Are you reluctant to take your business online?

Are you reluctant to take your business online?

So what’s the take-away idea?  If you are not already online – start small.  Set up a social media page or website for your business.  If you are online, get your website evaluated and list 10 things that will make it easier to navigate.  Implement all 10 ideas.

There is nothing wrong with being a reluctant to invest in online marketing – particularly if you have limited knowledge of all things – digital.

One in six SMEs in Ireland has no online presence at all.  68% do not have the ability to sell online. *

Yet – Irish consumers spent €6.5 billion online in 2015**.  That figure grows exponentially each year.

Your greatest incentive to market online is your customer.  Customers, today, expect to find an online presence for almost every business that they deal with.  Customers check you out and you have to be there to meet their needs.

The majority of consumers now browse online and three quarters of them expect to find a website to help them with their decision making and are disappointed if they don’t find that online back-up.

So how do you, the reluctant online marketer, find your feet online?  Here are four simple steps that you can follow to bring you into the online space:


Start with the customer.  Deeply understand your customer’s online needs.  Whether you are a professional, an entrepreneur or any business owner, understanding your customer’s online needs is critical.

Your market research can be done in a number of ways.  You may want to bring groups together into what we call Focus Groups – to talk about how they interact online.  Alternatively, you can do an online survey, record feedback from customers, talk to customers during the sales process or research your typical customer profile – for example Millennials, Generation X or Y.

Your aim is to build up a profile of your ideal customer and how they like to interact online.  It is not just the platforms that they use, but how customers engage with those platforms.  Do they like to read articles, research information, learn new skills, buy online, enter competitions or compare reviews.  Once you understand fully what your customer actually needs, desires or expects from you online – then and only then can you design your online marketing plan.


Next consider the media.  Digital marketing makes use of electronic devices such as computers, tablets, smart phones, smart televisions and digital billboards.

Your digital marketing plan could include any of the following: email, advertising, websites, mobile apps, gaming, video and social media to engage consumers.

There are a lot of options to choose from – however, those options can be honed if you have done your research properly.  If you deeply understand your key customer groups and how they interact online – then you can choose the media that fit best.

Start with one, maximum three media and perfect those.  Then broaden your marketing to include other relevant media.


Get the design right.  You may need to build a blog, a website, a facebook page or a mobile app.  In the modern world, customers are bombarded with stimulus – much of which is neither needed nor appreciated.  Good design resonates well with customers.  Put the most relevant information first on your media page.  Make your pages a sanctuary, an oasis of calm.  Be mindful and don’t overload pages with needless material.

Use a good web designer to help you design and promote your pages.  Once you have a well-designed template, then you can continue to develop it in-house.  Getting that template right, however, is critical to success.  You need strong, harmonious imagery.  Thoughtful headlines.  Proper structuring of information so that customers can find what they need easily.

Your research should also tell you what key words and phrases consumers use to find your type of product or service.  It is important to build those keywords and phrases into the bones of your web or social media pages – so that customers searching for certain phrases or words – land on yours.  Don’t overuse keywords, search engines don’t like that tactic.


Promote your pages.   There are about a quarter of a billion active websites live in the world.  How do you get your Internet pages recognised about millions of others?  Once your pages are live, find ways to promote your web presence to customers and potential customers.

Put your website address, facebook page and/or blog details on all your marketing material – so that customers know where to find you.  You may want to send a gentle launch email, if you have customer permissions, to let them know you are live online.

Online advertising or paid-for advertising can be useful, if you are clear about who you want to target and if you have details of their exact characteristics including demographics, leisure pursuits, geographical location, and a whole host of other elements.  Paid advertising only works well, if you are forensic in your understanding of the type of customer you want to attract.  It all goes back to the research.


In summary

Get deep insights into your customers –their characteristics, their motivations and their online consumption.  Once you understand who they are and how they communicate, then you can build your digital marketing plan to meet their needs and expectations.

You have been in business for a while now.  You understand your customers and you have a handle on your competitors.  Knowing that the majority of consumers expect some online presence from you, knowing that they spend vast sums of money online and knowing that there is a fantastic opportunity for you in the online space – go research!


* Source: Dot ie Digital Health Index produced by Ignite Research (Jun 2016)
** Source: Visa Europe Irish Consumer Spending Index (Feb 2016)


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