How to Build an Online Business

As more and more traditionally in-person businesses pivot to the digital realm, it's time to build a professional image for your business online
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In the last two years, consumer habits have changed because of the pandemic. Offering your product or service online, which previously businesses could have done without, has gone from a nice-to-have feature to a requirement. 

If you’re an entrepreneur looking at how to take your business online, it may be wise to step back and pay close attention to the digital basics. Even in 2019, prior to the pandemic, SEO Tribunal reported that 97% of people learn about small businesses online

Your digital presence needs to be an extension of your business, even if you don’t directly sell goods online. This isn’t only for people who may already know of you. It needs to be optimized to put forward the best version of your business so if someone looking for the service you provide stumbles onto your website, they could become a client.

In the United States, data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nearly one in five businesses — or 18.7% — fail within the first year. By five years, this number sharply goes up to 49.7%. 

New businesses can’t rely on word of mouth alone to attract customers. You wouldn’t want to run into a customer on a Friday night if you weren’t in the condition to interact with them. Similarly, you shouldn’t let your customers see a clunky website and a Gmail address listed for contact. 

To establish trust and credibility with customers, you need to attract them with a mobile-friendly website and an active social media presence. 

Most people who haven’t started building an online presence are reluctant since they believe it will be an expensive and time-consuming affair. Let this be the reminder you need that having a presence online as well as on social media is crucial because the digital way of doing things is here to stay, and its importance will only continue to grow. 

Building a professional digital presence is not as hard or as expensive as it used to be. If done correctly, it can put your small business on a level playing field with your biggest competitors in the digital economy. 

In this blog, we’ll run through the steps you need to follow to build an online presence for your business. We’ll offer some tips and tell you what you should avoid. The good news? Most of these are quick wins for your business. Here are the steps to begin with: 

  1. Set up a website
  2. Create a professional email account 
  3. Be present on social media
  4. Build value-adding content
  5. Gather reviews and ratings

You have already done the hard part — starting a business from scratch. Getting the labor of your love online is the easier step and one that takes your business to a wider audience. 

Let’s dive into what each of these steps entails and how you can get started. Check off these boxes, and cement your business as a professional digital entity.

Website

Having a well-designed and functioning website is crucial for not just attracting viewers but also engaging and converting them into customers.

A lot of businesses start the process of going digital and falter midway, leading to websites that take forever to load and are not responsive to mobile devices. Luring a customer to your website is only half the battle, but make sure that a slow (even by a few seconds) or unresponsive website isn’t what prompts them to close that tab. You have attracted an audience; now entice them to stay. 

Your site tells customers who you are, what you offer, and where to find you. Keeping it updated and operating properly shows that you care about your brand and are invested in it. Stay on top of page load speeds, broken links, and the overall user experience of your website.

Ensure that your site is optimized for mobile devices as well. Often, people aren’t sitting at a laptop while viewing a website. They might just stumble on your site while looking for a specific service or product on their phone. A smooth interface accessible on a mobile device helps someone coming to your website to easily obtain all the information they require directly from you, the primary source, and not a third party. 

You may think that frills will enhance the appearance of your business, but if it’s costing you customers due to longer load times, you may need to reevaluate it.

Anything that inconveniences a visitor needs to be addressed. About 79% of customers who are dissatisfied with a website’s performance say they’re less likely to buy from the same site again.

Be proactive in understanding what your customers’ grievances are. Addressing them will go a long way in turning first-time customers into regulars. 

Email

The business needs of email are obvious: messaging your employees, networking, transferring files, communicating with customers, and much more.

There’s another aspect that is often overlooked but is necessary — your email credibility.

After an internal survey with 500 customers, 58% of them said they would not be comfortable sharing credit card information with a business that was not using a real business email address. Think about your own habits as a consumer. Would you be more likely to engage with an email from bobsmith@acmeaccounting.com or bobsmithacmeaccounting@gmail.com

Customers need to know they are not being duped, and a generic email address could force a customer to rethink their decision or to be wary.

If you want to be perceived as a professional business, it is imperative to get an email address that uses your website’s domain. It’s quick, easy, and painless — and can do wonders for your brand’s reputation. 

Even if you don’t already have a website for your business, a service like Titan will help you create a custom domain and get up and running with a business email in a matter of minutes.

Social Media

Social media is often a key factor that influences how visible your business is. It can even help introduce your business to customers who may not know exactly what they are looking for but then realize that you were catering to a need they had. 

Not having any social media presence at all or having pages that haven’t been updated in a long time may be red flags to your customers. 

Social media success means different things to different businesses, but one thing is clear. You have to be present and active. 

You don’t have to break the Internet, but accept the fact that consumers are looking to connect with your business on social media. They don’t just check your accounts but also look at what others are saying about your products and services. When someone lands on your social media pages, watching what other people are saying could make them stay or, on the other hand, look for another vendor (even if it’s the right fit). 

The good news is that establishing even a minimal social presence really only requires time. There are plenty of small businesses that have built big brands online. 

For inspiration, check out Hotcards, Bow Market, Folly Theater, and Burger Revolution

Start with Facebook and Instagram/TikTok, and make a commitment to build your network. Then start engaging in real conversations with your customers.

If your customers feel like they are interfacing with someone who cares about their needs and knows what they are talking about rather than with a chatbot, the personal connection could go a long way. Having a brand and focusing on a voice for the brand can help boost your business’ standing.

Content

Getting leads and attracting attention online is tough for any business. It’s tough for Titan, and we’re a SaaS company with considerable marketing resources. It’s even tougher for small, local businesses. 

We’ve covered what your website should have and why a social media presence is important, but it will only give you meaningful outcomes when you share content that adds value. 

So how can you climb the Google rankings without paying for it? Start a blog. Blogging is the easiest way to build brand awareness and attract customers from Google, which favors sites that are fresh and provide relevant content to users. 

With a blog that is consistent and also provides value, you can spread awareness and, at the same time, inform and educate your customers.

Coming up with content can seem like a daunting task, but don’t let that make you push it to the bottom of your to-do list. 

You started a business because you’re passionate about the product or service you’re providing. Share that passion with your customers! Write blogs that relate to their pain points. Talk about the problems you are solving, why you chose to solve those problems, and how you are going about it. And elevate your vision of a better world for them. 

It can be easy to dismiss blogging as a waste of time because the impact is more long-term.. But it works. Even if it isn’t what a prospective customer may be looking at, something they read on your blog could prompt them to recommend you to someone else — and that’s word of mouth you don’t want to lose out on. 

Reviews

Reviews — the holy grail of things that will make or break your business. Even if a business were to throw money at social media marketing, nothing would dent your business like a spate of bad reviews. 

The things that are said about your business on sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Google matter. Reviews are an indicator of the reputation you have as a business.

No one wants negative reviews, but just like on social media, having nothing said about you is also a cause for concern. 

Finding little to no information on a business tells customers that it’s either just getting off the ground or no one cares about it. 

Reach out to your best customers, and ask them if they would be willing to take the time to leave reviews on public platforms or even on your website. 

If people are reviewing your company and the reviews aren’t glowing, taking the time to respond will help both you and the customer. Work actively toward improving customer satisfaction. People are more likely to leave a bad review than a good one, but pushing your best customers to leave a glowing review can pay off.

According to Harvard Business Review, when businesses respond to customer reviews, their ratings on review sites increase. 

There are plenty of resources and templates available for crafting responses to negative reviews, but as a rule of thumb, don’t immediately react. A negative review of a business can trigger a negative reaction from an owner. Assess the feedback, and when you’re ready to reply, show empathy, and offer a way to make it right for the customer.

When businesses take the time to respectfully answer negative reviews, it can go a long way in not just putting your business out there but also signaling to your clients the temperament of the brand or person they will be dealing with. 

Be Online. Be relevant.

By punting on your digital presence, you’re punting on growth. Small businesses need to reach customers online. If they can do it in a way that conveys credibility, they can let their products and services be the market differentiators. 

Even if you have stiff competition, flesh out what makes you stand out compared to your competitors, and make sure your online presence conveys that to anyone weighing their options. 

Kickstart the process by creating a branded and professional email address from Titan for you and your team in minutes. Unlike services such as Google Workspace which offer a multitude of tools that most likely aren’t useful for small businesses, Titan is built specifically for the needs of small businesses. Along with a professional email address, Titan comes packed with features such as Shareable Calendar, Email Templates, and Follow-up Reminders that help you build better customer relationships and make every moment count.

Last updated on September 15th, 2021

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