What to think about when taking your business online

the best thing is just to start

There are around 5.9 million businesses in the UK, mostly small businesses. You’re probably one of those – like me! Many businesses are moving online in a way that they haven’t done before due to the coronavirus. Whilst people are less able to visit shops or meet in person, it’s become the best way to survive. If you haven’t done this yet, then it’s not too late!

UK retail sales suffered badly in April despite an enforced switch to online sales which led to growth in ecommerce, however, these don’t compensate for lost sales from physical stores. This sucks – that said, when people cant, wont or are reluctant to buy in person then moving online to buy is going to be an easier decision for them to make. I know myself, I am buying everything except petrol and compost online. If it’s the only way – then it beats twiddling your fingers while you wait.

Ecommerce sounds expensive – buying a whole new website, getting to grips with the technology, hoping that it’s ready ASAP when you’re under pressure.. but you don’t HAVE to start selling with a website. It’s perfectly possible to sell online before your website is ready.

I do think you still need a website, just don’t wait until you have one to tell people you exist! Same goes for a logo, beautiful photographs, good copy. The best thing is just to start.

You’ll need to work through this backwards – I’m going to assume that you know WHAT you’re selling. What your business provides. Which products and services you can help people with. If you need to try new things which you’ve never done before because you really can’t safely deliver what you do then it’s still not too late.

Maybe you could sell the products you use? Provide consultations online to help people apply their make up or cut their hair with your professional eye? You could create an ebook and sell that. Create a training course, webinar or video to help people learn how to do your thing? It’s also OK to set up another business during this! One lady I know has actually set up TWO businesses during the last nine weeks.

There are loads of ideas to adapt your business that you can try which I’m not gonna list – because the amazing Michelle Rose has this all in hand. Check out her massive coping with corona blog post here (there’s also a video and a webinar that would help you too!) – that said, if you’re stuck, please pop into my group Brand Confidence and we can have a chat. Fingers crossed!

First things first: your brand.

Before you start working through this backwards (what you sell, how you’re going deliver it, how people are going to pay you for it and where you’re going to sell it) you need to think about your brand. If you’re not already suuuper clear on your brand then this is the moment to get there. Your brand should inform everything you do at each step.

Get clear on what your values are – these are a set of words, phrases, ideas, thoughts, sentences, paragraphs – standards, guidelines even – which you uphold to be all important in your business. Perhaps it’s important to you to empower others or to help the environment or provide joy or maybe you want to show care to others or inspire children or show courage.. whatever your values are, you need to have them at hand and ensure you refer to them during this process.

Similarly, get clear on your brand personality. This is how your brand comes across as a person. Yes there will be cross-over with your personal values, especially if you’re a one person business like me. You might be adventurous or quiet or quirky or warm or bubbly.

Also think about how you want your clients to feel when they access your business. Should they be feeling special or safe? Relieved or confident? Excited or prepared? Give this some thought.

And finally – who ARE your best customers? What ties them together? What are THEY like? What are their interests? What do they care about? What are they struggling with?

Get clear on this – you don’t need to make it look beautiful, just write your answers on a sheet of paper and keep it by your elbow while you plan your online domination.

Let’s go!

How are you going to deliver your product or service?

If you have a product then this means checking out the delivery companies and ensuring you add postage and packing or that you are happy to include delivery in the price. Or perhaps you’re going to deliver yourself or maybe only offer collection. How can you tie your brand values into this process?

If you didn’t do this before then you might have more to think about because packaging for post might be all new! Do you need to get some cards printed to say thank you/ add extra information/ offer a discount code for a friend? Perhaps you want to include sweets as a thank you – what kind? Maybe you need to buy the post bags or boxes. Don’t forget about your brand, if the environment is important make sure your packaging is compostable, recyclable, reusable, returnable.. you can also work towards this but do communicate this with your customers. Splosh has an amazing zero waste product (this wasn’t created during lockdown, they’ve clearly had a lot longer to put this into action!), or you can see the standards Good Club are aiming for here and how easy it is to get behind them on the journey. Maybe your brand is about togetherness which could be a bit of a bummer right now – but this would be a wonderful opportunity to create online community, so you’d want to create one of those and invite people into it to do things together and help people feel connected. Include that on your packaging. Perhaps luxury is important so figure that one out too. How can you add a touch of luxury to your packaging? Think about textures and layers and simplicity to keep it looking classy. Always think about how you can use this as an opportunity to expand on your brand. Actually posting things to peoples homes is the perfect chance to give them something real to keep you in their mind. I ordered a veg box the other day and whilst it was wonderful (it really was) extra touches such as “your eggs were laid by Snowdrop” or even a “tell us how we did” card would have been nice.. something to pin on the noticeboard or to encourage me to subscribe to regular boxes.

If you offer a service how can you deliver this? I’ve noticed photographers doing clever things like virtual portraits for social media or doorstep photography, which is really clever and fun and thinking outside the box. Perhaps you have a service which can be delivered contact free, you could use zoom for meetings or events or collect items to be fixed and then return them. You’ll need to think about how to do this safely of course and stay on top of the latest guidelines. You might be able to work from a photograph like Gail and develop a new service (isn’t my Mini Me wonderful?) or perhaps there’s no change, you can still do everything you’ve always done because you work outdoors and it’s safe – like a gardener or a window cleaner. If you work with children do you have to stop or can you work with them online? Wild Things Forest School is offering online sessions which sound amazing, and Mindful Me School is offering zoom calls and check-ins for stressed tweens and teens.

My business runs on zoom and email and it works brilliantly. I know for some using video can seem really scary, but I can assure you that once you’ve done a few calls you’ll find it much less terrifying. Here’s an old post with some tips for that 🙂

How are people going to pay you?

There are LOADS of options for this. I’m just gonna share some of them.

Paypal is very widely known and very popular. In the business version you can make buttons to add to your website (with instalments if you need them), create invoices, share your paypal email or you can send people a paypal.me link where you just need to know your name and amount. Super easy!

In GoCardless you can set up plans or payments which you can reuse. This is a doddle.

If you want to make things even easier then you can always ask people to pay by BAC’s which is very common too. This week I’ve used this method to pay for coffee and for cake! Clearly I’m going to have a good week!

You can provide a link where people can pay you, or the BAC’s information in an email or a message or you can set up an invoice to email out (easy to set up, I use Freeagent and Wave, you can also use PayPal or one of the maaaany other options available).

If you are delivering in person you could take cash on delivery – my butcher does this. Of course, I understand why you might be reticent to do that right now.

Of course the other option is to have a website where people can go and choose their items and then checkout. Your website will be connected with a payment provider such as PayPal so you still need to think about that. Depending on your confidence in your ability and your free time you can try doing this yourself or ask someone else to do it. If you already have a website you could add a shop. A website is of course the best shop window for your business regardless of wether you sell products or services. People can find out all the information in one place, add items to their cart and keep shopping, seeing everything you offer without distraction, maybe following suggestions shown by your website, they can find out more about you and feel more connected to you and your story – and using your own website gives you the opportunity to tailor the experience to your brand, also for re-marketing campaigns and email marketing. You can do so much more with it. IF you don’t have a website and you want one, then don’t wait until you have a website before you start selling. Get going now while you wait!

You can also consider listing your products or services on a third party site, somewhere like Amazon, Ebay or Etsy for products. You could try Membervault for services or create a sales page in MailChimp or Leadpages. Facebook has just brought in Facebook shops so you may want to look into that. Then people can pay through these providers.

Once you have this cracked then you can go on to actually sell! Hurrah!

Where are you going to sell?

The answer is really EVERYWHERE! Here’s some thoughts.

Social Media is of course the big one that springs to mind – so many channels – you can choose which one(s) to use and let people know what you have to offer. If you have products then show them to people. I bought a pair of trousers recently because of a Facebook post. If you have services then you might find it harder to * show * your work, but you’ll have behind the scenes, testimonials, stories and other interesting content to share which you can use to inspire sales. Don’t forget, in both cases, to tell people how they can buy! You may have a link to share, or need them to comment so you can send them a message yourself, or perhaps you need them to message you. Make sure they know the exact next step to take so that they do it! There are so so SO many different things that you can try on social media to encourage sales. Across the various platforms there are so many different ways to show up, so if you feel overwhelmed by it all just pick the one or two ways that feel good to you and get going. You can create posts – text, image, video, you can create stories – text, images, videos, you can create audio and video, you can pre-record, create animations, go live, create a series, ask guests to contribute, run competitions, challenges, live events, giveaways, interviews… there’s a lot of different ways to communicate with your audience on social media – far too many to go into here – so go have fun and see what works best for you.

Have a launch. You could run a challenge. You can do this on any of your social platforms or by email. Give some high value content which makes a different and then put out an offer to help people further. (There’s some more detailed content on how to actually do this inside the Brand Success Club). You could create a video series with an offer. You could simply invite people to buy. Set a deadline for when the offer will go away, or for when the price will rise and talk about it a LOT.

You could set up a shop on Facebook and tag your products in your social media photos.

You could build your email list and sell through your emails. You will want to create a reason for people to sign up and then you can sell to them in their inbox.

On your website (think about how you’re going to get people to the website, they need to end up there in order to buy. Don’t leave that to fate). you can leave sales messages to let people know that what is available, what offers you have, you can use this as an opportunity to sign people up to your email list, you can dangle all the carrots – but think about what the one action you want them to take is and encourage them to do that thing.

Get on the phone. Right now for many of this is still a bit challenging because children love to interrupt calls for snacks or to know where something they really don’t need right now is – but if you can find a moment and get on the phone – or a video call – then that’s a great way to have a good chat with potential and existing customers and find the best way to really help them.

Send postcards. Or leaflets. Or brochures. Or greetings cards. Whatever works best. You might not be able to network in real life and see people in person, but that doesn’t have to stop you from getting a bit of your business into peoples hands. You might need to ask for addresses – especially if your clients are currently working from home rather than in the office – but think how thrilled they’ll be knowing you’re going to send them something!

Collaborate. This is so much fun to do because you can really have fun with it. You could swap social accounts and post on each others (this seems to work especially well for stories) or you could create something together to promote something you’re both offering, or you could invite people to talk about something related to something you’re selling, or to your freebie – it’s a lovely, fun way to increase your audience and theirs, and to be able to share more of what you both do – and it’s something you can do on social media, email, on your website, in print – anywhere! This could also be about guest posting, guest podcasting, providing trainings in other peoples free or paid groups or memberships.

There are so so SO many different ways and places that you can sell what you do. The great thing about selling online is that you can easily provide a link to buy right away so people can make their decision and go with it right away.

I know it can seem a bit daunting at first, but it’s actually fairly straightforward. At a bare minimum you can sell online with a bank account and one social media account.

What are you waiting for? Go and make some money!

Mini Series: Five steps to grow your brand
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