How Do I Grow My Business Online?
How do I grow my business online? This article covers the tried and tested method of generating content online - which, incidentally, is what we are doing right now - and how to go about it. One of the first things to do after figuring out your product is to figure out who, where, and how you can reach customers online.
The challenge with growing your business online is that while there's an endless supply of customers, there are only a finite number of hours in the day. Every successful online entrepreneur has eventually reached a point where he or she feels overwhelmed. Between managing day-to-day operations, creating new content, driving traffic, and interacting with customers, there are usually not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything.
Table of Contents
- Figure out who your customer is
- Know where your potential customers are
- Creating content
- Getting the word out
- Using social media to grow your business
- Study your competition
Figure out who your customer is
After you have a semblance of a product and an idea of how you will be delivering it, the first thing to do is to know who you might be selling to.
"If you don't know who your customers are, you can't possibly know who you're selling to," says entrepreneur and Shark Tank celebrity Mark Cuban. In that vein, the first step to growing your business online is to create buyer personas.
These are fictional characters you create based on your target market. "Knowing who you're selling to helps you craft your story, mission, and values," said Chris Winfield, CEO of digital agency 123ContactForm. "And knowing your business' story, mission, and values helps you craft your marketing. "So really, knowing your buyer personas and telling your story — that's what marketing is."
Your buyer personas should answer questions like:
- What age are they?
- Income level?
- Age group?
- Geographic region?
- What are their demographic interests?
- What interests do they have?
- What problems do they have?
- What solutions do they need?
Your goal is to deliver each piece of content to the right audience so that it performs best. Think of your customer as the person you are writing to, not the person you are writing for.
Imagining and detailing exactly what your ideal customer is like, as a real person with real aspirations and problems, and an entire life story behind them, can help you distinguish yourself and really cater to them.
Know where your potential customers are
If you build it, will they come? The simple answer is no. After you have figured out who your customer is, what they need and how you can provide it, the next step is to identify which channels your target audience uses. This could involve using data from different sources, such as surveys, or Google Analytics. Since you already know your buyer’s persona - if you find someone matching that - talking to them and getting a better understanding can help you focus your marketing efforts, and help you answer the questions below.
Some things to consider:
- How do they consume information?
- What channels do they use?
- What types of content are they interested in? Blogs, videos, webinars, podcasts, memes?
- What do they search for?
When you know who your customer is and what problem they are trying to solve, you can create content that is relevant to them. This could mean writing blogs, creating videos, creating infographics, or publishing ebooks.
It is important to keep in mind that the more value you bring, the better. Solve the problems that your potential clients might be having; this is one of the instances where having a detailed customer persona can be very useful. Create quality, useful content that addresses your customers' needs. Your content should have a call to action, whether it encourages customers to buy your product, read more, subscribe to your services, or contact you for more information.
Getting the word out
Once you have created this content, it is important to promote it. But before you start getting the word out, you will want to maximize its efficiency, and this entails optimizing it.
You can optimize it by improving its search engine ranking or by making it easier for your audience to find your content. The top 5 results currently account for 71% of clicks. One of the ways to do this is by optimizing your metadata - the information that describes your content. In an age of information, your content has to be valuable to both humans and search engines – this means it is easy to read, and easy to find, for both. There is a lot that goes into search engine optimization. We recommend Coursera’s Search Engine Optimization Course.
Once your content is ready, use whatever tools you have to promote it. This could be social media, paid advertising, search engine optimization, or email campaigns. On the social media front, you can use various business accounts to promote your blog posts, create ads linking to your content, or creating sponsored posts that link back to your website.
You could also create email lists, and create content specifically for these lists. The more subscribers you have, the more people you can reach. It can be a number’s game, the more people hear your message, the more likely you are to make a sale.
And just as important is to measure your results. There is no point in adding flames to a fire that is bound to die. The results that matter, and that you should therefore measure, will vary depending on your strategy.
Using social media to grow your business
Social media marketing should not be considered a stand-alone method of marketing; rather, it is part of an overall strategy for online growth. But at the same time, it has one of the lowest costs of entry and, albeit rare, virality can propel a business while having mind-boggling returns on investment.
Some steps you might want to consider to increase your odds at successfully marketing your business online:
- Develop a social media strategy. Social media marketing strategy is all about goals. For example, do you hope to generate sales leads? Build brand awareness? Increase website traffic? Each social media channel you use has a different focus, so it's important to identify your goals for each channel before you get started so that your efforts are concentrated on the front that matters the most to your specific business goals.
- Engage with your audience. Social media is all about interaction. Your followers are people, not numbers. It is important to interact with them, listen and respond to their comments and share their content.
- Track results. The key to marketing on social media is measuring results, so you can identify what channels are working and which are not. It is smart to use social media monitoring tools, such as Buffer and Hootsuite, so you can keep track of your accounts.
- Find experts. Social media marketing can seem overwhelming, so finding experts can help you jump-start your social media strategy and avoid time-sink activities with little return.
- Develop a content plan. In addition to interacting with your audience, it's important to produce content on a regular basis. This can be anything from blog posts to videos to memes. Content is the foundation of social media marketing, so make sure you implement a content plan before you get started.
- Integrate social media into your overall marketing strategy.
Study your competition
It is also helpful to have an idea of what other successful businesses are like. One of the best ways to do that is by researching your competitors. Start with some of the major players in your industry, and pay close attention to what services they offer, how they market and advertise them, and what their pricing looks like.
Once you have identified competitors, focus on analyzing their successes and failures. What are they doing right? How do they attract customers? What mistakes do they make?
And if you do not think your competitors are doing any wrong, chances are you are not looking close enough. Look at their pricing and offerings carefully, and ask yourself how you can improve on them.
Automate (of course!)
A lot of these tasks can become repetitive and even prone to error. Not being able to get information to an interested prospect in time can mean losing the sale to a competitor, and you risk losing their interest.
Once you are in the groove of things and have figured out what works and what does not, automating tasks can help you and your team continue focusing on what you do best. While letting machines do what they do best.
And as your business grows, you can scale faster and easier, decrease training and improve the customer experience by implementing automation. Some of the things you can do with automation include:
- auto-filling PDFs and other documents
- order fulfillment
- highly customized dynamic agreements and contracts
- automated email marketing
- automated email responses and updates
- project management and task delegation
- tracking and scraping data, including keeping an eye out on competitors
Technological advancements have allowed small businesses to be global, reaching previously unimaginable audiences: thousands of miles away and amplified by the millions. At the same time, competition is global, and businesses are vying for increasingly short attention spans.
Following tried and tested methods of getting started can avoid wasting time, kickstarting the process, and giving your nascent business direction when it comes to growing online.