World is changing, the lifestyles of the whole population are now adapting to the new normal. This is a challenging time, but it’s also an opportunity to explore new ways of approaching the audience.
With the current world situation, it's hard and sometimes even impossible to personally meet with customers. These unique conditions enforce limitations in the way we do business, interact with each other or even consume goods altogether. Therefore, many things have been or will be changed. Moving your business online might be the best thing you can do. Movie producers show their latest flicks on streaming services instead of in cinemas. Kids are now using computers and video conferencing tools to keep up with school programs. Restaurants now deliver food and allow takeaway orders for customers.
Now, everything is moving online. And so should you! It will make you easy to find globally and allow you to maintain close relations with your customers (without leaving your house). The online world allows you to improve your business and reach those that were difficult to reach before. But how do you do that?
The first thing you need to consider when thinking about being active online is how your products or services can be sold. It might not seem easy at the beginning. Let’s talk through a few examples to give you an idea.
Businesses moving online - practical examples
If you run a language school or rent rooms for classes, hire a few language teachers. Now, there is too much risk related to meeting in large groups. The classes are empty and people are not eager to go to classrooms. In order to keep the school open, they switched to online streaming and video lessons. It can be done in multiple ways. For example, one-on-one video lessons, where the teacher and the pupil see each other, talk and present learning materials or group online lessons using streaming tools (like free Google Hangouts or Zoom). Collaboration platforms like Nifty and Teams can also help provide some mainstream communication options to communicate well internally.
You can connect with multiple people at the same time and teach them using video and sound transmission. There are even more options that might surprise you. For instance, our customer, The Daily Steps is creating video lessons and regularly sends them to their customers using email. Users receive the new material regularly, get homework and consult with the teacher when needed. For many language schools, this might be a completely new way of monetizing their knowledge and experience. Ready-made video lessons can later be sold on many platforms, such as Udemy, etc. for additional revenue.
Coaches, consultants, specialists, dieticians and many other professions that focus on one-on-one meetings. Surprisingly a lot of these meetings now can be done online. Obviously it’s not perfect, but it works and it is better than doing nothing at all. There are multiple ways of automating and optimizing the process to move the business online.
You can start from the virtual calendar embedded on the website for reservations, through collecting email addresses and updating customers about the latest news. Remind them through an email that the meeting time is closing or if the hours have to be changed. You could also regularly send your customers messages with extra materials such as recipes, guides, stories and much more. And you don’t have to individually send an email to each customer. Simply use Elastic Email, create a contact list, personalize it with some additional info like name and date of birth. Then prepare the campaign and send it to your contact lists. Easy!
Most restaurants and diners are going through tough times now. People avoid crowds and rarely visit places like bars or coffee shops. The most obvious solution is to offer takeaway and food delivery. Creating an online order system together with online payment will make the whole process more convenient. People still need to eat and are craving something good to spoil themselves during this time. If possible, you can also introduce pre-made, frozen food delivery. The customer can then use the oven or microwave to prepare it once it is most convenient for them. This has one more advantage, as customers can order multiple dishes to have them in the freezer for later.
Now, let’s move to the details and talk about tools that will help you move your business online. We have focused on free or very cheap tools that will help you do this quickly and without spending a fortune.
Launching your website
The first thing you need to do in order to get your business to move online is to make a website. Creating a website is easier than you might think. It's 2020 and the technology is far more intuitive now. There is no need for coding skills to build a complicated website, and the time to actually make it is a fraction of what it took before. Furthermore, when you start, you will only need a simple site. You can update this page later, come back to it and add new things when needed. Your basic website has to provide the visitor with the three following pieces of information:
- A detailed description of your offer. What a person can see or read on the website should be enough for them to make a decision. They shouldn't need to contact you in order to ask for additional info. This way you will make the process easier for you and the potential customers.
- An advantage over competitors. There should always be at least one reason why a customer should pick you instead of someone else. It might be faster delivery, free after-sale maintenance, an attractive price, careful packaging, environmental awareness, great customer support and much more. Competitive advantage is the key to a successful business and it should be visible on your website
- A clear and easy to understand the way to order the product. It’s hard to believe how often people create great looking websites, describe what they have to offer and forget to let visitors know how they can actually order them. Obviously implementing online payment would be the most convenient for most customers. But using a contact form or giving multiple options such as phone numbers or on-page chat can also be effective. Remember to clearly communicate to your visitors what they have to do to make an order. Don’t expect them to figure it out for themselves.
If you have literally no experience with creating websites, one of the quickest and easiest ways to create one might be to use wix.com. It will let you create a neat looking website by simply dragging and dropping whole sections where you need them. Adding a few photos or illustrations and writing text is all you need to do. After that, simply click publish, and it’s done. You can start with the free option and if you notice that it might be beneficial for your business, move to paid plans with more advanced features.
WordPress.com is the most popular CMS (content management system) on the global market right now. It’s more complicated than Wix but also gives you more freedom and choice. And as it’s popularity is so big, there are countless guides and tutorials.
The library of ready-made plugins for WordPress is so vast, that there probably is an add-on for any need you might imagine but keep in mind you also need the right hosting service to make it work. By clever usage of those plugins, there is nearly no need for coding skills. For example, there is a plugin for adding a Google Map to the page, a plugin to display multiple products in a neat way, another one to collect emails from visitors and so on. There is also plenty of ready-made themes so you don’t have to create a website from scratch. It’s enough to pick the theme that fits your business best and fill it with your content.
The choice between the two mentioned above depends mostly on your preference. You can spend some time (WordPress) or money (Wix) in order to set up your website. So if you happen to have some extra time, it might be a good choice to go for WordPress. However, if you want to invest and have a website done in one day, Wix might be a better option. Either way, it's a baseline for moving your business into the online world.
Creating contact forms
One of the most important functions of your website is to allow visitors to buy your product and/or contact you in case of doubts or questions. A quick and easy way to do that is to embed a contact form on your website so everyone can send a message without leaving the page. A good contact form should be simple, clear and reliable. The last part is essential. You need to test the contact form often to make sure the messages reach your inbox. The worst thing that might happen is to have customers sending you orders that you never get to read.
One of the most popular and free plugins for WordPress is Contact Form 7. Its popularity ensures that you will find plenty of tutorials about installing and using it properly. It’s quite simple and effective.
Setting up virtual calendar
If the nature of your business requires private meetings and it’s possible to arrange them remotely, you might need a calendar that will help you schedule all those meetings with your customers. This can quickly become a painful task as you go from phone call to phone call arranging suiting times and days. Luckily, it's not necessary to do it this way. There are a bunch of great tools that can help you with all your calendar needs.
One of the best examples is Calendly. In its free version, you can create an event, give it a date range and set the time of each meeting. After that, you can simply use email to send a special link to all your customers and they can pick from the free calendar slots the one that fits them best. This is quick and without any hassle. You can also add Calendly to your website which will make the whole process even more seamless. If Calendly doesn't strike you fancy, there are many alternatives, like Simplybook.me, which offers a similar service and there is also a free plan to start.
Implementing e-commerce on your page
Probably the best possible way to move your business online and maintain it is to allow visitors of your website to easily buy the product directly from the page. It's easy and convenient but it needs a bit more effort than other solutions. If done right, you can completely change the way you do business forever.
Many people are afraid of implementing online shops as they fear it will cost a lot of money and be too complicated. That's a myth we want to debunk. It's not that expensive. It's not that complicated. And usually, it just takes a little bit of time to add all the products, configure payments and setup delivery integrations. The best part is that there is no need for any coding skills. If you decided to use WordPress to build your business page, the natural choice will probably be the WooCommerce plugin. It has a well-established reputation and it's updated on a regular basis. Crucial functions are available for free and when you need to upgrade, an income generated by the online shop will pay the bills.
Building connections through social media
The good thing about social media is that it's free to create a company profile on most platforms. This is also the place where people spend a lot of time, especially now. So, if you want to stay in touch with your customers, you simply need to have at least the basic social media profiles. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram might be a good idea, but depending on the industry you work in, some places will be better than others.
Many people visiting your website will want to quickly check on your social media profiles to get to know you better. It's a good practice to publish new posts every now and again so it is obvious to potential customers that the company is active. Some might even want to get in touch with you through Facebook or other services. It's best to install apps on your phone to respond quickly. The speed of your reply might be more important than the answer itself as a lot of people have very little patience.
Social media, in general, is an important part of the online environment and you simply cannot afford to ignore this channel. There are some downsides though. The main one is the organic reach. Even if you have 5,000 followers, your posts might reach only a small fraction of them. Creating good content for social media takes time and it might not always be worth it. Having social media channels is great, but it needs to support a different communication channel that will allow you to reach all your subscribers.
Setting up your business email account
Email is one of the greatest and most effective communication channels in online marketing. It's by far the simplest and easiest to grow. You may have already heard that a few times before, but the return of investment from email marketing is usually very high. It's one of those communication channels that you have full control of. Once you start collecting the email addresses of your customers, leads and people that like your brand, it will become your link to all of them. Any time you have something interesting to offer, you will be able to quickly connect and send your promotional campaigns. To start getting new subscribers, you can use a free web form plugin for WordPress, that will generate a script for you to embed on a website. It only takes a few minutes to set up and it's incredibly useful.
The important thing with emails is that you simply cannot ignore the vast majority of people that use mobile to read them. Luckily, you can use Elastic Email's drag and drop template editor to easily create messages that will look great on both desktop and mobile phones. At the very beginning, you can send up to 100 emails per day for free. Later on, you can pick one of the plans that will best suit your needs. The pricing of Elastic Email is among the most attractive on the global market, so it's really hard (if possible at all) to find a better deal, and you don't need to add credit card details until you are sure you want to invest.
Email has many advantages over other channels. If you have 2,000 subscribers, it is considered to be worth much more than 10,000 Facebook followers. One of the reasons for that is the fact that when you send a campaign to those subscribers, your reach will not be limited by anything - unlike social media channels, which use organic reach algorithms in order to lower the number of people who can see your content. People are also used to receiving newsletters, sales emails, and other messages. They are accustomed to checking what’s interesting in the latest offer and quickly make a decision about buying something. If you consistently send to your customer's interesting offers and quality emails, they will be much happier to receive your email and react to it.
Email is also the cheapest form of getting your message delivered to a large number of people. Create a free account and test this solution. Would you like to learn more about running and moving your business online using email and doing sales through the Internet? Subscribe to our newsletter and you will receive quality content every month.