In the spirit of kids going back to school at the end of this month, let’s get back to the basics of running an online business. It’s easy to get caught up in everyday life and let some business priorities slip that may seem less important. Like many entrepreneurs, you have a lot going on: your business, family, friends, school, sports, and maybe a full time job as well. You probably stay on top of things by prioritizing the most urgent business items first, but it’s important to sometimes stop and revisit the basic foundation of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how to move forward.
By taking a few minutes to review the basics of what you are doing and why you’re doing it, you can often find ways to improve what you are doing. This could also help you get past a creative block and inspire you to create your next product, enhance a service, or write a new blog. I’ve laid out four main areas for you to refocus on and actionable steps you can take to move your business to the next level.
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Product or Service
What are you offering and why are you offering it? Think about the need you are satisfying and 3 ways you can improve your product to better suite your customers.
The need I am satisfying:
3 improvements to make today:
Tip: Look at reviews and feedback you have received. Listen to what your customers are telling you. You can ask for feedback in your next newsletter. Not only will this be another way to engage with your customers, but you might be surprised to hear what they have to say.
It’s 2016…nearly 2017. If you don’t have a fully functional website that is user friendly, stop what you are doing and go here for a free easy to follow along SquareSpace tutorial that I developed for you (I am not an affiliate of SquareSpace; I just think they’re awesome).
If you do have a fantastic website, then congrats! You’re ahead of most people in the creative entrepreneurial world. Now let’s take a look at the 3 building blocks of your website: about, store, blog.
When people visit your site, they should be able to understand what you’re all about in less than a few seconds. Just make your message simple on your home page and provide more detail in your about page.
______ My home page is welcoming, interesting, and informative.
______ It is easy for people to find the navigation links to my store, about page, and blog.
______ My website is not overly distracting with annoying ads, pop-ups, or auto-playing music.
For most creative entrepreneurs, you sell your products and services in more than one place on the internet. Maybe you sell on Etsy, Facebook, and your own site. New places to sell are continually popping up, just don’t try to sell on all of them. Just like your brand, you want people to recognize your business and also know where to purchase from you.
______ I sell my products or services through my own site, or have a link to my 3rd party stores.
______ My products or services have clear descriptions and quality photos.
______ The products or services I sell represent my brand and overall purpose (I do not go crazy and just try to sell everything)
Blogging takes some dedication. You don’t have to be a perfect writer or write 2,000 word posts. Just get something out there and with some consistency. This is a great way to communicate with your customers and drive traffic to your site. Learn more about blogging for creatives here.
I blog ______ times per ______ (week, month, year) and are about ______ words long.
______ I attach a photo to each of my posts so it can be easily shared on social media.
It is very hard to have a successful business without marketing… actually, it’s nearly impossible. Marketing does not have to be something you struggle with as long as you break it down into a few main steps. Learn more about how to identify your target market here.
NEWSLETTERS AND EMAIL ADDRESSES
If you’ve ever read any of my blogs or been to one of my group discussions, you may have heard me mention how important it is to capture email addresses. I may sound like a broken record, but it’s that important. Email addresses is your number one way to safeguard your customer base. You can contact your customers at anytime you see necessary. If you rely on your Facebook business page to do that for you, then you will be in trouble. Try sending out a post and see if it reaches 10% of your followers. You’d be lucky to get a number that high and with any consistency.
______ There is at least one area on each of my webpages to capture email addresses.
______ I send out newsletters to communicate with my customers.
______ My newsletters are formatted with my brand and have links back to my website.
For the typical creative entrepreneur, I would recommend having 2-3 social media sites. Some will argue this is too many or too few. You have to do what you feel is right for your business, but 2-3 is a good amount for a solo entrepreneur to handle.
______ My social media accounts are branded to my business.
______ I am active on social media, posting at least 3 times per week to each platform.
______ I respond to comments and engage with my customers.
You might be wondering why I put “growth” under marketing. You should just be able to add more products to your store and they’ll sell themselves, right? Wrong. It takes some good old marketing to keep your business moving in the right direction. Have your sales been flat or even declining? Maybe you want to reach more people than you ever have.
Some examples of how you can reach more people in your market are collaborating with other entrepreneurs on a new project, rebranding though this might be extreme for what you currently want to accomplish, or simply joining and being an active member in a new Facebook groups or group Pinterest boards.
I can reach more people by:
Lastly, you have to be willing to bend and evolve as your market changes. Depending on what market you are in, you may need to make tweaks to your products or services a few times a year, or maybe once every couple of years. I’m constantly reevaluating what I’m providing to make sure I’m staying up to date on what’s going on in my market. This doesn’t mean I change my services each month. This means I am cognizant of what I blog about or what I post on social media to provide information current to the latest marketing trends or technological advances.
______ I haven’t offered a new product or revised my services in a while and need to look at what else I can do.
______ I need to check the prices of my products and services to be sure they are set appropriately for my current market.
______ I listen to my customers through feedback on what else I can do to improve and evolve to continually meet their needs.