The rise of the Internet age has given us far more than just the capability to connect with friends or upload selfies online. It has also given modern entrepreneurs capabilities not possible several decades ago.
As an online marketing consultant, one of the perks of my work is that it gives me a front row seat on the evolving landscape of business, and how the Internet is helping businesses who take the initiative of incorporating online elements in their operations. It also makes those that don’t obsolete in a matter of years and even months.
Whether you have a primarily online or offline business, chances are Internet tools, widgets, plugins, apps and features play an important role in ensuring the success for your business. The following are some concrete examples:
1. Cheaper start-up cost
The Internet has made starting a business simple and cheap. With just a website or even a fan page, you can already start a multitude of businesses – such as a bakeshop, an apparel store, or a bookstore – without the need for a brick and mortar office or shop. This also makes it very easy for you to test the validity of your business idea. For example, we have managed to grow our offline review business into one of the biggest in our province within the span of 3 years without the need to maintain an expensive office.
2. Best practice bench-marking
The Internet has also made it very easy to learn how other similar businesses achieved success. Try typing a business question on Google and you will literally drown in the advice written by other entrepreneurs all over the world. In my case, I have learned how to create a business plan, look for product sources, set the pricing of my products, and market my business all because of Google search.
3. Supplier research
The Internet can be a very valuable source in searching for wholesalers or service providers you will need for your business. This gives you the opportunity to look for the best and cheapest providers without having to do an inordinate amount of legwork and spend a lot of money. Along with the profile review feature of some buy and sell platforms like eBay or Amazon, this makes the Internet very effective in this particular task.
4. Work outsourcing
The Internet also gives you the capability of outsourcing some of the work in your business. At the very least, you can outsource the design and conceptualization of the brochures, flyers, posters, or streamers you will be using offline to market your business. There are also remote professionals offering a range of services – from logo-making to programming – for your business needs. Good places to start are online job platforms like UpWork or Freelancer, and local sites such as Raket.ph.
5. Streamlined logistics
As most people nowadays have Internet access, the Internet also provides a great venue for streamlining business logistics. You can take product orders, resolve customer complaints, entertain inquiries, or even manage your inventory by using 3rd party apps, social media accounts, or a website.
6. Smart marketing
The Internet has also made it cost-effective to market your business. For example, optimizing your blog posts for Google search gives you the opportunity to capture leads and inquiries from people searching for your products/services on the network.
With social media advertising, you can target your adverts to people who have mentioned a specific word in their online conversations, are about to get married, or of a specific age range (like 18-24) and gender. You can further zoom in on people who have a very specific set of interests or affiliations, like those who love travelling or who are graduates of a particular university. You can also target those who are using a particular mobile app or particular Smartphone brand.
7. Quick feedback and analysis
Internet tools like Google Analytics and the Facebook Advertising dashboard make lots of data available that you can use to assess how well your business or marketing is doing. It also gives you an insight on how you can improve or adapt your plan. For example, you can check which particular demographic is engaging with your posts the most (male vs. female, younger generation vs. older crowd, etc.), which search phrases they’re using to look for your products, what portions of your website they are visiting the most, and how your sales funnel can be improved.
With all these benefits of why the Internet is very important to entrepreneurs, it’s no wonder that small start-ups that maximize their use of online tools and opportunities are edging out established offline businesses everywhere and in a matter of a few years. Make sure your business doesn’t fall into the latter category!