Growing a business is hard, and more often than not it’s brutally hard; whether you’re a sole trader, franchise operator, or running a 100 plus employee company, managing and growing a business is far from easy. COVID has exacerbated the difficulties involved in reaching new customers for most businesses, putting more pressure on online and other digital channels for much-needed growth. However online acquisition can require a whole new skillset from a business leader who may have some existing assumptions about online that are holding them back, writes Billy Tucker, CEO of online marketplace Oneflare.
If you want to grow your business here are some of the best lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1. Don’t let existing assumptions get in your way
Oneflare had been trading for four years when I was recruited as CEO, and during the interview process, I learned how big the business had become in that time, with 60,000 jobs taking place through the platform each month. Yet I hadn’t heard of Oneflare before.
I assumed that growth would be easy if we became better known and that the problem, therefore, was our brand. This was wrong. The truth is that brand was not, and is not, all that important to our business. Instead, we needed to focus on searchability before we could grow.
Bad assumptions cost time and effort – look well beyond the obvious and make sure you think about what the problem might be from the perspective of your customers first.
2. There are more important things than ‘advertising’ and ‘branding’
Your ‘brand’ is a combination of your reputation, your values and how well known you are. While it’s obvious that you need some level of awareness, ‘fixing’ your brand by trying to make it more well-known won’t make it any better. Simply changing the name or the logo and increasing public awareness on Facebook doesn’t change the quality of the work you’re offering, nor does it encourage people to recommend you. So whatever sugar-high you might get from doing that, the results won’t stick.
There are typically thousands of businesses offering similar services. They may all be tweaked slightly to be different, but it’s tricky to stand out and it’s impossible to know them all. Don’t make the mistake of downplaying the successes you have already or the importance of your business because the brand isn’t yet recognisable. Focus on what you’re good at, make building a great reputation core to your brand, and keep going until you’re one of the most well-known on the market in your area.
3. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to get to your customers
We know that more and more customers are using Facebook, Amazon and eBay to find what they want, so it’s critical that you have some online presence (whether that’s an account/store or just advertising) where your customers might be. You need to then back this effort up with a website that is mobile-user friendly, up to date and lets a customer reach you however they want: phone, email, text etc.
Like with the brand advice above, you need to pick your battles in the online space. In the case of Oneflare, we decided that we weren’t going to try and be the new Yellow Pages or well-known brand that consumers go to first. That battle was won by Google some time back. Instead we focus on having an attractive link so that we are the most clickable page on the Google search results page. For other businesses, this same goal applies to eBay search results, or Amazon or any of the other places your customers search for your service.
Interestingly, since April last year, our platform saw a 26 per cent year-on-year jump in requests for SEO, SEM, Web and Graphic Design services. It looks like a lot of business owners are getting serious about this, so starting now and learning as you go is important. Don’t be afraid to hire other experts to manage this stuff for you if you don’t know where to start.
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