We work with both local and online small business owners and in our experience, there are a few things that online businesses tend to do better. Yes, this is a sweeping generalization.
If you're a local small business that already has these lessons dialed in, consider this validation that you're on the right track. Otherwise, consider implementing some or all of these lessons. Your local small business will thank you!
- Value your website
Online businesses value their websites. It is their lifeline, after all. You wouldn't expect to get a lot of customers in the front door of your local business if you had dusty mauve curtains hanging in the window, garbage on the sidewalk in front, or the lights were always off, right? Of course not! But sometimes local small businesses allow the online equivalent to plague their websites.Is your website unresponsive and sporting the latest style of 2011? Hello, dusty mauve curtains. Do you have music on auto play or a landing page that requires visitors to click to enter your website? There's the garbage on the sidewalk; a distraction at best, potentially a repellent.If this isn't you, thank goodness! The quality of your website can be an a direct link to how much potential customers are willing to pay you and how much they think your product or service is worth. If you've got a website that presents your business in the very best way possible, you're a step ahead of others who are letting their website hold their business back.
- Make your email list a top priority
Online businesses put a lot of time and effort into building their lists because they know that's where the money is. Imagine stopping random people on any given street and asking them if they'd like to purchase your service or product. You might get lucky but chances are, you wouldn't be very successful. It would likely take a lot of work to stop enough people to actually sell anything. By the time you get a few sales, you'd have to question if you even made any money considering how much time you spent getting those sales.Now imagine people are coming to you and telling you they're interested in your service or product. They may or may not be ready to purchase right this moment, but they want you to remember them because there's a good chance they'll be ready soon. They want what you're selling!Who would you rather sell to? Guaranteed, the second scenario is an easier sell. That's exactly what an email list does for your business. There are numerous email marketing strategies that you could put to work for your business, but that's another blog post.
- Make allies with your "competitors"
The bottom line: There's enough business for everyone. This belief means that businesses in the same industry can be allies. Who can better understand the challenges of your business than someone who is familiar with the same kinds of challenges? It would be easy to say this doesn't apply to local businesses the same way it does to online businesses. While there could always be exceptions to the rule, we still stand firm in this belief.That said, a Pollyana approach to business isn't a smart approach either. Be mindful of the information you share, but don't automatically rule out a friendly, respectful relationship with someone just because you think they're vying for the same customers.
- Continuously evaluate and improve
The successful online businesses we see are constantly evolving. They make decisions, evaluate and change, sometimes many, many times in a short amount of time. They move quickly because the internet not only allows it, but expects it.If you're a local small business and have been considering adding a product or service to your offering, do it! See how it goes. Then change accordingly. Small test offerings can be beneficial if you're not entirely sure.GO Pilates and Barre in Houston, TX is a great example of a local business that does this well. Nicola Ellis has been in business for a year and in that time, she has modified her class schedule several times. She has changed class times and added new classes in response to demand. Her willingness to think and act quickly has paid off. GO Pilates and Barre is thriving!
- Work with a business coach or small business consultant
A business coach or consultant can be a driving force behind continuous improvement and growth. When talking with fellow online business owners, it's very common to talk about business coaches. In fact, even business coaches have business coaches.If you're able to add to your bottom line and shorten your learning curve, a business coach or small business consultant is well worth the investment. Too many small business owners struggle or settle for just doing ok. This one lesson could be the thing you've been looking for to take your business to the next level.
What do you think? What are other important lessons that local small businesses can learn from online businesses?
Don't worry, we're not picking on local businesses. We'll be back with lessons online businesses can learn from local businesses too.