The internet's a crazy place. Millions of people around the world browse it for hours a day, getting their fix of animal videos and social media. But cute cats and school friend's aside, the internet is an astounding place to promote your products or sell your services. Below you’ll find some advice on how to take your business online.
A website connotes credibility and professionalism. Imagine you’re talking with a prospective client for a large contract. This could make or break your business. The meeting goes well but at the very end they ask you for your website. Admitting you don’t have one doesn’t exactly scream innovative business practices. Or it could be worse, your client looks up your site in their own time and it looks like something you made at home… in the 90s.
Every growing business should have a professional website. Even if it’s just a digital business card with no more features than a few examples of your work. A well-designed website develops trust in your customers – and that includes those on the receiving end of your deliveries to Europe.
Find a Good Web Designer
Take your time with this. It’s very important. These days, a homemade website just isn’t good enough, and neither is an amateur job. Get an idea of how you want your website to look, what you want to display, any information that needs to be conveyed. Write as many notes as you can and when you’re looking for a web designer, talk with them about the key points. The more information you give, the happier you’ll be with the finished product.
Finding a good designer is relatively easy. When you see a website that you like the look, layout and feel of, scroll to the bottom of the page, it will often have a credit that will lead you to the designer. If not, give the company a quick email. They’ll usually be more than happy to put you in touch.
Your web designer needs to know what you want. Print off a few pages of websites that you like, or if you’re hiring online, send the designer some URLs. If the designer starts in the wrong direction, you’ll be wasting both time and money.
A good designer will help you focus in on what is best for your site. Remember, they do this for a living and generally know what works and what doesn’t, so keep communication open and work with the designer.
Search Engine Optimisation
This isn’t exactly necessary if you use an online platform such as Amazon or eBay to sell your goods, but for independent businesses and local services, this is extremely important. If you’re a plumber in London, you want your website to be at the top of the page when someone searches “Plumber in London”.
Regularly reviewing and updating content does wonders for your website’s readability as well as its ranking in online search engines. As you upload new content, make sure you review older content and update your internal links. Websites that utilise a lot links and are easy to navigate rank much higher in search engines and make it easier for your customers to find the information they need or the product they want to buy.
Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is a huge subject that’s constantly evolving. If you’re serious about moving your business online or setting up a webshop, you should definitely do a lot of reading on the subject. Many companies offer a service that manages your SEO techniques for you, including blog posts, web content, creating backlinks etc. If you decide to go down this route, the same rules apply as in finding a good web designer.
Transactions in a traditional bricks ’n’ mortar store are very simple. Customer gives you cash, you give customer product. Online though, things are a little bit more complicated. If you want to receive payments over the internet, you’re going to need to set up a merchant account.
Essentially, a merchant account connects your website to a credit card company which can then deposit money into your bank account. It has to be reliable, secure, fast and ideally cheap to run. There’s a whole world of merchant accounts out there and each one is a little bit different. They can become very expensive so do your research and ensure you don’t purchase any features that you don’t need. In general, a merchant account comes with a monthly fee, plus a small charge per transaction.
Once your website’s up and running and you start receiving orders you’re going to have to start sending your products out. This is often where businesses start getting lazy. Processing orders can be tiresome. It’s physical and quickly becomes very repetitive. Many businesses simply pack the products into a box, slap a label on and send it out. This is fine for delivering your end of the deal, but you’re missing out on a good opportunity to strengthen your brand.
Customised packaging, stickers and promotional leaflets are all great to include in your pallet shipments. They’re very professional and promote repeat purchases. When your customer needs another product, and the cardboard box it came in is long gone, a leaflet laying around could be just the thing you need to remind your customer where to go.