Congratulations on making the decision to take your business online! As you make the transition from a storefront to an online store (or prepare to launch a 100-percent e-commerce business), you’re probably brimming with excitement — and perhaps feeling a bit of anxiety. Sure, you’re doubtless thrilled with the prospect of sharing your awesome products or services with a whole new world of consumers. But you might also question your readiness as you prepare to sell online. Do any of these questions sound familiar?
How will I be able to fulfill all those new orders?
Will people actually be able to find me on the web?
How will I be able to manage a website AND do all the other things I need to do?
What if I don’t know anything about web design?
Take a deep breath and relax. There are plenty of great companies out there (like GoDaddy, hint) that offer tools and expertise to help you be successful online. You just need to take it one smart step at a time.
Whether you’re a new business or you’ve had a small business in your family for generations, the first key to success is to stay true to your core business value. Understand that special something that sets you apart — maybe it’s your stellar customer service, the helpful video tips you package with each product, or even the family pet that serves as your mascot.
Find what makes you original, and build your online brand around it.
Be original with the name of your business, the value your business brings, and how you are the best at what you do. Own a coffeehouse in Seattle? What makes your brew better than your neighbors’ coffee? Design T-shirts in Tampa? Who can’t live without one of your designs, and why? No matter what product you’re planning to sell online, you have to first figure out the unique value proposition that will set you & your business apart.
As a central symbol of your business — and an inspiration for its website design — be sure to design a logo that represents your unique personality. Here are some of my favorites from businesses in my hometown of Seattle:
A quick glance at each logo shows the originality of each business. And that’s what you want.
Sometimes it’s easy to think that you have to have everything ready at once in order to get your business online. You don’t. Although we would like everything to be perfect, the best method is to start simple and keep growing.
Get a domain name. Your domain name is your unique address on the web, so it’s important to pick a domain that represents who you are and what you do — and maybe where you do it — at a glance. You want it to be short and memorable.
Create a website. Ideally, you’ll have a dedicated e-commerce site so you have complete control over your online store. There are many great options for DIY site builders, including templated online stores and popular e-commerce plugins for WordPress sites. Of course, you can also hire a pro to do it for you. But you don’t need to sweat it if you have to put a dedicated site off for a while.
Set up a Facebook Business page and/or a page on an online marketplace like Etsy or Amazon.
Connect your custom domain name to your website or Facebook page. It’s super easy.
Know Your Technical Limitations
You might be the most amazing cupcake maker in the Midwest — and think SEO stands for Silly Elephants Online. That’s normal. There’s a good chunk of small business owners that are really good at what they do and not quite so skilled in areas like website design and upkeep, SEO (true definition: search engine optimization) and email marketing.
My best advice is to educate yourself in the basics, realistically decide what you can take on yourself (and do relatively well), and find help with the other stuff. Build your online work — such as updating images on your website, creating an e-newsletter, and engaging with customers via social media — into your weekly routine.
Bringing your business online is a big step that’s easier to take on when you’ve got clear expectations and a manageable strategy. Make sure you understand the core focus and value of your business. Grow from there with a brilliant domain name connected to a simple website, social media page and/or online marketplace. As you become more comfortable with selling online, you can add services and increase the functionality of your site. Above all, remember that there are plenty of reputable businesses out there to help you along your journey to selling online.
You just need to get started.