By Carol Verity Mann.
The prospect of business ownership is most definitely a liberating one. With full control over your own working hours, environment and the values and direction of your business, entrepreneurship offers individuals an invaluable opportunity to pursue an idea that they are truly passionate about. However, this enthusiasm can be dulled if you realise you do not possess all the skills required.
Digital skills are often overlooked by entrepreneurs taking the leap into business. According to theLloyds UK Business and Charity Digital Index Report, 1.6 million SME’s are not “tapping into these time savings” that the digital world can provide. The skills that are often required can be ones which are not always used in daily life but this does not mean you have to become a digital guru to succeed in business. In fact, any business owner should focus predominantly on the digital tools which are most applicable to their business- a knowledge of absolutely everything is not required.
Despite this, there are some integral digital elements that all fledgling entrepreneurs should try and incorporate into their initial business plan.
Experts are there to lend a hand
Transitioning into business ownership presents many challenges, most of which you may have never had to deal with before. When working in large corporations, it is often the case that the IT department were on hand for any digital queries. The concept of being solely responsible for your digital platform is one which can start alarm bells.
However, even though at times you may feel like it, entrepreneurs are not alone in their journey. Digital marketing or IT agencies are on hand to answer any digital queries that may arise. No-one should feel weak asking for help from those who are experts in their field; these experts are more than happy to share their knowledge!
The Importance of your website
In the contemporary digital climate, a business that does not have an up-to-date, easy to navigate website will automatically lose out on some possible clients to their competitors. Now more than ever, prospective customers will perform a Google search to answer their question so creating an online platform that will bump you up the search results is paramount- especially as your website is the first glance a prospective customer may get of your business. This can be achieve using a mix of creative and technical SEO tasks such as ensuring all of your website copy is well written and includes keywords you want to be recognised for.
Additionally, it is important that you personally test your website to ensure it is user-friendly. Try every possible avenue that a potential customer could take and see if you come across any issues. This way, you will not lose any customers due to faults in your website.
Get to grips with content
It is easy to assume that because you know your industry extensively, you will automatically be able to produce engaging, SEO-optimised content but this may not be the case. Sometimes the most engaging content is not focused on entirely your industry, but provides an interesting anecdote of someone you met whilst working or an out of the ordinary occurrence. These events provide your audience with a human face that becomes instantly more relatable. Although, you should always try and link back to your business at the end of the post to remind the audience of your expertise.
Video content is becoming increasingly prominent with Instagram rising to1 billion users.This is not a platform to be feared if you are lacking in photography and videography experience as most smartphones now allow you to take high-quality images and videos. This platform helps you to share your interesting anecdotes as you can engage on the go and interact with possible clients.
You could also add video content to your website to add a personalised touch and for those who do not enjoy large amounts of copy. Search engines recognise videos as a way proving your expertise so from an SEO perspective, they become instantly more valuable.
Time is precious- make use of CRM
As a small business owner or entrepreneur, time is often scarce when you are trying to establish yourself in your industry or set up all the business processes required. However, possessing the right digital skills can actually free up a considerable proportion of your valuable time.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems are invaluable tools that you can use to set up automated responses for any possible leads you receive- ensuring they are not lost. This will make sure that no possible customer falls under the radar as you can input prospective client data, and the system will ensure this is stored in a central place for all employees- a perfect tool for small businesses looking to establish a loyal client base.
Delve into the data
The digital world offers small businesses a unique insight into the mind of the customer. Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, allow you to see how many people are engaging with your posts through liking and sharing. These figures allow you to gauge how many people are actually seeing your posts and enjoying the content enough to like it. If you are not getting as much interaction as you were hoping for, you are now provided with a key opportunity to switch up your content and see if this gets any increased traction. Similarly, SEO tasks are a great way to see who is looking at your posts and refine your digital strategy to reflect this.
Fully embracing the digital world offers a newly established business or brand new entrepreneur cost-effective ways to see how, in reality, your customers are interacting with your brand online and to gain further potential leads. Make use of the digital world to save yourself valuable time and money!
Carol Verity Mann is an expert in digital literacy with 25+ years experience in sales and marketing. Her organisation Women On the Web (WOW) is dedicated providing women with the digital tools necessary in business. More information can be found on www.womenontheweb.co.uk