Starting a new digital business is scary but many unemployed workers decided the pandemic offered a great opportunity to work for themselves. Dubbed ‘the COVID entrepreneurs’, more than 4.4 million new digital businesses started over the last year, as a result of the global pandemic and changing employment patterns. Folks facing chronic unemployment due to the pandemic and related factors, decided now was the perfect time to go out there and take charge of their careers by working for themselves.
Starting a digital business at any time is difficult, let alone during a pandemic when there’s a lot of competition for scarce consumer dollars, supply chain disruptions, and a lot of noise distracting from commercial efforts. But with the right strategy and some hard work, you can grow your digital business to replace your income or, even better, to employ some of the many people who lost their jobs during the pandemic.
Explore how you can boost your digital business in six steps.
6 Steps to build your digital business
Create a professional website
A website is an essential tool for your business. Consumers (at least 26% of them) don’t trust brands without a website and 70% of consumers say trust is more important to brand choice now than in the past.
Not only does a professional website increase trust in your business, but it also helps people searching the internet find your business, whether you have a physical location or only a virtual space, such as an e-commerce site.
There’s a misconception that it costs a lot of money to build a professional-looking website when you can build a well-designed website for as little as $150 plus ongoing costs of around $100/ year. I even wrote a comprehensive ebook that walks you through the process of creating a website step-by-step.
Here’s what you need to get started on your new website:
- A domain – basically your online brand name
- Hosting – don’t trust those so-called website builders as they are harder than they look, have crappy SEO (search engine optimization that helps users find you online), and look too similar to each other because there are too few design options
- WordPress or another CMS (content management system) that eliminates the need to learn to code
- Some great plugins that improve your website’s functionality. There’s even a plugin that transforms your website with easy-to-design pages functioning much like those crappy website builders
- A logo, style guide (with the colors, fonts, and images you use to brand your company), and other visual design elements to identify your brand
- Content, which is the most important element of your new website for both attracting new customers and motivating them to buy
Come up with a simple promotional strategy
To help you build up a customer base, you need to start spreading the word about your business. Even if you have no previous knowledge of marketing, it’s easier than you think to create a simple promotional strategy. You can use a marketing plan template to help you shape your ideas and work out which platforms offer the best options for promotion. Take advantage of local business tools such as Google My Business so local people can find you easily. Check out the enhanced prominence of local businesses in search in the graphic below.
I don’t recommend trying to build and implement a digital marketing strategy on your own unless you have some experience and training. Digital marketing is fairly complex, even using templates like the one above, and mistakes can cause serious damage to your reputation that decreases your chance of success. Luckily, you can hire trained digital marketers or hire an agency to get you started. Often, hiring an agency is cheaper than other options because they offer suggestions to optimize your budget, with their experience they can reduce waste in your promotions, and they share the cost of expensive digital marketing tools across multiple clients. Check out the graphic below for a comparison between the two options.
Cater to your customers’ needs
To ensure growth for your digital business, ensure you’re catering to your customers’ needs and provide a value proposition that makes your brand the natural choice for your target market. The competition is high in nearly every market niche so success depends on giving customers what they want and meeting their needs in every way possible. For instance, make sure that you offer a flexible range of payment options, as using a portal to accept online payments can make a big difference to your business.
Also, offer free shipping, even if you require a minimum purchase from customers to get free shipping as this increases the conversion rate significantly. Don’t forget to provide great customer service both before and after the sale, as poor customer attitudes translate into negative word of mouth that damages your business prospects.
Team up with other local businesses
Forming partnerships is a fantastic way to grow your digital business. You can team up with other local business owners to provide discounts and complimentary services, something that can help spread positive word of mouth and earn you recommendations. There are a lot of great local partnership ideas in this post so give some of them a try. You should check out local business networks on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites to connect you with other businesses in the community.
And, speaking of social media, don’t forget this is a great tool for businesses. Whether it’s providing a marketplace such as new Facebook shopping options or connecting and engaging your target audience, social media is a great way to spread the word about your business.
Don’t give up
Running a business comes with a lot of challenges, especially at the beginning when there is a lot of work involved. But perseverance and patience go a long way during those early stages – success very rarely happens overnight. In fact, most digital marketing strategies take 6 months or more before you see the return on your efforts.
Remind yourself of your goals and what you want to achieve, it can help keep you going when you feel like giving up. It’s also important to have a great support network that you can turn to when you’re having a crisis of confidence. Running your own business can be tough at times, but making it through will help make you a much stronger business owner. Also, have enough capital on hand to get you through the tough times until your business starts making more money than it spends.
Even with everything that’s going on in the world right now, it’s never been easier to set up your own business. Whether your digital business is a side hustle or you’re putting all of your energy into it, there are a lot of resources to help you get started. Shoot for the stars and get ready to turn your new business into a great success.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.