Finding the right tools for your business will be absolutely vital for your success.
I’m not talking about the kinds of tools that crack bad jokes and never come back after lunch. When you consider every aspect of setting up your business, it’s easy for the mind to boggle.
It would be easy to freak out about how you’re going to manage it all.
There are questions to consider when searching for your online business software. How are you going to manage your workflow and your budget? Do you intend to have a social media presence and an online store? How are you going to market your product?
Put on your research hat and take advantage of this amazing new technological world. Your new business is going to discover a whole lot of other businesses.
For every aspect of your start up there will be a variety of online business software products to choose from. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the options. Try to be systematic in your research and discerning. Your business is unique to you, so you need to find the software that best suits your online business.
The first step will be checking out your competition. This means you’ll have to start finding what has worked for others.
Take a casual window shop of what other online entrepreneurs are doing. Trawl their websites. What features do you like? Do you come across anything that’s difficult to understand or use?
What do you want your customers to find when they come to your website? It’s important to get a feel for what’s already out there so you can start to focus on what online business software you really want.
But a new online business will need more than just a pretty website. You know what you want the customer to see, but how do you make it all happen?
What’s really going on behind the scenes and making it all work, is the toolbox.
We will only be able to scratch the surface here, but we can look at a few of the online options for your business.
THE ONLINE STORE
Are you looking to set up an online store? What type of product are you trying to sell? Are you a designer looking to sell handmade textiles? What are other designers using?
Perhaps an Etsy store suits your personality. Will this attract the type of customer you’re looking for? See if you can find a store similar to yours and learn from it. What do you like about their site and what do you hate? Does another platform look better?
Is eBay a more practical option for your retail shop? Does Shopify have the templates that are more appropriate for your online course?
Take some time to read what other users are saying about each site. Don’t be immediately turned off by a negative review. What you’re looking for is good functionality, reasonable pricing, and options relevant to your online business. Consider what other users say about value for money. What can you afford to pay?
If a negative review has focused more on the user’s personal preferences than usability keep that in mind. Just because it didn’t work for them, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Conversely, if there are piles of complaints about issues with the software it might not be the best option. You don’t want to spend hours wading through problems every time you try to update something.
This sort of research is never wasted time. Always start the way you intend to go on. Nothing is more deflating and time wasting than going backwards trying to fix endless problems because you skipped the research. Internet people are pretty good at complaining. Read what they say about tools and software from an online business perspective, before you commit.
Marketing is the sort of beast that takes many forms, most of which will suck the hours out of your day if you insist on doing it all by hand. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Focus on what’s vital to get the product out there and find the best tools for the job.
Email automation and social media management are going to be two important marketing tools that will really reach customers where they are. You need to stay connected to your customers but you won’t be able to do it all yourself, and keep up with everything else.
You aren’t going to have time to sit at a desk and hand type a personalised email to every subscriber. You’ll go barking mad and the rest of your business will go down the toilet because you spent 90 straight hours crafting birthday messages to your customers.
But with a great email automation tool you can set up the system and leave it to work for you. Business software products like Campaign Monitor, Mail Chimp, and GetResponse can provide you with some great options for automated email marketing. You can set up emails to welcome new customers, wish them that happy birthday, and send targeted advertising based on the actions they take on your site.
Make sure you look at the cost of each subscription and read up on how each software package works. Google is an amazing place for finding articles other users have put together outlining the features of these online business marketing tools. Again, reviews are important.
Some software products might charge an exorbitant amount for some amazing advanced functions, but what does your business really need? Don’t get roped into paying outrageous amounts for a product you are only using 10% of. But keep in mind what you might need further down the track and try to balance those requirements.
The same applies to social media management. To make the most of your marketing budget you might want to have a great social media tool in place. A social media manager like Sendible or Sprout Social has the ability to use their social media listening tools to put together targeted digital marketing campaigns.
This means a potential customer who is already interested in what you sell is more likely to see your ad. These tools can also provide you with some feedback on how your campaigns are going. Every click counts. This is the sort of tool that is invaluable in this social media world we live in. The ability to advertise to people based on their online behaviour is pretty amazing and a vital for any start up.
What do YOU need?
This is just the beginning of what’s out there, but as you begin to build your toolbox, you’ll start to get a nose for what software options are going to work for you.
You aren’t going to need everything either. What skills do you have, and what will you outsource? Your toolbox is not my toolbox. Streamline. Think about what is absolutely necessary to get the most out of your budget and your time. Give your online business the best shot at success.