How does a business survive in the internet age?  Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Most people in this age want information, and they want it yesterday. No waiting around. You need to be contactable, have a professional image, treat your customers like royalty and you will reap the rewards.

The evolution of business has rapidly changed since the mid 90s and continues to evolve rapidly.

For those of you who started your business 20, 30 years ago, you would remember keeping your ‘books’ in an actual book and keeping receipts in shoeboxes!  These days, we are posting transactions into a cloud based accounting package that our accountant can access instantaneously, and we can even upload receipt photographs to avoid losing them.

This blog article will talk about what you need to do to engage your clients and survive in the new internet era.  We are a connected society, with smartphones, laptops and tablets owned by almost everyone in modern society.  With nearly everyone owning a smartphone, they have an internet connection in their pocket. This means they have access to your business like never before.

So how do you embrace this?  Some people are convinced they need a ‘website’ to tap into this global network of consumers, but it goes far beyond a website.

So what do you need to do ensure your business is up with the times in 2019 and beyond? Read on.

  1. Internet presence.

I am not going to simply say you need a website.  Websites are so 2000.  But that is great starting point.  You need a website to set the foundations of an online presence, and you need it to look smart, and set a good image.  No sloppy 1999 animated GIFS or boring backgrounds.  Spend the money, do it properly.

But a website is just the start.  Once this is established, you need to build a strong SEO (search engine optimisation) presence.  This is a lot of hard work, and something you shouldn’t tackle yourself unless you know what you are doing.  This will be expensive.    SEO involves submission of your website to lots of online directories, and other websites back-linking to your site.  So you can start by submitting your business to directories, yellow pages, white pages, service guides, business indexes etc.  Remember the higher profile site that links back to you, the more likely you are to be indexed by google.  For example, Government and Wikipedia are great examples of strong backlink sites that will drive up traffic to your site.

Once you have committed to the website, you need to keep it updated and fresh.  This means new content such as articles and photos on a regular basis.

2.  Social media.

In 2019, I’d argue that social media is more important than a website.  You need a profile on every modern social platform, facebook, instagram, twitter and linkedin.  You also need to ensure you engage regularly with your followers and post pictures and articles to keep them visiting your page.  If you create a page and do nothing with it, or post once a year, you are wasting your time, and your competitors (who do it better) will be getting more business than you. . Consider hiring a social media writer to do all the work for you if you don’t have time.

3. Image

You need to make your business look big, even if it isn’t.  This generates trust and ensures people are confident in dealing with you.  Get a fancy or toll -free phone number instead of advertising your mobile number, use VOIP and hosted PBX to ensure you have a professional greeting and call routing systems for when your clients call.  Also ensure you have a professionally designed logo and stationary.  NEVER EVER under any circumstances advertise your business with a gmail.com or hotmail.com address.  Every web hosting package allows you to add a custom domain, which shouldn’t set you back more than $20 a year, that can be used for email.  There is never any excuse for using a free email address.  It looks cheap, sloppy and unprofessional.  I usually skip straight past any business with a free email address and go to the next.

4. Information

Your customers want information, and want it yesterday.  Don’t mess around by dangling a carrot on your website and try to get them to contact you for ‘more information’ or prices.  They wont.  Tell them what they need to know up front.  How much your service costs, frequently asked questions and ALWAYS have a book now, or buy now button on your website.  E.g. If you run a healthcare clinic and have a website, there is no point in advertising a phone number to get people to call to make a booking. You will loose a tonne of business.  You need an online booking system, so your client can book at 7pm whilst sitting down watching TV, or at 3am when they can’t sleep because they don’t feel well and want an appointment for 8am.   Make information readily available. Write articles, stories, facebook posts, post pictures and information guides.  Add a live chat button to your website!

Also, be responsive.  When you are asked a question, wether it be by phone, live chat, email or messenger, answer it within 5 minutes.  Customers won’t wait around, they would have moved on to your competitor if you keep them waiting much longer.

5. Make the customer king.

There is no point in doing all this to enhance your business, if you treat your customers like crap.  Look at the big telcos, they have outsourced their business overseas and provide the worst customer service any human has ever encountered.  Don’t be like them, be the complete opposite.  Solve every customer issue on the first contact, welcome them, make them feel at home and that you REALLY care.  Check in on them occasionally and let them know you are thinking of them.

These steps are only the beginning and will help your business meet the digital age’s demand for instant information.  Check back for more articles on this topic soon!  Take care.