business

As a small business, the internet can be your biggest advantage. You can be faster and smarter than much bigger competitors, deploying products quickly and winning customers with better service. While your $100M competition is slow to adopt new technologies, you can be nimbler and beat them at their own game.

But that’s not always the case. More often than not, small businesses struggle to compete online. They forget that being successful online requires a completely different mentality than offline businesses.

“To succeed online”, says growth hacker Ryan Harrell, “you have to be willing to do things your bigger competitors aren’t willing to do. If your customers are shifting to Instagram, you can be up and running on that platform faster than bigger players. And you can run riskier campaigns for bigger results”.

With this advice in mind, let’s look at 3 key things your small business should know to succeed online:

  1. Develop Multiple Digital Touchpoints

Your buyer’s journey is becoming increasingly complex. Buyers don’t buy after a single touch (such as a search or an offer on your site) anymore. You need to engage them several times before you can make a sale, especially in competitive markets.

In this situation, winning over customers means engaging them at multiple touchpoints. You need to be wherever your customers are present, and you need to keep them involved in your offers. If a customer searches for a query, lands on your site, then heads over to Instagram, your offers should follow suit via remarketing.

Once you do capture a lead, your nurturing and engagement campaigns should also focus on several touchpoints. Don’t just pitch them an offer the minute you capture their email. Instead, share useful content with them on multiple platforms to build trust and stand out from competitors.

  1. Create a Digital-First Brand

Despite the importance of digital, many small businesses still haven’t made it a key part of their brand. Worse, when they do go digital, their brand identity is inconsistent and doesn’t reflect their real values.

The counter to this problem is to develop a digital-first brand. This essentially means mapping out your brand across all digital channels and ensuring that there is consistency and clarity in all your messaging.

A customer who engages with you on Instagram should get the same brand experience as someone who lands on your blog. Everything from your digital assets and offers to brand signals such as logos, colors, and design should reflect a cohesive, digital-first identity.

Do this and you’ll find it much easier to win online.

  1. Build “Digital Equity”

Lots of small businesses are hesitant to invest in digital channels like SEO, content, and social media because they don’t realize an immediate benefit. They’d rather just blast some ads and get a bunch of leads.

While this tactic can work in the short run, ignoring social media and SEO means that you have no “digital equity”. These channels require a lot of upfront effort to see results, but once you put in the hard work, the results are exponential and organic. You might languish for years on page #2-10 on Google, but the moment you hit page #1, you’ll see an avalanche of traffic.

Essentially, any investment you make in SEO, content and social media should be seen as building equity. Think of it not as wasting resources. Rather, see it as an investment that will form the foundation of future growth.

If you’re a small business shifting to the digital age, keep these lessons handy. The internet levels the playing field, but that doesn’t mean that it is an easy field to conquer. Follow these tips to find success online.