Four Challenges to Growing an Online Business

The internet is very important when growing a business but establishing your website presents a distinct set of challenges. Unfortunately, most small businesses fail to establish themselves on-line, for the most part as a result of being overwhelmed by the Internet's vast competition.

As part of an on-going series of blog posts looking at making an impact online via website design, development and marketing I have listed five of the biggest challenges facing small business.

1. Building a top quality website

Does your website design help or hinder your company? Getting the answer right to this question is often the best place to start. Most small businesses look for website designers who will create a site that looks good and although this is important other factors often outwweigh visual design such as creating a website that makes money by gaining customers and increasing revenues. In order to maximise the value added by visual design it is imperative to focus on a website design strategy that works for your customers and creates an excellent customer experience.

2. Creating valuable content

Once a website has been launched, the next step is creating valuable content which will attract customers that have an interest in your products and services. Making content that's valuable to your niche is often a challenge, because it requires a specialised skill-set but don't be afraid at creating content you feel will help convey your product offering. Sometimes the humblest of words are more important than being grammatically correct with a wide vocabulary.

Although writing interesting copy is important, visual content such as illustration and video are also helpful in reaching viewers. Although expensive to commission it can make the task of selling products and services quick and easy. Why write 1000 words when a simple set of images will illustrate a products capabilities. For the best of both worlds use concise text with great videos and imagery for a real boost to the customer experience.

3. Growing an audience

Once you start publishing interesting material you can start to push the content to various social media channels for consumption by a wider audience. This can be a time-consuming process whereby you post to Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter etc and then monitor and respond to key influencers in your industry. An easy way to get started is to setup an automated publishing system that simply takes your content and publishes it to the various social networks. This won't make a huge impact but will allow you to gain exposure and also provides a sense that your customers that you are a serious business.

4. Lead generation and converting leads into sales

Every business needs to generate leads. Customers invariably won't make a purchase from you immediately and will take their time to research your products and services before committing themselves. In order to make the most of the traffic your site receives you need to set your site some goals so that you get some value from each visit. To do this, try to capture contact details which can be used for building future relationships or use your social media pages to connect customers to your company in a way which is perhaps more tailored to their needs. Provide as many opportunities for building relationships as possible and prompt users to act by providing links and callouts on your pages. Give away something of value such as a PDF, or download, and request visitors provide their contact details in return.

The final step in the process is actually converting sales into leads which will determine the fortunes of many small businesses who rely on a trickle of customers to drip feed revenues. Trust and credibility are hugely important at this stage in the sales process and the although there is no secret ingredient in converting sales into leads, there are a few simple things that can be done to enhance the likelihood of making a sale. Make it easy to purchase from you by providing clear signposts to transactional parts of your site, be it a checkout or contact form. Show your credibility by displaying testimonials from customers and industry badges that provide a sense of professionalism and accountability. Above all make sure your website is safe and secure.