10 Simple, Cost-Effective Ways to Position Your Small Business for Profitability Through 2020 and Beyond
2020 has brought unprecedented challenges. That has been said and written many times, but it also becomes more and more true with each passing day. This reality hits home for business owners and executives who don’t worry only for themselves and their families, but also for their companies, employees, and vendors.
At the time of this writing, no one can say what the coming months will bring. We are in the midst of a pandemic, along with economic conditions that haven’t been seen for a century. And yet, there are reasons to be hopeful.
From our vantage point in the web design and online marketing industry, we have noticed two things that are often overlooked. The first is that there are some businesses that aren’t just surviving in the current climate, but are actually thriving. This includes a few that, on paper at least, would be expected to struggle. By thinking creatively and making smart decisions, they have been able to increase sales and revenue even while their competitors are pulling back.
The second positive observation is that the news isn’t all bad. Certainly, this is a challenging time to be running a company. It’s also true, however, that today’s business owners and managers have access to tools and technology that weren’t available in the past. They can sell online and manage employees remotely, which has allowed many of our clients to stay profitable and productive despite the odds.
The required shifts in strategy have come with trial and error, but they were far from impossible. They haven’t required huge investments of time and money. Instead, they come from a commitment to move forward and find smart solutions.
That’s what this short report is all about. Whether your business is running normally or if you feel desperate for answers, we want to show you that the advice you’re searching for is out there. In this brief guide, we are going to give you a handful of concepts you can use to navigate this difficult economic stretch. Then, we are going to extend an invitation to meet with us – at no cost – and generate a customized game plan that moves your business forward.
Naturally, we are going to focus on what you can do with your website and internet marketing strategy. That’s partly because we are experts in eCommerce and online lead generation; it’s also because that’s where the obvious point of growth and opportunity lies in a world of limited face-to-face contact. If you are searching for a way to improve your bottom line right now, maximizing your web strategy is probably a good first step. That becomes even more obvious when you consider your digital marketing plan can be easy, effective, and put into place very quickly.
This might not be an easy time to run a company, but it’s no time to give up, either. In fact, with the right plans and strategies in place, it’s possible you could use the remaining time in 2020 to grow your business and outpace your competitors. If that’s something you’re interested in, let’s jump in.
#1 Adopt the Right Mindset
Are you actively looking for ways to grow and improve your business this fall, or sitting back and hoping things will return to normal? The answer will probably tell us a great deal about the future of your company.
As a reminder, we are not advising you to go out and get a new website or launch a fresh advertising blitz (unless there are some unique circumstances that call for those moves). What we do want you to consider, though, is how you can get on the front foot during the crucial few months to come.
By simply hoping things will get better, without taking any action, you are setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. On the other hand, the business owners who have started to think creatively about what they can offer to their customers, and how to reach out to the market, are the ones least affected by all the turmoil around them.
Running a business has always been about creativity. No matter what you’ve done in the past, you have to learn to follow the tides and trends of the day. It can feel like there’s nothing but utter chaos outside your door, but that just means the opportunities look different than they did in the past. Buyers want new products and ideas, and their patterns and behaviors are shifting. Adopt the mindset that you’re going to gain ground in the next few months and you’ll be halfway to a stronger, more profitable business.
#2 Tackle Overdue Website Repairs
We have been telling our clients for years that a website audit is one of the best investments you can make in your business, particularly when you consider we often include them as part of our introductory consulting packages. In other words, it probably won’t cost you anything to find out whether your website is fast enough, is highly visible to Google and the other search engines, or has broken links and other technical issues.
Correcting these kinds of problems doesn’t take long and will cost you next to nothing. More importantly, they make a huge impact on customer experience and engagement. No one wants to visit a website that takes forever to come online or produces errors and security warnings.
With a simple website audit you can see what’s “under the hood” in your HTML. That will show you and your development team what you need to do to improve performance, and also whether you have security risks and vulnerabilities. The last thing you need this fall is to have your website hacked and sensitive customer data exposed.
This is a simple step that probably won’t affect your marketing budget but can make a big difference in your bottom line. And, a simple website audit could help you uncover bottlenecks or even opportunities for fast and affordable growth. If you’ve been putting this step off for whatever reason, now is the time to make a few overdue website repairs so coding issues with your design, content, or plugins can stop holding you back.
#3 Explore Upgraded Hosting
Imagine for a moment that you can take your home or office and transport it into a high-value neighborhood with perfect weather, no traffic, and quiet neighbors. Now imagine you could do it for the price of a few cups of coffee. Would you make that switch?
Of course, you would, which is why we encourage business owners to ditch their bargain-basement shared hosting plans and move their websites to better servers. Making that change doesn’t cost a lot, but makes a website faster, safer, and more available during periods of increased traffic or activity.
Hosting space is the online equivalent of real estate. Your domain name is an address, but your hosting plan determines what sort of computers your website is stored on and how many other companies you’re sharing space with.
Most business owners initially sign up for the lowest-cost hosting plans they can find because they don’t understand the benefits that come with something a little stronger. But once they enjoy features like secure SSL connections, faster loading speeds, automatic daily backups, traffic monitoring, secure email, and other advantages, they are eager to make a move.
We can help you find the perfect hosting package that improves your website performance, and for a lot less money than you probably think. As with each of these tips, it’s something you can do quickly, and without spending much money, that will make an enormous difference on the online side of your business.
#4 Add New Content to Your Website
Your website layout and content management system (or CMS) are important. However, it’s up to you to attract search engine visits and convert visitors into leads or buyers with your written, image, and video content.
If you haven’t made any changes to your pages in years, it might be a good idea to review what you have on your site today to see if there are places where updates or improvements are required. Or, if you’ve been diligent about keeping your site up to date, you still might consider adding something fresh.
In today’s market and economy, there are all kinds of opportunities to give buyers more of what they want. You might have new hours, new delivery procedures, safety precautions, or special products and prices, to name just a few. If your business is adapting to the environment – like we advised in tip number one on adopting a creative mindset – then those changes should be reflected on your pages.
You don’t have to spend anything on new content, and it can help your business in a number of ways. For one thing, you’ll be able to make a better impression with prospects by providing them with accurate and up-to-date details. And for another, Google and the other search engines love to see fresh content on your site. So, for the sake of your search and social campaigns you should look at posting something fresh on a regular basis.
#5 Get More From Your Email List
It’s amazing that so many business owners and executives neglect their email subscriber list, especially at a time when ad spending has to be scrutinized more tightly than ever. Why wouldn’t you want to keep in touch with the people who already have indicated an interest in working with you, particularly if you can do it for next to nothing?
The answer we hear most often is that “email marketing has stopped showing results.” That’s undoubtedly true for a lot of companies, but it doesn’t have to be true for yours. The solution to low response rates and unsubscribes is taking a different approach to your newsletter.
In particular, there are two things we do with our clients that make all the difference in the world. The first is to help them clean and segment their lists. That’s simply to ensure that subscribers who are on the list are the ones who are likely to open messages and respond to them. It’s nice to have tens of thousands of names and email addresses stored in your database, but it’s not worth much if they never respond to you.
The second thing we do is help our clients send timely, insightful, and relevant emails that are formatted correctly. That means buyers look forward to reading them and they load quickly and correctly, especially on phones and tablets. If your market isn’t sure what you have to offer, then you can’t be surprised when they don’t follow up.
You might be able to double or triple your revenue in just a couple of months by using email correctly. Why not let us help you turn your newsletter into a source of fresh sales?
#6 Prune Your PPC Budget
Are you wasting a huge chunk of your online advertising budget on campaigns or offers that just aren’t working? Is there money flying out the door because you have low-quality scores, haven’t defined your target audience, or have ads showing in areas or languages that don’t apply to your customer base?
These are all issues we have seen for years, and continue to see every day. When times are good it might be tempting to just let profitable or semi-profitable pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns run on autopilot. When there is uncertainty in the economy, though, you don’t want to make losing bets with your ad spending.
It takes very little time or money to have a specialized team like ours go through your ad campaigns and find opportunities to lower costs or boost results. Once you do, you may find that you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars every month without sacrificing sales, leads, or walk-in visits.
Once you maximize your PPC budgets, you can either devote the money you save to other parts of your company or even experiment with different types of ads or markets. At a time when many of your competitors might be pulling back out of reflex, playing a bit of offense – and expanding your ad reach without adding to your marketing budget – can be a smart move.
Whether you want to pocket the savings or reinvest them, however, this is the perfect time to prune your PPC budget and make sure not a single sentence is being wasted.
#7 Engage Buyers on Your Social Profiles
We’ve been telling business owners for years that social media is a tool they can use to attract customers and spread awareness of their products, services, and brands. That has been proven true again and again over the past six months.
Not only do some people prefer to research products and companies on their favorite social sites or apps, but it’s easier to gather and spread endorsements on those platforms. And, the fact that social posting costs you nothing is a big benefit, too.
Even more important, though, is that when things are tight, uncertain buyers tend to turn to the vendors and businesses they are most comfortable with. In other words, they spend their money based on trust rather than slick marketing campaigns. One way to become more familiar to them, and earn their trust, is to let them find you again and again on their favorite social site.
You could post case studies, coupons, how-to videos, links to your blog articles, or even memes. As long as the content is a good fit for your target audience, it’s going to generate engagement in the form of views, likes, and shares. While it might not happen overnight, those little bits of activity will eventually turn into solid opportunities for sales and referrals.
Some business owners avoid social media because they think it will take too long to build a following, and they are right that results typically don’t come overnight. However, no one can afford to ignore a low- or no-cost way to meet tens of thousands of buyers in this economy.
#8 Add Some New Ecommerce Features
Around the time people started staying home more in March, a lot of business owners realized they needed to be able to accept online orders. That was a smart instinct, but the majority didn’t go far enough.
Adding a simple shopping cart to your website will allow you to generate some revenue through digital sales, but the most basic products and tools lack the features that both you and your customers want. For example, you may wish you had the ability to offer faster shipping. Or, you might wish your website could offer certain products (like warranty packages or blocks of service time) based on what a buyer has selected.
These kinds of simple upgrades make shopping a more pleasurable experience for your customers while increasing the average order size (and decreasing returns) for you. It’s also worth pointing out that these sorts of improvements don’t typically require huge investment or lots of technical programming work.
If there’s one thing we have learned this far into 2020, it’s that e-commerce and online ordering are here to stay, even for lots of businesses that didn’t use to think of themselves as being based around online stores. If that’s what the future looks like, shouldn’t you have the tools you need to streamline the ordering process and give your bottom line a boost?
#9 Embrace Online Meetings and Presentations
Speaking of online interactions, it isn’t just purchases that are being finished over the web. As we transformed ourselves overnight into a more digital economy, meetings, trade shows, and other events all moved into the virtual world.
Regardless of how soon things go “back to normal” – or what the new normal will even look like – it’s likely that the internet will play a heavier role in keeping us together than it used to. Businesses that embrace this trend will be able to serve their customers more effectively while also lowering the costs for travel, marketing, and customer service.
It’s amazing how inexpensive it can be to upload online presentations of your hottest-selling products to your website, or to institute live chat features that let buyers ask you questions in real time. You could also give clients or customers automated features that let them schedule an appointment or meet you via video for coffee.
There is no doubt that virtual meetings, presentations, and customer service interactions are the wave of the future. Even if health concerns weren’t driving this trend, simple economics and schedule realities would be. You can get ahead of this curve and offer website visitors tools that are convenient for you and for them very easily and inexpensively.
Why not take the next step forward, especially if you’re already making a few other low-cost improvements to your business website?
#10 Set Up Your Web Analytics for Real Insights
A majority of small business owners know very little about their web analytics. Those who are informed and meet with their online marketing partners regularly might have some idea of what sort of traffic they receive, but most haven’t dug into the specifics of traffic retention, page views, or conversion ratios.
You may never be an expert on these kinds of statistics, but you should take the chance to get familiar with your most important reports and performance indicators. In some cases, you might even want to dig in with your creative partner and set up some customized statistics that you can glance at to get a bigger picture of what’s going on.
Ultimately, the numbers you get from your website will tell you how effective certain pages or campaigns are. They will show you where your leads and sales are coming from, and whether visitors are responding to particular offers or pieces of content. Then, you can use those insights to make better investments of time and money in the future, or to find out where improvements are needed.
None of this can happen unless you know what visitors are doing when they come your website. Getting access to the information you need isn’t difficult, particularly if you decide you will become familiar with the most important reports and make data-driven decisions.
Setting up your web analytics reports, and learning about them, is one of those activities that might take you a couple of hours to get started and then pay compounding dividends for many years to come. Decide today that you won’t go without the insights you need any longer.
Is It Time to Create Your Recovery Strategy for 2020 and Beyond?
A lot of the ideas you’ve read in this short guide aren’t particularly new. In fact, if you read our blog, subscribe to our email newsletter, or follow us on your favorite social platform, you’ve probably heard some of this advice in the past.
What’s different now, as we move toward the last third of 2020, is that getting the online part of your business right is no longer a luxury or a good idea – for most business owners, it’s a prerequisite for survival. There simply isn’t room for a company that refuses to adapt with the times, particularly when the costs are so low.
There are a lot of complicated strategies around search engine optimization (SEO), social media engagement, internet advertising, conversion optimization, and other disciplines. And, you might need to consider some of them in the future if you want to kick your business into a higher gear. What we’ve discovered lately, though, is that the business owners we serve have been crying out for simple, affordable, and effective solutions to the challenges they are facing. So that’s where we have concentrated our energy in this short guide.
None of the tips we have given will wreck your marketing budget or destroy your schedule. And yet, they all work amazingly well. Even more importantly, they don’t just position you for profitability going into the 2020 holiday season, but set you up for sustained success next year and beyond… regardless of what’s happening with the economy or the pandemic at that point.
Of course, having the right ideas is one thing, and putting them to good use is another. That’s why we are offering free consultations to our clients and readers throughout September. If you have some questions about your business website, or just want to know where to turn next, we want to share our skills and experience. Just contact us to let us know you’d like to schedule a complimentary meeting. You won’t get a lot of buzzwords or a complicated sales pitch. Instead, we will simply tell you what we see in your business and how you can move forward effectively.
This is a difficult and confusing time to be running a business, but the challenges in front of you aren’t impossible to solve. If you are willing to make a commitment to growing and succeeding no matter what comes, you’ll be far ahead of your competitors who are hiding under the sheets and waiting for better days.
If you’re ready to take the next step and see what’s possible for your company, contact us today so we can help!