As business owners, we might think our fabulous products/services are all we need to succeed. But having a product or providing a service is only half the battle. Having a well-developed online strategy that is detailed in your business plan is key to making sure that your online activities run as smoothly as possible. The more organised you are in your day-to-day online business activities, the more efficient you will become and after all time is money!
1.It’s not just about being online
If you’ve taken the leap of setting up a website or some form of social media online you’ll know that it doesn’t stop here. Getting visitors to your site is a whole different challenge. It can become time consuming and very costly if you don’t know how to get people to find you online. Start by being thrifty, especially if you’re new in the game, as this is the best way to force innovation. Rather than simply throwing money at the issue you start to create innovation for your business. In order to be ‘innovative’ it doesn’t need to be an expensive, fully blown widget. Small changes can lead to big results. Something like maintaining brand focus can lead to changes in how you treat customers, or marketing directly to the customer through social media rather than through a third party saves you time and a lot of money.
2. Paying early
It can be quite time consuming going through bills monthly/quarterly etc. Try as much as possible to pay all your essentials as early as possible to get them out of the way. For example an online business that hosts its site through a service provider can choose to pay monthly or even yearly but have you considered paying for 5 years? Some agencies will give you huge discounts (up to 50% or more) if you pay upfront. Even if it’s only 5-10% cheaper, think of the time you’ll save not having to go through and make sure things are paid on time every month.
3. Simplify your expense streams
Overtime, online businesses can start to accumulate different types of expenses throughout the year. Work towards paying all your similar expenses at the same times. For example, if you order three different items to merge into your single product then try to pay for them at the same time as this will save you time as opposed to sitting down at multiple times to work out costs/payments.
4. Supply chain partnerships
Like any area of your business your supply chain and service provider partnerships are critical to the level of success of your business. Try to strengthen your partnerships by having as less as possible service providers which will help strengthen your volume buying power. By simplifying and leveraging all you can you have fewer service providers to manage which can lead to less time spent managing your supply chain partnerships.
5. Data Mining
What do customers think about your business? What are their favourite products? How did they find out about your business? There is now a wealth of information that you can get about your customers and from your customers. This can be achieved with creating online surveys, analytics from your sales and combining all this to help predict/forecast future trends. It may seem daunting at first but there are now so many online tools to make this helpful that any good web design/seo agency should be able to assist you with setting up and making sense of. Don’t get me wrong it won’t just give you all the answers but you will start to see trends in purchasers, how different times of the year effect your sales and so on. This can help with knowing what stock levels to increase during certain times of the year and what to offer on your sales. All this can lead to reducing the amount of time you spend ‘guessing’ on possible trends and popular products.
6. Reactive VS Proactive
Does your business follow trends or set them? Many companies have been successful in running either proactive or reactive businesses but when it comes to internal business processes it may be more beneficial to be proactive rather than reactive. For example a customer’s order is shipped and then you realise you have missed a product that they ordered. Rather than waiting for the customer to notify you, you should send the missed item to the customer then inform them that the product is on the way in a separate package. It may cost you extra shipping in the short term but it will save you time in the long run rather than dealing with complaints and may be the difference between losing or retaining that customer for the future.
Another example of this is being proactive with your website. If it’s been a few years since your last website refresh and your competitors designs have caught up or are starting look a little nicer then don’t wait to start getting that feedback from your customers. As detailed in 8 ways visual communication can make or break your website, we discussed how your website design should be a proactive result of your business rather than reactive. And by staying on point you will save time by being ahead of the competition and setting trends rather than trying to keep up.
7. Consolidate your to-do list
Do you really need to do all those things on your list? You realise that by about 11am your list will be out the window due to either interruptions, problems, a staff member being sick, that birthday thing you forgot about or wait… did someone say emails are down? If none of that happens to you then all a long to-do list can do is leave you with virtually no time to focus on innovating your business to save time or generate more revenue.
It is unrealistic to try and manage every aspect of your business on your own. At some point you’re going to need to let someone else carry some of the load especially if you’re trying to grow your business. Whether it’s getting an accountant to take care of your books or a web designer to maintain and update your website, there will be aspects of your business that you can outsource in order to save time and money.