How To Launch A Business Online; A Definitive Guide.
By Stacy Ketiku
- Read in between the lines; we have free resources for you somewhere in there.
So you’ve been thinking of how to move your brick and mortar business from being known just within your community to becoming a glocal brand i.e. global + local. However, you are still unsure of how to make that transition happen. To launch a business online doesn’t require you to be absolutely tech-savvy, and that you are currently recording consistent sales in your local store doesn’t mean your business should be deprived of the opportunities locking on the internet.
Almost all successful online businesses today once had no idea of which digital platforms to use, location of their ideal online audience, marketing tools and strategies to implement, as well as other growing concerns like building their user base from scratch. Lucky you, with this guide, you can now learn from proven strategies and launch a business online that is heading towards profitability, sustainability, and popularity.
All Businesses Should Be Online: Here’s Why.
Where would you rather be in times like this? With the growing popularity of many online platforms and the introduction of some others, forward-thinking brands are left with no other option than to meet their customers right where they are and when they need them. Look at it this way, if you offer products/services in a competitive industry, how do you intend to win over your competitors’ audience from the comfort of your local store? Just think about it.
Currently, your business might be booming in your own space, but positioning such a business online increases the brand’s visibility and relevance, reaches more audience, and becomes trusted by many as a result of online reviews and testimonials. The internet community makes use of social proof and referral marketing to take your brand’s name to places beyond your reach. Well, it’s totally fine if you need some more time to let it all sink in and get convinced that there’s a lot more value your business can offer on – and get from the digital space.
Related Article: How to Create An Effective Digital Marketing Plan.
The 3 Campaign Stages
For every brand trying to transition to online platforms, you are going to pass through 3 major campaign stages. It is essential to work with a dedicated team of experts to ease whatever pressure or technical difficulty you encounter along the way.
This is the first stage where you map out what steps you need to take that will lead to a successful digital transformation of your business. Every business is unique and if you do not have the budget to run various strategies at the same time, feel free to select which marketing strategy should be your priority at each stage.
Branding: Unlike how a typical local store is run, you will need to undergo a branding process where you’ll decide on your brand name, logo design, brand colours, slogan/mantra, e.t.c. These can be referred to as unique identifiers of a business; remember, there are several similar businesses to yours online, so you need to be recognisable at a glance. There’s also the need to create a personal brand for yourself as people want to know who they are doing business with; they want some sort of connection and to be assured that you can be trusted. If you are like me, you will rather patronise your friend’s business than a salesman who sends you a message on social media without a verifiable identity.
Landing Page: While your Web Developer/Software Engineer is still developing your website or app, it’s great to have a landing page that informs people about the arrival of your business. A landing page must be properly designed with a headline, relevant content, call-to-action, visual elements, and enough whitespace. You could also offer them an irresistible offer in exchange for their bio-data and email address, which can be used for other marketing activities. Some examples of such offers are cashback on first purchase, free access to premium features for a month, product testing for random subscribers, X% discount on all items, and more.
Website, or Web/Mobile App Development: Create an irresistible platform that makes it easy for users to spend more time interacting with your business. Make them feel at home as this helps to keep you top of mind. A good example is Instagram, as a user of this app, most times, you find yourself scrolling endlessly and even neglecting your initial purpose of logging into the platform. Without mincing words, every business needs a website to stay ahead and visible in the digital space; this is non-negotiable. However, depending on your business type, your Software Engineer will be in a better position to advise you on whether or not you will need a web/mobile application instead of just a website.
To achieve great results from your website, work with professional Developers who understand certain frameworks and the concept to consider when developing and designing your platform. Always consider functionality, the UI/UX design, responsiveness, visual hierarchy, use of white space, colours, font, image selection, ease of navigation, SEO-friendliness, and authentic content. Every element must work in harmony. Never forget that if people love your product/service and enjoy using your platform, you are one step ahead because they will naturally engage in word-of-mouth marketing on behalf of your brand at no cost at all, and this automatically increases trust.
Social Media Management: While creating your digital marketing strategy, you must have identified what social media platforms are most suitable for your brand after considering various factors like the platforms your target audience is concentrated on, age group, and business type. Having accounts on multiple social media platforms will not harm your business; in fact, it is recommended because it’s a great way to increase your visibility and reach more people who might be interested in your products/services. For starters, every brand should have a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn account, then explore other platforms if they are essential to the growth of your online community.
Your social media management task begins with you setting up your bio which must be straight to the point, contain keywords related to your business, then a display picture that shows your brand identity. To ensure consistency, come up with a schedule for posting content on the platforms and stick to it; your social media update could be done daily, thrice a week, on weekdays only, or whichever schedule that works for you. Furthermore, to prevent an overload of content, do not post more than three posts in a day; it is better to have one post with a large amount of engagement than to have three without any. The content created for social media must also be in alignment with your goals and objectives, without forgetting to test different types of content to determine which drives the most level of engagement. Lastly, always begin your marketing on social media even before you officially launch a business online and keep showing up consistently and intentionally.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): Let’s simply say that SEO is the various activities put together to help search engines recognise your website, and make you visible when people search for words related to your website or business. Some major SEO strategies that shouldn’t be overlooked include On-Page SEO – using relevant key phrases in your content (title, meta tags, alt text, body, e.t.c.), posting more video content and long-form articles on your blog page, amongst others. With Off-Page SEO, position your business on already established business listing sites, make use of backlinks and get other sites to link back to your site; this helps in improving your domain authority score and making your site more relevant and visible on search engines. Putting up your business on local listing platforms like Google My Business is also a very bright idea. In addition, your Technical SEO strategies will also be required to ensure all URLs are properly structured for easy crawling. Tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google Tag Manager will help you constantly analyse and track the performance of your website. To prevent broken links or error pages, create your website’s sitemap and link it to your Google Search Console account.
You must note that SEO is a continuous activity and should not be abandoned if you aren’t seeing any results yet because it takes search engines some time to crawl and rank your site accordingly. Your best bet is to hire an SEO expert who can apply SEO best practices on your website; navigating Search Engine Optimisation concepts could be quite overwhelming if you are new to it; moreover, search engines are constantly updating their algorithms.
Related Article: SEO Tactics Made Simple; Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking.
Content Development: From web copies to blog posts, paid ads, social media content, product descriptions, email newsletters, explainer videos, and more, content creation never ends. Consciously or unconsciously, people eat, drink, and breathe content. Your brand’s content should be authentic, relatable, relevant, and purposeful; to achieve all that, you should implement a content strategy that works. A content strategy is a document that guides the content production process from the planning until the distribution stage. In clear terms, it states out the goal/purpose (to inform, persuade, entertain, engage, e.t.c) for each piece of content to be created, whom you’ll create the content for, what channels to distribute them on, writing technique or style to apply, what action you expect the content to drive, as well as how you’ll measure the effectiveness of your efforts.
The creation of effective content requires you to be more than just a wordsmith; you need to be able to personalise an audience’s user experience based on their persona, current stage in the buyer journey, and ultimately get them converted. To make you more consistent, your content marketing team should work with editorial calendars for the blog and social media. An editorial calendar helps you create content in advance, track the status of every piece of content, and if you work with a large team, it enables you to know who is in charge of working on certain content. Get our free social media and blog editorial calendar templates.
Among other things, content should be SEO-friendly. Some important metrics used to measure your content marketing efforts include social shares, post engagement, progress in the customer journey, website traffic, time spent on a page, click-through-rate, bounce rate, conversion rate, email subscription rate, and more. Note that the decision on how to measure your efforts is strongly dependent on your content marketing goals.
Related Article: The Reality of Content Creation and How To Win At It.
Setting KPIs and Keeping Track: Based on your marketing objectives, you’ll need to set key performance indicators (KPIs) which will be used to track and measure your performance as you walk towards achieving those objectives. While setting marketing objectives, ensure that they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound). KPIs can be set to measure lead generation, website or social media engagement, and even purchase intent. Examples of some common digital marketing metrics to monitor are: the click-through-rate, cost per unit, conversion rate, newsletter sign-up rate, direct traffic, social media share rate, pages per session, bounce rate, and more. To keep track of these metrics and other necessary ones, set up your Google Analytics account before your begin your digital marketing campaign and continuously monitor them to know what is working and what needs to be tweaked for better results.
During The Launch
These set of activities could be run during or after you launch a business online.
PPC Ads: Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads is a cost-effective way to market your business to people who are or have previously searched for your business or a business like yours. It is a form of advertising that makes use of targeting and keywords among other factors to display your adverts to people who need your services or products in a specific geographical area. With PPC ads, you are only charged when your advert is clicked on by a searcher; this means your budget is intact if no one clicks on the ads. This type of adverts can be done on Google or other search engines, as well as social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more. To ensure a low cost-per-acquisition with a minimal budget, work with a PPC expert who can optimise it appropriately, and ensure every element of the ads work together to achieve a high conversion rate.
Email Marketing: With email marketing, you can establish a more personal relationship with people who have in one way or the other signified interest in your business at any stage of the customer journey by subscribing to your email list. Every email must contain a subject, attention-grabbing headline, personalised salutation, body, visual elements, call-to-action button with embedded links, and links to your website as well as other social media platforms.
Related Article: Email Marketing Strategy; Everything You Need to Get Started.
Your email newsletter or sales copy is written differently and isn’t like other forms of content you have created for other platforms. It should be personalised, persuasive, and just the right length and message that will hold the reader’s attention from start to finish, prompting them to take action immediately. With the use of email marketing service providers like MailChimp, Mailerlite, Convertkit, and others, email marketing has become a lot easier and more effective. You can create and design your newsletter without any technical knowledge, segment your list into different groups or audiences for effective personalisation, automate a series of emails which is sent out once triggered by the recipient, view the performance of each email campaign, and more.
Influencer Marketing: Beyond an influencer’s fanbase and popularity, when selecting a social media influencer for your brand’s promotion, be sure that their values align with that of your brand. Also, check if their audience includes people who will need your products/services, and that their content will not in any way jeopardise prospect’s perception of your brand.
In addition, don’t forget to keep track of all your activities, ads, website traffic, and measure your return on investment using Google Analytics which is a free tool that can easily be set up and linked to your website in no time.
The post-launch campaign involves a continuation of virtually all the marketing strategies performed before and during the launch. This means that for your business to experience digital growth and yield marketing results continually, you mustn’t relent on your SEO strategies, email marketing, content development, social media management, Pay-Per-Click ads, tracking of KPIs, influencer marketing, website or web/mobile app upgrade and maintenance, e.t.c.
Social Media/Website Audit: Carry out periodic audits on your website, blog, and social media platforms to find out what is working and what isn’t so that you can implement better strategies and produce impressive results. Besides, recognise where your website traffic is coming from, what page(s) they are landing and dwelling on, what seems to stand in the way of them making a purchase, booking a session, attending your webinar, or whatever conversion goal you have set.
Checklist for Starters To Launch A Business Online
- Identification of business model and Unique Selling Proposition
- Branding (company name, colour, logo, mantra/slogan)
- Creation of an overall digital marketing strategy
- Creation of a buyer persona
- Website or web/mobile app development and design
- Copywriting for the website and landing page
- Creation of landing page
- Setting up Google account and all social media accounts
- Content creation for social media and the blog
- Begin email marketing campaign with pre-sign ups
- Implement SEO techniques
- Launch website, promptly respond to inquiries and be open to feedback
- Run PPC ads and influencing marketing campaigns depending on your goals and budget
- Keep track of KPIs and metrics using Google Analytics
- Regularly audit your website and social media accounts.
In conclusion, when you need to launch a business online, working with a full-service agency like Big Field Digital is a no-brainer since you are probably new to the use of digital tools and technology for marketing purposes. Full-service agencies provide all forms of marketing, advertising, and promotional solutions without needing to leave any aspect of your marketing strategy to a third-party. They are known to always have all the expertise required to shape your business into a brand, create your customised platforms, keep track of every stage of your marketing activities, and keep you ahead of your competitors. Regardless of the scale of your business (small, medium, or large), you should be concerned with reducing the friction that exists when a person needs your product or service and when or how they get it.