Small businesses are often able to find comfort in the fact that they don’t have to worry about many of the challenges that come with running a big company until they grow. You won’t have to deal with the pressure of serving national or international customers, your reputation will be harder to tarnish, and the work you have to do to manage your company will be simpler. Of course, though, this is a different story when you turn your attention to the online world.
Businesses that operate online will usually have to follow the same standards no matter their size. People won’t know or care that you are a small company, and this means that you have to provide the same level of service as those with far more resources to do so. Understanding these problems is the first step towards solving, and that is what this article is for. By exploring the issues you might face online and giving you potential solutions to them, it will give you a unique insight into this side of online business.
What you will read in this article:
Brand & Design
A solid brand can be the difference between success and failure for a business, and customers will easily spot how much time and care has gone into this element of your company. You must take the right steps to create a brand that is not only high quality but also reflects your business. Ideally, a new customer should be able to guess what your business does by the name and logo alone, with the rest of the design work they see using the same styles.
Creating a good brand can take a lot of time. It can help to look at what similar companies are doing, but you should work hard to avoid ripping them off. A great example of a logo design comes in the form of the Microsoft Windows logo. This set of four squares is designed to look like a little window, with each square holding one of the company’s colors. This sort of work can make a huge difference when you’re trying to design a recognizable brand.
Working with a professional graphic designer can be a good way to nail your brand. People like this will have the skills to create your artwork and designs but will need to be given some direction, providing you with plenty of control over the whole thing. This is the ideal balance when you’re working to create something that reflects your business.
Reputation is a concern for businesses of all sizes. Once your customers and clients begin to mistrust or dislike your business, it can be extremely difficult to win them back, and many companies have faced this problem in the digital age. Businesses that don’t have a presence online only have to worry about their reputation being spread by word of mouth. Online, though, is a different story, with reviews, social media, and a range of other platforms making it easy for customers to let businesses know what they think.
Maintaining a good reputation is simple; you just need to keep all of your customers happy. Being simple doesn’t make this task easy, though, and you’re going to have to work extremely hard to stay in the good books of the people you serve. This can be achieved by providing excellent customer service, offering good value for money, and living up to the promises you make. It can also help to encourage your happy customers to leave good reviews.
Level of Service & Support
As mentioned above, customer service is crucial to any online business. Some businesses choose to offer a low level of service, using their online platform to most of the work with their customers. Systems like this can easily be frustrating if they aren’t designed to be user-friendly, but they can make it easier for your business to look professional. Alternatively, you could offer a high-level of human support, with people being available to help your customers every step of the way.
Providing support to your customers is crucial in the modern world. You need to reply to their emails and calls as quickly as possible, work extremely hard to correct issues, and offer answers to their questions. Offering multiple platforms for support can be a good way to handle this. Support tickets are excellent, but some people will prefer to talk over the phone or via live chat, and all of these options can be offered from a single computer.
Demand & Competition
The idea of having too many customers isn’t often viewed as a problem for businesses, though it can cause serious issues for smaller companies if they’re not prepared for it. Receiving backorders for products that are in demand can leave you owing money to a lot of customers. Big businesses usually have an edge when it comes to buying stock, as they will be looking to get their hands on a lot more than you. The only way to overcome an issue like this is by closely monitoring the market to ensure that you don’t find yourself struggling to meet demand.
Alongside fighting big businesses for the stock, you could also find yourself fighting them for customers. You have little choice but to compete with the larger companies in your field, but they will always have larger marketing budgets than you. Creativity and smart use of social media can be used to help you to overcome this. Unfortunately, though, for every dollar they spend on adverts and promoted posts, you’re going to have to work even harder to outpace them. Big companies are only spending more on marketing as time goes by.
Law & Compliance
Laws surrounding privacy and data have changed an awful lot over the last few decades. Companies have to work harder than ever to keep on top of their data, and it doesn’t matter how small you are; you have to follow the same rules as everyone else. Following the law should be nice and easy, but you have to learn about the laws you have to follow before you can start making proper progress in this area. There are loads of helpful resources around the web that cover the data protection rules you have to follow, and you have to make sure that you follow the rules in each of the countries you operate in.
Alongside data protection, it’s also worth thinking about compliance with other laws. The industry you work in will almost certainly come with its own rules, and following these will be crucial if you’re going to stay in business. It can often be impossible to avoid legal trouble, but small businesses won’t have the resources to fight this on their own. Professionals like Michael M Cohen have a wealth of experience when it comes to business-based lawsuits and other legal problems.
As your business gets more and more customers, you’re going to need to start looking at ways to expand your business to be able to make up for the increased demand. This makes scalability crucial, though small business owners seldom consider this issue, assuming that only big businesses have to deal with issues like this. Being a scalable business isn’t as simple as being able to get more stock under your belt, though.
Your website, postal services, and business space will all have to increase in capacity to make up for the new customers you’re serving. This may mean that you have to switch providers in some cases, or even have to move to a new building if the growth is very extreme. This sort of process can be overwhelming if you don’t plan ahead for it. Growth and scalability should be a big element of your business plan from day one, and you should always make sure that you’re thinking about issues like this when you make decisions down the line.
Being Digitally Distinct
Small businesses don’t enjoy the same benefits online as they get in the physical world. You won’t stand out for being independent, and it can be all too easy to find yourself getting lost in the mix of other companies trying to get the attention of your customers. Making yourself distinct can be an excellent way to overcome this sort of issue, with businesses standing out when they’re able to offer a better online service than anyone else. Of course, while this may sound difficult, it can actually be quite easy to achieve. Once you’ve taken the initial steps, maintaining your online presence shouldn’t be too hard; you just have to make sure that you don’t get complacent and forget about the work you’re supposed to be doing.
With all of this in mind, you should be feeling ready to start carrying yourself like a big business online. This will take some time and effort, but it will be worth it in the end, preparing you for the time when your business finally grows. Until that point, you need to make yourself look as big as possible.