How to get more sales online
You will learn
- How you can use social media
- Tips for your CRM
- The benefits of cloud-based services
The amount of information and range of tools on the Internet is huge so how can we make sense of it all to help grow a small business? This article provides a snapshot of opportunities on the Internet that might be of use in managing your business. In order to determine how best to approach this it’s worth going back to basics and considering what you want to achieve.
You can decide how the Internet might be used best in supporting your plans, and there are lots of different options available to you, such as to:
- Attract new customers
- Sell more to existing customers
- Create new sales channels
- Develop new markets
- Introduce new products and/or services
- Communicate more effectively
- Improve customer experience
- Reduce costs
- Partner with other businesses
- Research a market
- Improve systems and efficiency
- Increase capacity
- Manage finances
- Improve delivery times
- Free-up your time
Using the Internet
There are lots of different ways that you can get more sales online, which include using your website, social media, and eCommerce sites. You can also use the internet to become more productive, like using it for business management, customer relationship management, stock control and cloud-based storage.
Considered to be essential for most small businesses to support their brand but your website can add significantly more value when the information provided goes beyond the basics. Your website can:
- Provide customers with access to searchable information e.g. brochures, manuals
- Make your products/services available online
- Book appointments
- Give advice to your customers
- Showcase your products and services (photos and videos)
- Reach a worldwide market
- Be used as an aid to recruitment
Discuss these and other ideas with your website developer.
Key reasons for adopting social media for your business might be greater visibility and exposure, to showcase your products and services, attract new customers or simply because it’s a low cost approach. Added value comes from using social media to build relationships, ‘listen’ to what people are saying, respond quickly to customer feedback, or to help with higher rankings for your website. ‘Paid social media’ (adverts) can be very targeted and cost effective depending on your business and who your customers are.
eCommerce is not for all businesses but when you want to display what you’re selling and offer your customers the opportunity to buy then eCommerce can be the answer. Having an online shop-window can boost sales, save time, reduce costs and add value to your business.
There are many online tools to help manage ‘behind the scenes’. The following examples may prompt your thoughts on opportunities that could support or replace your current ways of working.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
A CRM is a system used to manage interactions with existing and future customers. If you have the type of business that handles lots of customers then a CRM system can help you and your staff keep abreast of what’s happening with them. Reasons for considering a CRM system would include the following.
Having an overview of each customer that is easily accessible at the ‘touch of a button’ can add to your professional status. Your CRM:
- Enables tracking of customer interactions
- Gives access to possibilities for future sales
- Access to customer data e.g. buying patterns, trends, history
- Free up time to develop other areas of your business
- Linked with inventory management and finance systems the combination becomes a very powerful asset to a business.
Inventory management and stock control
Systems can be used to track your inventory levels - orders, sales and deliveries. This can help prevent overstocking, make sure popular lines are always on the shelf or ensure you have the right level of materials. Using the internet, you can:
- Track sales
- Manage stock levels
- Track supplies and deliveries
- Use barcodes to automate and streamline
- Order online from suppliers
- Improve cash-flow
- Link with CRM and finance systems to automate your business
Bookkeeping and accountancy doesn’t have to be a carrier bag full of receipts and not knowing what profit you have made until the end of the year. Live access to your accounts can result in better cash-flow management, more up to date understanding of your profitability and greater accuracy in advice from your accountant. Even cash receipts can now me scanned with your phone and automatically added to your accounts system saving time and money in day-to-day management.
In addition, using HMRC online makes it easier to submit VAT and tax returns, plus can give you more time to settle your tax account.
Additional cloud-based services
Cloud-based computing is all about storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet rather than on your computer. Most of what has been described already can be accessed using cloud services. Some other great opportunities that lend themselves to cloud-based technology include:
- Offsite storage of data (security backups)
- Email marketing and customer feedback
- Diary management
- Market and competitor research
- Meeting hosting (virtual)
- Video conferencing
What else to consider
Making better use of the Internet to help grow your business isn’t just about accessing new online tools or downloading programs. Potential impact on your business needs to be taken into consideration.
In order to make full use of the Internet opportunities available you will need access to relatively fast broadband otherwise you will spend more time waiting for things to happen than actually doing them.
Increasingly this has become a serious issue for anyone who regularly connects to the Internet and needs to be considered carefully before significantly extending your time online. You will leave yourself open to malware attack and identity theft by not updating software, and using reputable protection software. Take professional advice if you are not familiar with this area.
As with any new tool, you and your staff will benefit from understanding how to use technology and understanding how it fits in with the business. Training or spending time on this is essential even for easily accessible tools like Facebook and DropBox. There are thousands of options available to provide staff with access to online training, and just as many workshops.