Improve your website
“A well-designed site can help your company compete effectively with businesses that have deeper pockets and larger marketing budgets,” says Michel Bergeron, Chief strategy officer at BDC.
Ranking high in search engine results is vital for your visibility online, Bergeron says. People rarely venture beyond the first page of a search result. Indeed, research indicates that websites appearing on the first page attract 90% of the traffic.
A small, agile, creative company can be as effective online as a big company.
Having a poorly optimized website can be a problem even if most of your sales don’t happen over the Internet, says Mark Evans, a leading Canadian digital marketing and startup consultant. “The Internet is the way most people discover new products and services.”
Happily, small businesses can use simple, inexpensive tools to help level the playing field with large businesses, Evans says. “A small, agile, creative company can be as effective online as a big company.”
6 online practices to expand your business
BDC’s survey of nearly 1,500 Canadian entrepreneurs identified the six most efficient practices to develop your business online.
1. Measure your business’s website performance
A key advantage of doing business online is the data it provides. You can constantly assess how your website is doing, and tweak your digital properties and online marketing campaigns to convert more visitors into paying customers. It’s easy to do and has a lot of impact for all types of businesses, especially those selling on their own e-commerce websites.
BDC’s Free website assessment tool can be a good place to start when trying to start measuring your website’s performance.
2. Improve your visibility with search engine optimization
You should also experiment with search engine optimization—the art of getting search engines to rank your site near the top. In this, the most important facet is to produce and maintain high quality content. You can start by making a list of 20 to 50 keywords that you think potential customers will use in Internet searches to find your services. Choose terms that help you stand out and create content based on those keywords to drive traffic.
It is also worth putting in the effort to obtain outside links to your site. That’s because such links are one of the main ways search engines use to determine their rankings. The more links to your site, the higher you’ll usually rank.
3. Invest in search engine marketing
Paid search ads are the fastest way to drive traffic to your website. For example, you can buy Google ads by bidding on keywords that potential customers are likely to search for online. By monitoring the performance of your ads, you can fine-tune your keywords, ads and your website to increase the effectiveness of your campaigns.
4. Continuously improve your digital strategy to meet customer expectations
Continuous improvement of digital strategies is the most important tactic, according to survey respondents, but it’s not the easiest to do. You will need to take action, measure the results, make improvements and then repeat. This strategy will ensure that any changes, including the addition of more advanced technology, are based on true customer needs.
5. Make your online expansion plan a core part of your strategic plan
One of the keys to success in e-commerce and market entry is planning. However, a typical market entry plan is difficult to do and may take 12 to 18 months to implement. Start with an online strategy—a roadmap that guides your Internet activities while supporting your overall market entry strategy. Then build your online presence or adapt it to the new market, and be ready to fill new orders.
6. Make it personal with customization
You can build more trust and improve conversion rates by offering clients a highly personalized experience. Data collected from your website can help you personalize your product and service offerings online, according to your customers’ needs and tastes. You will need to integrate the data you have on your customers, including their purchases, locations, browsing histories, devices used to access your site, emails to your company, social media posts on your pages, product reviews and call centre records. With all of this data available at a glance, sales reps can personalize their interaction with your customers. You can also use this data to personalize marketing messages on a customer’s account page and in email marketing.