The internet undoubtedly brings a wealth of business benefits. But it also poses risks. This checklist explains how to get the most from your online activities.
- Familiarise yourself with how your industry is represented online; search for your customers, suppliers and other contacts. Look at their websites and online social media profiles.
- Review the audience you communicate with and market to: their interests, preferences and online habits. Which social media and online networking sites do they use? How do they use them and how do they represent themselves in their profiles?
- Review your own online presence. Where do you appear in search results? Do you have a presence on the social media and networking sites used by your target market?
- Set up a social media profile on relevant sites such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Connect and communicate with your customers by posting blogs, tweets and useful information. Avoid the ‘hard sell’. Your aim is to build relationships.
- Review your website. Is it still doing the job you intended? Does it accurately represent your business? Is it fresh, engaging and easy to use? Can it be viewed on any web-connected device?
- Consider using online advertising strategies such as pay-per-click advertising. Research which keywords will be most effective in your online adverts and for driving traffic to your website.
- Review your email marketing strategy. Are you reaching the right people, with the right messages, at the right time?
- Consider whether your product or service is suitable for online direct sales. Develop a robust ecommerce strategy if so.
- Apply for merchant status if you want to accept credit and debit card transactions online.
- Investigate how your website could improve the support and service you offer to customers (eg delivery times, detailing product and price lists, frequently asked questions and local suppliers).
- Use the internet for market research, seeking useful information on customers, suppliers, technologies, markets, and pricing and to keep up to date with industry news and developments.
- Involve employees; set clear policies, give them training and support, and encourage suggestions.
- Ensure you are aware of the legal issues: for example, consumer protection, advertising and selling regulations, copyright, data protection and libel laws.
- Continually review the effectiveness of your online activities; keep up to date with new technologies and opportunities.
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