How to make your small business thrive online

Posted at 12:25 PM, Mar 24, 2020

COLORADO SPRINGS — As we know, local businesses have been forced to shut down in-person services because of COVID-19. But many are finding success on digital platforms to help promote their products and delivery services.

The big question now is: What will determine your long-term success as a local business owner?

News5's Jessica Barreto got answers from business expert Peter Klayman, who works as the director of business strategy at the online consulting firm Bottle Rocket.

Klayman says the key is to remember what has worked in the past - and don't be afraid to ask for feedback.

During this time when people are at home, Klayman says, they're being saturated with a lot of information and therefore want simple solutions.

"Keep things easy," he emphasized. "Focus on things that have value for consumers. Try to simplify things in terms of operation. So if you used to offer 30 products, try to offer your five most popular."

Klayman stresses it's important to be creative with your approach, and do what you can to connect with your customers.

"Customers you know that are locals, or the ones that interact with your business frequently, try giving them a call," he suggested. "Ask them what's going on with their life, where they're having problems, where you might be able to help."

He explained that often you'll get valuable feedback this way and you'll then be able to effectively tailor your marketing strategy to your customer base.

"Ask 'Hey, what might make you more likely to place an order with us this week?'" Klayman added. "So, if you're a retailer that does apparel, are there certain items that you think would be better suited for work from home? If you're a retailer that has essential goods, how can you advertise that you have essential goods in stock?"

He also wants local business owners not to be afraid of failure.

"It's going to require a lot of different ways of doing things," he explained. "Rapid trial, experimentation, failure and doing it all over gain. And this might happen over 12 or 24 hours, whereas before it could've been two or three months."

Klayman believes tapping into community groups online might be especially helpful and sharing the ways you're keeping your staff safe. Working is also something that your community would be able to appreciate.

So for those of you who own a business and are finding yourselves navigating a digital environment, here are the four key factors Klayman says you should keep in mind:

  1. Acquisition: Build an acquisition strategy to draw people to your website and let them know what you have. You can use email distribution list list, direct mail, or you're having face to face contact with your customers - from a safe distance - use that as an opportunity to remind them they can place orders online.
  2. Conversion: Now that you've got people on your website, what will make them actually want to buy something? Klayman says converting visitors to shoppers will help if you accept as many payment methods to make it an easy process for customers.
  3. Engagement: How are you offering a social experience versus just delivering a product? If you own a bar, why not do a virtual happy hour? If you're selling food ingredients, why not create a recipe video on how to use them? Klayman says businesses that can create some sort of community experience are standing out above others right now because folks are looking for social connections in this time of social distancing.
  4. Retention: How will you keep your customers and stand out as a community leader in the long run? Remember, leaning on that community support can make all the difference to give you the feedback you need to know moving forward.