The basics of getting a business online | Advice | Small Business Connect

Paul Hobden

The power of online marketing allows small business to compete with the largest global businesses.

For a long time, we have thought of small business as being local business, and local business as small businesses.

However, this is no longer the case. Through the power of the internet small businesses can market themselves globally.

Over a coffee, recently, an owner of a web development business told me about his latest customer, a very experienced and successful small business owner.

His very excited new client had decided that it was time to extend his marketing reach and was convinced by his son to get a website.

After a meeting and explaining the process, the final question from his newly-acquired customer was “Will my daughter be able to see this when it is complete – she lives in Durban?”

The web developer took great pleasure informing his new customer that, at no additional cost, his daughter would be able to visit his site and, in fact, so could anyone, anywhere in the world.

So where do you start and what are the basics?

Get your name online

This sounds simple, but it is important to consider under what name you will appear online. What will your domain and email address be…

While you can operate from web hosting and free email services such as Hotmail or Gmail, you need to ask if this gives prospective clients the impression you want to them to have.

Would you scratch out someone else’s business card and put your business name on it? So why do that with your email address or website hosting? Having your own domain is an important step to taking your business online.

Registering your domain is simple and most reputable hosting companies offer this service. This is a simple and inexpensive process and can be completed online

Make sure you choose a domain name that is the same as your business name. Try making it simple to remember, simple to spell and simple to type into the browser address bar. Then make sure you put this on all your business cards, letterheads, signs and advertisements.

Build a website

Getting your business a website hosted at the domain you have chosen is the next important step. There are many things to consider when building your website.

What content do you want your clients to have access to, are your clients going to mainly be accessing your information on a laptop, tablet or phone, how often will the content need to be updated, why will clients visit your site: to find your contact details, look for references, purchase an item and/or request a quote.

If you do not have the skills to use one of the many self-build options you will need to choose a designer. When doing this, do a reference check online, ask about the costs of updating the site, ask about security and how they will make sure your site does not get hacked, ask how they ensure that your site will be found on Google and, most importantly make sure they understand your business requirements.

It is important to ensure that your contact details are easily accessible and that information you provide is clear and concise. Don’t be tempted by bells and whistles. To begin with stick to the basic information and content and do that really well.

Also make sure that your website is designed for all browsers and can be viewed on mobile devices and tablets, since this may well be the most common way of accessing your website.

You will then need to choose where to host your site. When making this choice you need to find a reliable hosting provider,.Your website will become your most important online marketing tool and you cannot afford for it to go down. Look for a hosting company that has a good track record and good reviews.

Good luck getting your business online. It will be the first step on an exciting and rewarding journey.

  •  Paul Hobden, head of Small Business at Mweb, has extensive management experience both locally and abroad.