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3 Keys to a Successful Online Small Business

By | First Published: | Last Updated: 18 November, 2023

There are many aspects to running a successful small business. Yet, this advice is more specific. Do want to run a successful online business? Or, a successful online aspect of your business? Here 3 keys to a successful online business:

Establishing a strong online presence

Having a strategy for getting found online

Building your email list for more repeat customers or clients

Let’s look at each of them in turn.

Note, other than my own websitedesign services, I am NOT affliated with any services that I mention.

A Strong Online Presence

I design websites for a living but I am going to start by saying you may not need a website. What you need is a strong online presence.

Facebook Pages

For many people just starting, this online presence may be as simple as a well crafted Facebook page. The same holds true for certain types of businesses.

Focused, Functional & Well-designed Websites

But for many – a focused, functional and well-designed website is the best way to go. To be focused, you need to be clear about how you want the website to help your small business.

This then leads to functionality, or in other words what functions does your website need to achieve its purpose. This is a crucial consideration when deciding what to include (and leave out) of your website.

Finally, only after thinking about focus and functionality, you need to consider the design. This includes, but goes beyond making it look pretty. You (and your designer) need to put things together in ways that make it easier for potential customers to achieve what they want to achieve on your site.

Best Websites for Small Businesses

What sort of site should you go for? At the lower end of the spectrum, you have cookie-cutter platforms, such as Wix. My advice is, don’t go that way – stick with a Facebook page until you can afford better.

At the other extreme, a recent client of mine was quoted between $4,000 – $9,000 for a small e-commerce site.

My strong advice is to use the WordPress platform! Why? Because it can give you the flexibility and functionality you need. Then, find a WordPress designer (even if it is not me) who charges between $1,000 – $3,000. In 99% of cases, there is no justification for a WordPress design to cost more than this.

Yet, no matter which platform you use, your website must:

Be functional and look great on mobile phones as well as computers (in tech jagron respoosive)

Not take a long time to load (people and Google don’t like and penalise slow sites)

Getting Found Online

Once you have a well thought out Facebook page or website, you need to get found online. The mindset of ‘build it and they will come is not enough. You need to spend time attracting people to your site. But what does this mean exactly?

Google My Business

For many small businesses something as simple as a Google My Business listing can be enough. It is free if you set it up yourself, or if you don’t want the hassle you can pay someone to do it for you. It tends to work well when people are for localised businesses, such as ‘plumber Ryde’. One trick though is to list your business name creatively, (e.g., ‘Shaun’s Pipes | Best Plumber Ryde’. Another is actively asking customers to rate you on Google.

Paid Advertising

To see quick results, my advice is to use paid advertising. But test the waters with small budget targeted ads on different platforms such as Google and Facebook. Once you get a feel for what is giving you the most bang for your buck, invest more in that platform.

Content Marketing

A longer-term strategy is content marketing. Put simply, this involves:

Creating free content your ideal audience would find helpful (articles such as this one, but content can also be videos, infographics and more.

Sharing that content publically in places such as Facebook groups, Quora and Reddit – especially if the link to your content is in response to someone’s question

How does content marketing help your business?

First, it brings people to your website and shows them you care about their needs and that they can trust your expertise. Over time, this leads them to choose your products or services when they are eventually ready to buy.

Second, it will help you to rank higher in Google because Google likes helpful content, people like great content and link to it, and Google uses links as a ranking factor.

Securing Repeat Customers

Getting found online is costly, whether that cost is your time, money or both. Yet, for your small online business to be sustainable, you also need to devote time to securing repeat business from existing customers.

The cost ($) of acquiring new customers is 5x higher than it is for getting repeat business. Plus, repeat customers are likely to spend more. That is why securing repeat customers (or clients) is critical to a small online business’s success.

Email Marketing

One of the key messages I have learned since venturing into online business is the power of an email list. On average, the ROI is that for every $1 spent, you get $42 in return.

And, email is a great way to keep in touch with past customers.

However, to be most effective (and less annoying) your emails must be personally relevant and helpful to the people you send them to.

You can get some good advice on email marketing in Elna Cain’s guide Email Marketing 101.

I also recommend using an emailing marketing service. If:

Cost is a major factor, Mailer Lite has a free plan

You want the best service, go with with ConvertKit

Personally, I started with free options, then cheap options and eventually made my way up to ConverKit.

How to Succeed with a Small Online Business?

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Shaun Killian (me) is a small business owner, who is passionate about helping other small businesses succeed. He has been working with website design since 2008. He is also an expert in digital marketing, including SEO, content marketing and email marketing. In a former life, Shaun was a school teacher and principal before a heart transplant and bilateral leg amputation led him in other directions.