Over 8 million people run home-based businesses in the UK. Here are some of the many online tools available to help grow and share ideas.
Have you ever dreamed of running a home business? Or perhaps you’re already enjoying the advantages of being your own boss, having creative control over every aspect of your brand, and deciding your own working hours - not to mention cutting out the morning commute!
Not surprisingly, over 8 million people are currently running home-based businesses in the UK. While the steps for success in home business are, for the most part, the same as in any corporation, it’s vital for home business owners to be aware, and take advantage of, all the tools available to help grow and share bright ideas.
Chief amongst these is the internet. “For an individual running a home business I would say having a reliable internet connection is above having running water, as without it you can’t attend to your customers, and customer service goes down the drain,” explains italk employee and home business owner Billy Sanchez. We’ve put together some key aspects of online business to help you get the most out of the internet in your journey towards home business success!
No matter how unique you believe your product or service to be, it never stops being important to keep an eye on the market. The internet is by far the quickest and easiest way to identify key competitors and ensure you have a unique selling point that will make your business stand out.
Just as important as seeking out product inspiration is making sure that your website and shop are up-to-date and offering your customers the best experience available. Online retail is ever-changing, and there are always new tips and tricks for streamlining user experience.
Keep a bookmark folder filled with inspiring “clippings” from competitors’ websites, as well as information that might give you an edge over the rest of the market. It’s always good to have a go-to guide to updating your service and online presence!
Creating an attractive and easy-to-navigate website is key to achieving sales success as an online business. Depending on your budget, you could use a little design experience to create a website that meets your requirements, or you could pay a professional website designer to put your big ideas into practice for you. Make sure that your site walks customers through the purchasing process, whether that be selecting and paying for a product online, or requesting a quote for a service.
There are few product-based home businesses that don’t use an online shop these days. E-commerce makes it possible for customers to compare and purchase an item within moments of seeing it. Spend some time researching the perfect e-commerce solution for your needs, whether you opt for a ready-made service such as Shopify or Bigcommerce, or ask your web designer to include a shopping cart function on your site.
When it comes to selling a service, offering customers a quick and easy way to explain their specific needs is key. Include an easy-to-find web form on your site, encouraging users to give details of the service they are seeking, as well as their contact details. The key to closing the sale is ensuring that this data is processed as soon as possible, and a friendly, personal response is given, including a quote and the next steps for the customer to take.
Online marketing is a treasure trove of creative ways to get your voice heard. As well as focusing on an informative, attractive website and e-shop, you can use the web’s wealth of social media platforms to get the buzz out. Facebook and Twitter are great starting points for sharing text, photos and images, and building up a dedicated group of followers - whether in the local area or around the world. Both platforms also include analytics tools for business pages, allowing you to keep track of what sort of content your target audience enjoys and shares.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is another crucial way to harness the power of the internet and make it work for your brand. In the simplest sense, this means carefully choosing the wording of your website to ensure that it is placed highly in relevant search engine results. As 93% of online experiences begin with a search, making yourself visible on Google is not to be taken lightly!
Consider investing in pay-per-click advertising searches such as Google Adwords to boost your ratings and direct more of your target audience to your site.
“One of the biggest daily challenges is building trust through one’s website,” explains Billy. “When a consumer goes into a high street shop and sees a product they like, they usually don’t think about it twice before purchasing. When purchasing online, many doubts will come in.” As in any business, flawless customer service is the only way to ensure repeat custom and word-of-mouth referrals. Display contact details clearly on your website, and ensure that there’s always someone on hand to respond to customer queries in a timely way - whether online or via the phone.
Bear in mind that web-savvy consumers often use business’ Twitter and Facebook profiles to ask questions and make comments on the service they receive. Adding to these conversations, and responding to queries in a friendly and approachable manner can speak volumes about your company, and offering personal touches in a very public arena will ensure that you are held in high regard by customers.
Google+ in particular allows customer reviews to influence your visibility in Google searches. For example, searching “hairdresser Brighton” on Google brings up three interactive Google+ results, including business’ locations, contact details and star rating based on customer reviews. Maintaining your company’s Google+ page with up-to-date information, and encouraging customers to leave reviews, can boost your visibility and appeal significantly in location-based searches.
When it comes to the vast range of online home-based businesses, each with their own unique needs and target audiences, there is no one formula that will guarantee success. However, the internet gives you complete freedom to explore and experiment until you find the combination of tools that works for you.
“Our packages and pricing make it easy for people working from home to get online without paying extra for things they don’t need,” explains italk’s online marketing manager Gary Sallis, “Our straight-up pricing allows our customers to concentrate on what they need without worrying about a rise in cost to their line rental or broadband cost.” With unlimited broadband now available on our italk 2 and 3 packages, there’s never been a better time to focus on making your home business dreams a reality!