Location, location, location.
Traditionally when starting a business, your location makes or breaks your chances for success.
But the current environment for entrepreneurs is completely different.
As consumer purchasing trends continue to indicate, the best location for today’s small businesses is online.
More products and services than ever are now accessible for purchase on the internet. In 2020, online-only businesses increased by 27%. Even brick-and-mortar businesses are hopping on the trend by providing new ways for local customers to interact with their inventory online.
This new environment presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Eastern Kentucky, especially those owned by women. High-speed internet access enables more female business owners in rural areas to participate in the online economy at a time when women have dropped out of the labor force due to the pandemic.
Whether you’re starting fresh or evolving your existing business, the internet makes it possible to access potential customers from all over the US — or even across the world.
This is true whether or not your business is located on Main Street.
Launching a successful online business is easier than it’s ever been. And by eliminating the concerns of local competition, small-town businesses operating online can work together to succeed.
Follow these three simple steps, and whether you’re a new or existing entrepreneur in Eastern Kentucky, you’ll be able to win new customers across the world.
Step 1: Identify Your Target Market
The internet provides access to 4.66 billion people across the globe. But you don’t need to reach them all.
The trick is to focus your efforts on locating your target market.
To do this, business owners need to understand who their ideal customers are and build a profile for each category. This is called an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). It represents each core group of customers that are most likely to buy from you over and over again.
Your ICP makes it easy to visualize the customers who will most benefit from your product or service. This should include:
- Demographics: Age, gender, location, educational level
- Work information: Title, industry, skills
- Psychographics: Attitudes, aspirations
- Pains and desires: Deepest struggles and secret wants
By defining your ICPs, you’ll be ready to start figuring out how to reach them online.
This includes determining what channels they hang out on, what types of messaging they relate to, and the steps you can take to increase your return on investment (ROI).
The best way to do this is to develop a five-step process called a customer journey. This represents the pathway from awareness of your business to generating a sale.
- Know us — It should be easy for customers to learn about what you can offer them. You should plan to build awareness of your brand, product, or service through search engine optimization (SEO), advertising, social media, and client referrals.
- Like us — To attract online traffic to your business, you need to provide solutions to the pain points associated with your ICP. This could look like how-to blog posts and videos that provide helpful advice from your unique point of view.
- Trust us — You can build trust with potential customers by sharing testimonials, positive reviews, and case studies online. These create powerful connections that help others believe what you offer is valuable.
- Try us — Provide additional perks for new customers to help incentivize their purchases. You can sweeten the deal with promotional codes, free trials, or exclusive deals.
- Buy us — Make it effortless for new customers to buy from your business. They should walk away feeling positive about their interactions with you from start to finish. At a minimum, online checkout should be smooth. But if you want to take it over the top, you can include a handwritten note with their shipment or offer a small bonus item for free.
By tracking your online metrics, you can experiment with your customer journey to find out which strategies perform best for your target market.
It takes time, but it’s worth it — you’ll feel more confident in the platforms, campaigns, and promotions you choose to work with because you’ll be able to measure the impact they have on your business.
Calculating your ROI will help you invest your time and hard-earned dollars wisely.
As you develop your plan to launch your online business, monitor these metrics annually and on a month-to-month basis to stay on top of your goals and budget.
Step 2: Set up Your Website
A website is the backbone of your online business.
And if you own a brick-and-mortar business, you’ll need one, too. Three out of four customers who visit a business online first are significantly more likely to visit the store in person.
Your website should accurately reflect what your business offers and the experience customers can expect from engaging with you. This is called your brand — and every business owner needs to be mindful of managing how customers perceive their brand on an ongoing basis.
79% of entrepreneurs with an online presence expect to grow 25% in the next three to five years. Only 64% of offline entrepreneurs anticipate the same rate of growth. Whether you’re planning a new business or preparing to adapt your current business, a website must play an essential role in your strategy.
Website Domain, Hosting, and Content Management
A domain name is your website’s URL. It’s how your audience can access your business online. Best practices will have you select a name that’s closely aligned with your business name, avoids numbers and hyphens, and is easy to spell and pronounce.
Over 350 million domain names are already in service, so you’ll need to make sure your pick is available (and affordable) before making your purchase. You can use this free domain name generator to get inspiration and check availability. When you’ve selected your domain name, you can use Google, GoDaddy, or WordPress to purchase it.
Next, you’ll need to set up website hosting. This is a service that stores the information housed on your website and makes it accessible to customers across the world.
Finally, you’ll need to select a content management platform (CMP) to create your website.
There are many options available for entrepreneurs who are interested in launching online businesses but don’t know how to code a website. We discuss them in our complete guide to launching a business.
Ideally, your CMP will allow you to easily develop content, sell products, and capture customer information. More than half of consumers today use their smartphones to make purchases, so be sure your CMP offers responsive design — website content in a mobile-friendly format.
The internet makes it possible for entrepreneurs in Eastern Kentucky to build a website with ease. It opens up opportunities for local businesses to flourish by accessing customers across the world. This enables our brightest minds to gain the opportunities to start businesses right here at home.
Getting started is as simple as having access to a reliable, high-speed internet connection.
Step 3: Start Promoting
Once your website is ready, you can create a marketing plan to promote it on digital marketing channels.
To create a marketing plan, you need to determine:
- Where you can find your customers
- Which messages they connect with
- How to push through the crowd and shine a spotlight on your business
Where to Promote
Where do your customers hang out online? You should create social media profiles for your business in all of those locations. Building a following will require regular updates to your content.
You’ll want to research where different age groups and audiences engage on social media. As a rule, having a basic setup on the foundational sites will help build your credibility — Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and increasingly TikTok.
What to Say
Your marketing messages should focus on solving customers’ pain points and fulfilling their needs and desires.
Creating content can be a daunting task. But if you think of it as a formula, it gets much easier:
- 70%: Discuss what your customers are passionate about.
- 20%: Provide research and ideas from your industry that support the discussion.
- 10%: Tie it back to your business, products, and services.
This could take shape as going behind the scenes with your process, hosting a contest, or sharing infographics on trends relevant to your audience.
Keep in mind that videos get the most views and engagement on any social media platform.
Optimizing Your Marketing Plan
You need to ask yourself on a regular basis whether your marketing campaigns are bringing in the types of customers and orders you need. Return often to your ICP. Are your campaigns reaching them and providing positive ROI?
Review your clicks, engagements, impressions, and resulting sales to find out whether you need to tweak your approach. Evaluate which messages, channels, and sales tactics worked best, and eliminate those that didn’t make an impact.
To Succeed, Eastern Kentucky Entrepreneurs Need Reliable Internet
With these three steps to launching an online business, entrepreneurs in Eastern Kentucky can start competing for and winning new customers. The future holds great promise for our ambitious changemakers who’d like to create and operate businesses right here at home.
But this is only possible if you live in a county with reliable broadband connections. For those who don’t have internet access at home, these opportunities remain out of reach.
That’s why leaders across the US are prioritizing reliable internet connections for all. The stakes are too high — our communities need broadband to have a chance to grow and stabilize their economies.
We want to hear from small business owners and entrepreneurs: you have the most to gain — and lose — from an internet connection.
By partnering with local organizations to bring broadband to all counties in Eastern Kentucky, we can grow together as a business community. As a long-term effect, we can also expect to attract new businesses to Eastern Kentucky. We’ll become a desirable location to operate businesses of all sizes and enable our brightest students to launch their dreams right here at home.
Location still matters — and the internet will help our Main Street businesses thrive. By empowering our entrepreneurs with the broadband access they need, we can bring prosperity to our doorsteps once again.
Helping Eastern Kentucky businesses succeed online is one of our top priorities. SOAR provides helpful recommendations to plan and launch your business with the Complete Guide to Entrepreneurship in Eastern Kentucky. Download it today, and contact your SOAR representative to start making your business dreams a reality.