Online Strategies for Small Businesses

Small businesses have a lot going for them if they operate online. While the brick and mortar world still makes sense for certain industries such as health care, restaurants and auto repair shops, many businesses can move toward virtual operations to cut costs and accelerate productivity.

Small businesses who understand the cloud, the mobile revolution and content marketing can have a huge edge over competitors who have no idea that these three things are changing the face of business in the 21st century.

The Cloud

Embracing the cloud is your first step to forming a modern online small business strategy that dramatically lowers costs. With the cloud you can eliminate expensive IT, hardware, software and security headaches that slow down productivity. Storing all your data on your own servers is not only high risk, due to server lifespan and hard drive space; it can be compromised by both insiders and outsiders. It’s better as an owner to be an administrator of a content management system that’s protected by a secure cloud service that handles IT and all the technical aspects of computing as part of a package.

The age of techies being high paid gatekeepers to online business is shifting toward business owners having more control of their digital operations while the techies work more quietly in the background at a fraction of the cost. When it comes to web design, find a content management system in the cloud that handles the coding while all you have to worry about is updating content. This strategy will save you a lot of time and money. After all, content is what attracts customers, not the way the web pages are coded. The greatest advantages of the cloud are that it simplifies collaboration and remote operation from any location, reducing the need for big office space.

Mobile Customers

More and more consumers use their smart phones to track down local businesses when they travel. Be aware that less and less consumers are buying desktops. A growing amount of internet activity is mobile. The way you can capitalize on this trend is to create apps or content specifically designed for mobile users. What mobile users want and expect are simple web pages that give them easy navigation to the information they are looking for. It’s the perfect opportunity to provide them with a coupon or brochure about your company to download, which helps make your brand more familiar.

So it’s a good idea to optimize your website for mobile users. Some of the reasons why mobile users are important are that they offer opportunities for better interactivity regarding “on the go” decisions and they can access your site from anywhere at anytime. Mobile website optimization gives the mobile user a more seamless experience with faster download speed and it helps rankings in mobile-friendly search engines. Ideally, you will want your site to serve them with images and basic information that answers their questions or provides solutions to their problems quickly, such as easy to read directions to your location.

Content Marketing

SEO, blogs, email newsletters, web content development and social media are all important content marketing tools. They each allow you to build a strategy for engaging with online followers. In this new era of developing deeper relationships with prospects and customers before they buy, it’s important to replace hard sell techniques with friendly interaction that feeds followers with useful information instead of sales pitches. Understand that people spend time online to educate themselves to be smarter shoppers. You can develop better relationships with them by gaining trust as an informative resource than going for the quick sale.

The tools of content marketing are designed to create a sales funnel that ultimately point toward product landing pages. Yet each of these tools, whether it’s a blog or newsletter, needs to convey information that customers are already curious about. The more you can educate them, the better chance you will gain their trust as an advisor, which is the key in the new paradigm of maximizing online sales. Lead people through the sales funnel, but take time to build relationships for the future, since the goal is to cultivate a loyal online community.