What Comes Next: Digital Sales

Developing a product or service offering that people desire or depend on is crucial to cultivating a successful business. Sometimes, would-be entrepreneurs focus so much on the thrill and excitement of this challenge they forget to think about and plan for what comes next.

How do you ensure enough customers find you and your brilliant product/service to generate the revenue necessary for a profitable business?

In the past, many product-based companies opened retail stores, after identifying the very best locations with the highest customer traffic. While this certainly remains an option, it’s usually an expensive one. Retail storefronts typically come with high overhead and require you to sign a long-term lease before you’ve even tested the waters to see whether a viable market for your product exists. You may find yourself in a favorable position if the market is strong—or you may just lose your shirt if demand doesn’t generate enough revenue to break even.

With online consumerism on the rise, many companies are increasing their digital sales presence while others are even shifting to a 100% online sales model. A digital sales approach may offer the potential for reaching a much larger audience, but the intense competition also presents significant barriers to customers finding your business.

These simple steps can help.

Optimize your website

If you plan to sell online, you already understand the importance of having a website, but did you know survey results demonstrate that a poorly designed website is actually worse than no website at all? Experienced online consumers simply will not transact business with a company that possesses a bad website, so it is extremely important you develop your digital sales strategy in partnership with professionals who know how to develop an optimized website that is fresh, aesthetically pleasing and user friendly.

Encourage customer feedback

As part of their due diligence process, most online consumers search for testimonials or online reviews submitted by customers who have purchased products or services from you. This is a key component of the validation process.

Facebook, Google and other online reviews enhance your reputation and increase your online visibility, making it easier to reach prospects who are searching for the products or services you offer. If you’ve provided an amazing experience, your existing customers will be happy to write a review or testimonial for you. But, you have to ask. It simply isn’t in most people’s nature to offer up praise without some sort of prompt or incentive.

Engage in social media

Creating a strong social media presence is important too, particularly if your target market includes millennials. Just like with your website, quality counts in a big way. I encourage clients and colleagues to retain a social media management company or employ a social media expert.

Few people are “natural” social media experts, and tackling this aspect of your business when you don’t really have the knowledge or the skill set can actually do more harm than good. Also, as a business owner, you should focus on running your business. Social media management requires a huge time investment–one that you simply do not have the “time” to give.

3 Key Questions for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

As an entrepreneur for almost 10 years, I’ve heard many people say, “It must be nice to own your business and work whenever you want.” Early on, I would argue, insisting that the reality of business ownership is quite different from the perception most people hold. But, these days I generally respond with a simple smile and nod of the head instead.

You see, it’s a good thing these people don’t know everything a seasoned entrepreneur knows—because if they did, they would likely never pursue owning a business. And our economy is dependent upon the new ideas, innovations and dreams that entrepreneurship requires. Simply put, entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our nation, and we would be lost without them.

While a bit of ignorance about the realities of business ownership may be positive, prospective entrepreneurs still need to ask three crucial questions before heading out to pursue their dreams.

Who will your business serve?

If you can’t answer this question in one sentence or less, it’s a major red flag. My company’s mission is “to provide entrepreneurs with fast and affordable LLC formation services.” Clearly conveying what we do in just a few concise words is key, but we have to know WHO our business serves or our mission is useless.

Did you know that more than 60,000 new business formations are filed every year in Minnesota? Countless real estate investors, service-based companies, retail businesses, work-from-home multi-level marketers and others are seeking what we provide. We identified the “need” before creating our mission statement.

Unfortunately, many hopeful entrepreneurs with good ideas start businesses that fail or stagnate because they are unable to identify their target market—the people they will serve.

Why are you starting a business?

Are you looking to get rich? Live a life of luxury? Operate on your own clock? If these are your reasons for starting a business, you should probably stop before you start.

Alternatively, if you identify need for a product or service that doesn’t already exist, believe you can do something better than the competition or perhaps like the idea of starting something from nothing, then you are very likely headed down the right path.

Assuming your motives are pure and you’re pursuing a business venture with the best intentions, you still need to prepare to do three things very well. Committing to these three core principals does not guarantee business success, but it does ensure you have a fighting chance.

Work really hard.
Make great sacrifices.
Operate with flexibility and adaptability.

Will you be happy running your business?

If your business defies the odds and not only survives but thrives, will you be happy running it for the next 5, 10 or even 15 years? Will you enjoy overseeing daily operations, solving the many problems that will arise and developing innovations necessary to keep you competitive in your marketplace?

Or, are you more energized pursuing the American dream than you are achieving it? It’s quite common for an entrepreneur to pursue a business venture only to discover that building something is more important to them than maintaining what they’ve built. That’s okay.

I find creating something from nothing extremely rewarding; however, running a successful operation provides me with more long-term satisfaction.

No right or wrong answer exists in this equation—but you need to be prepared. Map out plans (people, resources, strategies) for both scenarios because you may not know whether pursuing or maintaining is more important to you until you’ve experienced both stages firsthand.