I’m so glad you’re reading this guide for step-by-step instructions to take your small business online. That’s where your customers are spending a whole lot of their time — reading, watching, researching, socializing, and buying.
COVID-19 has put a lot of companies, big and small, out of business. The lockdowns across the world have forced people to stay indoors, and for a lot of offline businesses, this meant that footfall across their shops has gone down. Obviously, this also completely shut a lot of businesses.
The pandemic has been especially bad for small and medium-sized businesses. These companies usually work with limited capital and don’t have enough liquidity to stay afloat without business for long durations. However, some businesses have managed to not just survive but grow and expand. Most of these success stories have been fueled by doing business in the digital marketplace.
A lot of people have also started small-scale, home-based businesses to make up for lost incomes. And even here, the businesses that have done the best are businesses that have gone online and leveraged the online markets.
So, if you have a home-based business, it makes sense to take it online and open it up for a larger and wider audience. Being online gives you access to a much bigger market and can help your business grow. Additionally, with people staying indoors, the majority of transactions have moved to the internet, and more people are shopping online today than ever before.
With that in the background, this article aims to help you understand the nitty-gritty of how to digitize your home-based business – what to do, and what not to.
How to take your business online?
1. Selecting A domain name
A domain name is essentially the address of your website. For example, ‘yourwebsite.com’ is your domain name. It is also the first introduction of your brand to your potential customers. So, make sure that your domain name conveys what you do, or who you are. There are — this is an oversimplification, of course — two routes here. You can either choose a domain name that is very creative and ‘out-there or choose a straightforward name that covers the basics.
2. Pick your web hosting company
Your website, like your business itself, has to ‘reside’ somewhere. Web hosting companies do this for you. Web hosting companies have web servers on which your website data is stored, and when someone accesses your website, it is these servers that will cater to those requests.
Partnering with a good web hosting company is crucial, to say the least. You want your web hosting company to offer secure, fast, and reliable hosting. Cyberattacks are on the rise, people don’t like slow websites, and if your website crashes often and isn’t reliable, it’ll hurt your SEO rankings and search engines won’t show your website. So, it’s very important that you choose a reputed hosting company that has a proven history of providing great hosting services.
3. Create a vision for your website
Before you go ahead and create your website, think of what you want it to do. Do you want a simple website that just allows people to know who you are? Or do you want people to purchase something off your website? Or are you looking to have a comprehensive digital presence with lots of content on your website and regular blog and video uploads?
These are questions that you will have to answer because these answers will ultimately dictate what your website looks like and what hosting plans you will need.
4. Choose a hosting plan
A hosting plan is a bit like a Netflix subscription. Your web hosting company provides the hosting service and you pay a monthly (can be yearly or quarterly too) fee to them. There are different types of hosting platforms through which a website can be hosted. Shared Hosting, VPS Hosting, and Dedicated Hosting are some of the popular methods.
Prices and features vary. However, here’s a word of advice: If you’re going to do very little with your website and you’re looking at a very simple design and low traffic, Shared Hosting is more than enough. A business website with plenty of financial transactions will need a VPS Hosting plan. You don’t have to worry about Dedicated Hosting for now.
Do your homework, understand your website needs and different hosting types before selecting a plan.
5. Build your website
With that domain name in hand, you’re ready to start thinking about your website. The building or designing a website has become very easy over the years. If you know how to work a computer, you can probably build your website. There are hundreds of tools that offer thousands of templates. You just pick a template and fill in the details — it’s that simple.
However, if you don’t want an existing template, or if you want to make a lot of changes to an existing template, you should be hiring a web developer or a web designer. They are professionals who will help you with building your website exactly the way you have envisioned.
6. Create awareness and expand your footprint
Once your website is up and running, ensure that you tell as many people about it as possible. Inform all your offline customers about your website and request them to pass on the information too.
It’s also important to understand that your business is now an online business, meaning there are a few different rules that you need to know. First off, higher traffic leads to better business. So, try to drive as much traffic as you can.
When you start an online business, there’s no guarantee that your potential customers will find you right away. Therefore, you must market your products effectively. You can do so by optimizing your website as per the latest Search Engine Optimization (SEO) standards. It’s important!
Create social media accounts for your business and be active there. Social media marketing is a good way to drive traffic to your website. The more traffic you get, the better your sales will get. It’s really that straightforward.
There are a lot of factors you must consider in order to attract the right audience. You can sponsor content on third-party platforms or use the power of social media which works like a charm. Also, PPC ad campaigns can help you increase your conversions.