April 26, 2021 By SmartBiz Team

It can be hard to scale an online small business, but if you craft a well-thought-out plan, use the right tools and keep it simple, you’ll be on your way. If you’re seeking consistent growth, review the 22 steps below.

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Website and social media tips for how to grow a business online

1. Choose the right optimized platform to host your website

If you want to build an effective website that ranks on Google, you need to choose the best SEO website platform. However, there are so many platforms and website builders available; it can be overwhelming. Get pros, cons, costs and other details about 11 popular platforms here: Which SEO Website Builder Is the Friendliest for Search Engines?

2. Create high-quality content

Content marketing is creating relevant and engaging content that speaks to your target audience and encourages them to return to your site. Blogging is one of the most popular kinds of content marketing for small businesses but it's not the only type. You can offer videos, infographics, case studies, checklists, interviews, how-to tutorials and more.

3. Leverage social media

If your target audience is active on social media, you’d better be there too! The first step is to determine what you want to get out of a social media presence for your business. Do you want to create brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, generate leads, boost engagement or build a community?

Once you’ve nailed down your goals, you can choose the right platforms and start creating content. The SmartBiz Blog has a guide to get you started: How to Quickly Master Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses . If you don’t have the bandwidth, consider hiring a social media consultant. This post can help you launch a search: How to Hire a Social Media Strategist .

4. Embrace feedback

Even if it’s negative, there’s a lot to be learned from customer feedback. Don’t sit back and wait for comments – go get them! That could mean directing customers to review sites like Google Reviews or Yelp, sending out a short email survey, having old fashioned comment cards if you have a brick and mortar store.

We cover this topic in detail on the SmartBiz Blog: The Best Ways Small Businesses Can Gather Customer Feedback.

5. Make it easy for customers to reach your business

When your customers have a problem, they want fast solutions. When they have a question, they want fast answers. Being able to quickly and easily find your contact information is a huge step toward making that happen. Don’t make your customers go on an epic hunt to find your contact information on your website, social media channels or in an email.

6. Rethink logistics

According to Startup Advisor Drew Hendricks, internet-based businesses need to pay attention to online logistics like website speed, security and infrastructure. He writes that, “These aspects of online business translate to better search engine visibility, resulting in more traffic, leads, brand credibility and sales.”

7. Get more organic traffic from search engines

Although paid search engine traffic can sometimes drive sales, 94% of search engine users ignore paid ads in favor of organic (unpaid) search results. Of course, you can also spend money generating organic traffic – and generally, as you spend more money on search engine optimization (SEO), you earn more revenue.

8. Be mobile-friendly

A lot of website traffic comes from mobile devices, and search engines weigh the importance of mobile friendly design more than ever. That’s why you should make sure your website and social media platforms work as well and look as good on desktop as on mobile. If a potential customer visits your mobile pages only to encounter glitches, bugs, and low-resolution or improperly cropped photos, they may quickly lose interest.

Competitor and marketing tips for how to grow a business online

1. Know your target audience

No one can afford to target every consumer. That’s why it’s so important to know exactly who you’re selling to. Once you’ve nailed down your target market, it will be much easier to determine how and where to market your products or services.

The first step is to take a look at your current customer base. Look for common characteristics and interests and dig into why they buy from you. Another strategy is to look at your competition. Who are they targeting? Is there an audience you could be reaching but aren’t?

2. Create unique deals online

Get creative! Make an online deal that addresses a specific customer need, can be successful at any time of year and sets you apart from the competition. You’ll drive customer loyalty to support full-price sales throughout the year.

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3. Become data-driven

Data-driven marketing is analyzing existing data to understand what you might be missing and how to apply it to your marketing campaigns. The overall goal is to discover trends within your customer base and existing marketing campaigns.

For an easy-to-understand article about data-driven marketing that includes real-world examples, read Why Your Small Business Needs Data-Based Decision-Making from the Capterra Blog.

4. Personalize the experience

Although your small businesses probably doesn’t have the budget, staff, or resources that large corporations have, you can make up for it with marketing personalization efforts.

According to an Infosys study, 86% of shoppers say marketing personalization has at least some impact on what they purchase with 25% reporting that personalization significantly influences their purchases. Personalization can take several forms from an email with the customers’ name in it to targeted advertising. For inspiration, check out this recent Forbes article: 5 Brands Taking Personalized Marketing To The Next Level.

5. Plan a content marketing strategy

A firm content marketing strategy involving well-written, informative blog posts can bolster your audience segmentation, SEO, cross-channel marketing, brand awareness, and sales efforts. It can also assist in social proof data collection and increase your return on investment (ROI). To learn why and how, read this SmartBiz Loans blog: 7 Solid Reasons to Use Content Marketing for Business Growth.

6. Take advantage of free marketing tools

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends that any company with under $5 million in yearly revenue save seven to eight percent of its income for marketing. If this amount seems high, you can always turn to free marketing tools such as Google Analytics and Canva.

7. Network with complementary businesses

Although finding time to connect with other professionals can be tough given how busy company ownership may keep you, doing so is well worth your while. Professionals working at businesses whose products or services complement yours make great starting points when you’re looking for affordable suppliers, vendors, or other business partners.

A pre-existing relationship with a complementary business can introduce you both to new customers within your target market or audience. It can also make arranging deals, discounts, or bartering much easier.

8. Invest in email campaigns

Email marketing is frequently cited as giving the best ROI of all digital marketing efforts – returning an average of $44.25 in revenue for every $1 spent. There are several types of email you can send including promotional emails for special offers or sales, seasonal messages or loyalty programs.

For more information, read this article on the SmartBiz Blog: Email Marketing Tips for Small Businesses Owners.

9. Start building an email list from day one

Given the above email marketing ROI figures, you should start building your email list from the get-go. To do so, you can create a marketing persona or ideal buyer, sign up for an email marketing service, craft a compelling offer, and start asking people you know whether they’d like to stay updated. Content marketing and paid ads can help as well. The Daily Egg has more helpful tips: How To Create a Killer Email List From Thin Air (A Beginner's Guide).

Finance and operations tips for how to grow a business online

1. Keep it simple

As your small business expands, it’s not always easy to keep your systems and processes simple. The more your business grows, the more tasks accumulate that can get in the way of performance. There’s a tendency to over-complicate a business, so resist that temptation. Focus on being the best at what you do.

If you’re running a small business, the SmartBiz Small Business Blog has a wealth of information tailored just for you. From business technology to employee management to marketing and everything in between, you can find information and inspiration you need to run a successful business.

2. Diversify your operation

Diversifying your company means expanding into new markets, rolling out new products or services, or implementing new stages of production. The logic behind diversification as a growth driver is quite complex, but most reasons behind it ultimately come down to increasing efficiency and lowering costs. With both these conditions met, higher profits are more realistic. The Harvard Business Review has more information: To Diversify or Not To Diversify.

3. Stop copying other entrepreneurs

If you copy another entrepreneur or company, your business may struggle in the long term. You could also face legal ramifications if you copy trademarked products or services. Beyond these reasons, you also have no excuse to be a copycat when so many original new business ideas exist. You can find several of these ideas via the SmartBiz Loans Blog: Seven Types of Business Opportunities to Consider in 2020.

4. Don’t be afraid to charge a fair price

Prominent career coaches often speak of entrepreneurs struggling to charge fair prices. These coaches say that entrepreneurs frequently feel they aren’t yet worthy of charging prices high enough to meet their financial goals. They also say that there’s nothing wrong with charging prices that are both fair to you and your clients – in fact, they encourage it. And of course, the fairer your prices, the more revenue you’ll have on hand to fund growth initiatives.

5. Keep pushing toward your goals

One of the quickest ways you might stifle your company’s growth is to give up on your goals – yes, even your most ambitious ones. That said, since being a business owner comes with its fair share of challenges, finding that much-needed motivation can sometimes be tough. For inspiration, use this list from The Balance: 10 Easy Steps to Help Your Small Company Achieve Its Goals. If you take these steps, you may be able to grow your company into the exact business you have in mind.

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