Developing a successful business is a daunting challenge at the best of times, and the fast paced environment which we live in, the 21st century has placed even more pressure on business owners looking to carve out a profitable niche for themselves. The good news for business owners facing this new reality is that there has never been such a vast amount of help close at hand! It goes without saying that an important part of any business’s strategy will be its online presence, and it is in this area that we’ll explore 5 actionable tips which will help grow your revenue and profitability in today’s competitive environment.
1 Take the Plunge: Invest in some digital real estate
Customers are at the heart of all business. Companies need customers to succeed, and without customers even the best products in the world are quickly transformed to dust collectors in a cardboard box. Getting your business in front of customers therefore, is key. In the old pre-internet days, this meant taking out hefty leases for prominent mall locations or roadside storefronts with large amounts of passing footfall.
Shotgun marketing campaigns were introduced, with budgets often chewed up by ineffective mail drops and full page advertisements in newspapers and magazines. The “search engines” of the day were thick, heavy monstrosities known as the Yellow Pages – potential customers would flip through thousands of company listings in order to find anything from microchip suppliers to plumbing services.The Yellow Pages were dull, and businesses had no real way of distinguishing themselves apart from taking out expensive full or quarter page advertisements.
Companies without such a lofty advertising budget were at the mercy of customers choosing their listing over someone else’s, although it didn’t stop some creative Yellow pages “hacks” from taking place. Legend has it that Steve Jobs decided on the name “Apple Computing” so it would appear at the front of the book and before “Atari” in the listings. This could be one of the first examples of Search Engine Optimization, a concept we will be exploring further in future posts!
In short, business in the old days was slow, cumbersome, and almost entirely dependent upon your local area. The rise of the internet has changed all of that. Transactions which used to take days or potentially weeks, now occur at the speed of light. These days customers expect to be able to do things quickly. They want to be able to interact with your company online – consume content, shop, and interact with like minded customers.
The good news is that it has never been easier or more affordable to establish your online presence which takes advantage of all of the professional features which the modern day consumer expects. In order to succeed in today’s new business environment an online presence is an absolute must. So whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or a seasoned business veteran, it’s time to take the plunge and integrate your existing business into a slick, online revenue machine.
2 Guessing vs Knowing: Implement a strong suite of business metrics and analytics
Einstein is quoted as saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This perfectly describes most of the analytical methods and metrics used in the old days of doing business. Information back then was opaque, managers often had to rely on “gut instincts”, “hunches”, or “experience” when analyzing sets of partial or incomplete sets of data which often revealed nothing about the true health of their company.
The business world of the 21st Century has come on leaps and bounds in this regard. As more and more business is conducted online, business metrics and analytics have become much more targeted. Business owners can review any aspect of their online business from web site traffic, sales, advertising click through rates, geographic location, customer demographics, through to the peak times of the day or month when customers actually place orders.
This relative treasure trove of information gives business owners the ability to keep their finger on the pulse of their operations at all times, allowing them to identify what marketing campaigns, promotions, or sales drives are successful, and on the flip side – identifying what’s not working before it’s too late.
3 The Non-Stop Global Shop: Take advantage of the growth in eCommerce
One of the biggest shifts in the business world in the past thirty years has been the transition from location based physical storefronts to online retail. We can see the consequences of this trend all around us. Customers are abandoning “stand in line” and switching to “online” when it comes to shopping – and they are doing so in record numbers. Online retail sales have skyrocketed over the past decade and are on target to reach over $260bn this year alone.
Online sales now account for 8 percent of total retail sales in the United States – up from a mere 1.5% in the early 2000s. Online retailers are open around the clock, and are often much more convenient for customers who lead busy lifestyles. The instant gratification which online shopping offers is also a huge pull factor for many customers, and given how easy it is to setup eCommerce stores nowadays it is fast becoming a must have for any business involved in selling directly to the public.
4 Global Outreach: Increase the visibility of your business to maximize revenue
The internet age means businesses are no longer confined to their local area. E-Commerce has opened up limitless opportunities and potential markets meaning anyone with an idea can sell on a national or global scale within minutes. This global sales channel opens up a vast realm of new opportunities for business owners who may have a limited marketplace in their own town or city.
By offering online storefronts alongside a physical store – revenue can increase dramatically, especially for business owners who have gained a solid reputation for the product or service which they sell. While incorporating an online store complete with payment processing capabilities used to be prohibitively expensive – the process nowadays is straightforward and affordable, and your business could be selling online in no time at all. Web site designs that are built for improving conversions can be a useful asset to maximize your overall revenue.
5 Engage your Customers: Improve customer trust and professionalism
The first point of contact for many of your potential customers in the business landscape of the 21st century will be online. Your company’s web page or social media presence will be the first opportunity a customer will have to form an opinion about your company, product or service – so it’s essential that you spend the time ensuring that this “meet and greet” phase of the buying cycle is as professional and relevant as possible.
Customers expect to be able to find and research on your company online. If your company has no meaningful web presence it immediately discourages potential customers from becoming actual customers. An online presence for your business helps build credibility, legitimacy, and establishes an opportunity for you as a business owner to connect directly with your customers.
Customer engagement via social media is also becoming an increasingly important activity for businesses of all sizes. Social media is quickly becoming one of the first ports of calls for customers looking for more information, to ask advice, or to lodge complaints, so keeping a high level of interaction with your customers through these channels is vital in order to maintain your company’s reputation.
Remember, the internet never forgets! This increased level of interaction via social channels is also a highly effective marketing tool and far superior in many ways when you compare the ROI with other more traditional marketing methods. Happy customers like to share their experiences with others, and an effective marketing campaign through these channels is like word of mouth on steroids!
So those were our 5 tips for doing business in the 21st century. The list is not exhaustive by any means and we will be exploring these ideas in greater depth in future posts. For now the main thing to take away is that in order to succeed in the 21st century business environment you need to have a solid online presence and sound strategy.
The good news is that there has never been a better time to start an online business or establish an online presence for your existing business. Whether you’re a budding startup entrepreneur or seasoned business owner, an online presence will be a vital component of your business going forward and an essential tool in your company’s onward march to profitability.