15 Mar 2016 Why should business doing ‘good enough’ need to go online?
Recently my friend who runs an apparels design studio, primarily catering to the wedding market customers, asked me earnestly
“Why do I need to take my business online? I have a loyal client base. My work speaks for itself and people come to me via word of mouth when they like my designs. I am busy all through the year with orders.
Why then do I need to take on this added burden of setting up a Facebook page or an Instagram profile or any foray in digital medium whatsoever. It would entail investments in time and money for something I don’t see any need for”
I could see where he was coming from. He has a loyal set of customers who fill up his order books to afford him a pretty good lifestyle. Apart from doing good enough, he is also a self confessed digital phobic.
Getting on to a medium that he understands little about, makes him very uncomfortable.
I found his situation quite similar to that of many established entrepreneurs who set up their business pre digital era and are ‘doing good enough business’ with their loyal clientele to feel any compelling reason to get their business online.
Why should business owners like my friend invest time and resources in setting up and nurturing an online presence and relationship? Here are six (non exhaustive) solid reasons —
1. You are who you seem to be online
Digital ( search , Facebook groups, FB friends) is the first port of enquiry for most of us today. If you don’t appear when a potential customer searches for you online, then for them you don’t exist at all.
Even your existing customer may want to get your additional details and is quite likely to Google search you. Your digital footprint reassures them about your credentials and opens up another platform for them to interact wth you.
2. You will get to work with more profitable customers
Or with customers who inspire you, pay you fairly and challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and produce great work.
To run a business and keep the cashflows going, we work with the mixed bag of customers. Being online exposes you to the well matched audience who is looking for people like you. For example, my designer friend can make sure he is present on wedding guide portals such as wedmegood.com, weddingsutra.com.
He can get into affiliate marketing tie ups with wedding photographers, hair and make up artists and wedding planners.
Of course he can search engine optimise his website to be visible to people looking for wedding attire in India. Implemented in a consistent manner, these baby steps can put him in front of a whole new audience in NRIs, working professionals, out of town-ers who may be more profitable than some of his existing customers.
3. Reassuring your prospects and customers
One of the reasons why people buy online is the availability of reviews and recommendations. For a small independent designer, Google-Reviews and Facebook ratings & reviews works as an insurance for prospects. When a person arrives at your door after reading several positive testimonials and ranks, he is likely to exude more openness and trust in your suggestions and ideas.
4. You want to make your existing customers buy more
Digital medium provides an easy two way communication platform. My designer friend can easily be in touch with his clients on a social media platform, informing them about his new collections, launches and engaging with them consistently to ensure he is on their top of mind when they are looking for an Indian wedding wear again.
5. You want to make it easy for your customers to refer you
It is easiest for people to invite their friends to the business’s Facebook page or forward a newsletter or tag on Instagram to acquaint their friends and family with something new. This gives an instant access to the referee about the design sensibility and clout of the designer.
6. You are opening yourself to opportunities
PR possibilities is just the beginning. Being present online makes you discoverable by suppliers, media, exhibition organisers, wholesalers and more. You may end up exploring business opportunities and partnerships that had no way of reaching you earlier.
Digital has the power to take your business from Good to Great. You need not invest in putting together a marketing team or spend crazy amounts of money. Get started with building an authentic online presence and tend to the platform consistently. Acquiring new customers and increasing retention rates are only part of the reasons for the question ‘Why go online?’