It's been quite a few years now since my first foray into the online world – but it's almost hard to remember my life before creating CopingwithJane.
There have been so many experiences, connections and adventures while building my business that anything before it almost feels like a past life.
Let me explain…
I'll take you back to about 5 years ago when I worked in a corporate role across the Asia Pacific region. I told my boss I was having a baby. At the time, I was adamant that I would only need 5 months maternity leave before coming back to my position full-time.
But, once that time actually came, I had a complete change of heart. Life had changed and I could not bear the thought of being away from my son 40-plus hours a week. So, 15 months after giving birth, I finally returned to my job, part-time basis. Although, I lasted 3 months before I bit the bullet and resigned.
While all this was happening (deliberating, working, mothering), I developed and launched this website, CopingwithJane, which has been the catalyst for my career as a business coach. What began as a blog while sitting at the kitchen table, with my fingers on my laptop and a baby on my knee, has grown into a business that offers business coaching and online marketing services, retreats and digital programs to help entrepreneurs step into powerful, aligned leadership so that they can change the world with their unique gifts.
But where would I be without my website? (I shudder to think)
So when Telstra approached me to talk about the power of the internet for small to medium businesses, I jumped at the chance because there is nothing I believe in more than the difference one person can make online – and I am living proof.
Where do you start? Telstra offers a range of tools to make a seamless transition online with your website, online store and even a registered domain name.
There are so many amazing benefits of having an online footprint as a small business – almost too many to list – and the best part?
I'm going to fill you in on a few of the benefits of my website throughout my small business journey and why I think making sure you have a strong online presence is not simply important, but absolutely crucial to your success.
So let go of the overwhelm and focus on the positives that a website will bring to your small business, in the form of:
Your website allows you to promote your business, products and services. Use your site to grow your business with targeted offers and marketing.
This is where your business identity shines so if it's not something you've worked on much, it's time to start. Branding is important online as it's how your customers or potential customers recognise you.
You want to leave a lasting impression – especially in such a crowded marketplace, so work on colours, logos and images that will set you apart from the rest.
Having a website as a small-medium business cements your place in your niche and lets people know you're a serious contender. Remember that first impressions count and you want to make sure that you're not missing out on an important opportunity to connect with your people.
Your online presence represents the brand and service your business provides. A lack of presence or poor experience may turn customers away.
Potential customers want to be sure that they can trust you before parting with their cash to buy your product or employ your services, and that's where your website comes in.
People often tell me that they Googled me or scoured my website before getting in touch, which is great. It means they have already had a chance to gather information and assess whether they think I might be a good fit for them or their business.
Not having an online presence these days makes potential customers question whether you're a serious business and you may be missing out on customers that actually want to skip the whole bricks-and-mortar experience and jump straight to purchasing your products or services online – minus the queue!
Making sales/finding customers
An online presence allows you to cut out the middle man. Sell your products directly to your customers through your own online store.
As the majority of my business is online (like 99% of it), I need to find out where my customers hang out online, then target them and make the sale.
But even if the bulk of your business if off-line, without an online presence, you might be missing out on a big segment of your target audience that can't find you. Essentially, this means you're losing business.
Neto is a great place to start. Offered by Telstra, it is a complete digital commerce platform. You can build an online store, process sales at your bricks-and-mortar store, and showcase your products through eBay and social media, all from one platform.
Once you do have your website up and running, you can expand to social media channels (I personally LOVE Facebook ads) to channel and target your audience in a powerful way.
Your customers are looking online, you need to have information about your products and services available 24×7, even if your business is closed for the day.
As I mentioned earlier, potential customers will often search for you or your business online once they hear about you. This is usually to learn more, see what you offer, compare price points and assess whether they can trust you or not.
This is an important part of the customer journey that has become commonplace for most of us. It's pretty normal to search for businesses on the internet, therefore you need to make sure that you can be found.
Some ways to do this are by Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques, being featured on review sites, maps and directories. Be sure your URL address, street address, phone number and email are available. It wouldn't hurt to include your social media links, too.
Telstra can sort you out with an effective online presence for your business with a custom-built website and listings on Google Maps and Yellow Pages. They even off a 3-month free trial, no strings attached. You can find out more here.
The key to being searchable is to appear as though your website is being constantly updated, like posting on a blog like this one perhaps.
Having a professional website that is easy to navigate, has some great images, quality content and expresses your business's function simply is all you really need to kick off your online footprint.
All of the above combined have allowed me to create and grow a business that allows me to have the lifestyle I want – more time with my son, regular income, less stress – and, ultimately, makes life a little easier. And isn't that the whole point? Make your business work for you, rather than killing yourself working in your business … and the first step towards that is making your mark online!
FYI: Telstra sponsored this post but all the content is my own. Promise!