it relates to your desired keywords. Many site builders include SEO plugins to make the process easier. It’s also affordable for businesses with tight budgets, as it’s completely organic and requires no capital investment.
Efficiency points to scalability. If a small business is experiencing healthy sales at the grassroots level, that’s indicative of exciting growth potential.
Taking the leap and bridging the digital divide
New small businesses should look at web presence holistically to find early success in launching a business through e-commerce, and a good marketing strategy is the foundation of effective selling. Think of a brick-and-mortar store. The shelves could be stocked and ready, but sales won’t happen if the lights are off and the doors are locked. Effective marketing is essentially announcing to the world that you’re open for business and inviting people in.
Attracting customers to a site is an exercise in brand-building. New entrepreneurs would be wise to explore a variety of avenues to raise their brand profile while maintaining owned channels as a reliable selling hub.
Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?