As a globe trotting lifestyle entrepreneur, Jo has explored more than 30 countries in the last 10 years while building six- and seven-figure online businesses, and is currently locked down in Thailand.
Latest posts by Jo Barnes
- 21 Ways to Grow Your New Business Online in 2021 - January 6, 2021
- The Future of Main Street: Moving Your Local Business Online - November 21, 2020
- How to Start a Side Hustle You Can Run from Anywhere in the World - August 19, 2020
If you’re not growing your business online in the current climate, you will likely leave a lot of money on the table. As 2021 begins, we’re witnessing a fast-changing landscape. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everything from working to socializing to ordering and shopping online has become the norm.
In fact, according to emarketer.com;
“U.S. e-commerce sales will reach $794.50 billion (in 2020), up 32.4% year-over-year. That’s a much higher growth rate than the 18.0% predicted in our Q2 forecast, as consumers continue to avoid stores and opt for online shopping amid the pandemic.”
To ensure your business continues to take advantage of the changing tide, here are 21 ways to help accelerate the growth of your new business in the year ahead:
Become a prolific content creator
More than ever, people are watching videos, consuming stories, reading posts and scrolling newsfeeds. How can your brand be a source of information, education, entertainment or inspiration?
Too often, brands focus on just showcasing products or services, but the best way to attract your target market is to focus on the benefits your product or service brings. What problems do you solve, how do you improve your customer’s life, how do you meet your audience’s needs?
Look beyond what you sell and tap into your brand’s higher purpose. Dove, for example, sells soap but consistently posts content about positive body image.
How might you create a prolific content strategy which resonates with your audience at a higher level?
Build a content website or add a blog
If your current website is simply a static online brochure listing your products and services, it’s time to increase your organic traffic by creating a content-rich experience.
Your website is where you showcase not only your offerings, but also your expertise. How does your site add value to a potential visitor? So much so that they want to stay, read, scroll, and potentially buy?
We’re in the age of dynamic content and inbound marketing. People hate to be sold to, but they love to buy, so be sure to add some insanely valuable content that encourages your audience to return time and again.
Build your email list
One thing Netflix, Amazon and Facebook have in common are large databases. Big data is a hugely valuable asset these days, and not just to your company’s overall valuation.
By building an email list of targeted and interested prospects, you have a direct line to their inbox to announce new content, promote new product lines, encourage feedback and boost engagement across all of your other online channels.
Start by offering something of value for free to your potential audience in exchange for an email address, such as a discount coupon for your products, a free e-book, workbook, or even a free trial period for your service.
The goal is to encourage interested visitors to leave their email address, so you can begin to nurture a long-lasting and profitable relationship with them.
Create and grow a Facebook group
A Facebook group is a modern day forum built around a group of people with a similar interest. The beauty of a Facebook group is the camaraderie, conversation, communication and instant feedback.
I recall listening to a podcast years ago with the founders of a company called Eye Love. The podcast interview revealed how they used Facebook groups to grow their business from $80K to $500K in monthly revenue.
Use this story, and the many others out there, to inspire you to build an engaged and active community of your own.
Increase organic traffic using Pinterest
I’ve always been a Facebook girl myself, but I recently discovered the power of Pinterest!
Most social media platforms are incredibly transient, with content disappearing as fast as it gets posted. However, Pinterest is a search engine in its own right, meaning your pins are immortal. Much like an article on Google, if your pin matches a user’s search intent, it could show up months, even years, after you posted it!
The best way to get started is to connect your website with your Pinterest business account and optimize for rich pins. I use a plugin called Grow, which does all that for you. Then create multiple “pinnable” images for each of your posts, and pin away!
Start a YouTube account
Alongside Pinterest, YouTube is another search engine with content longevity.
With YouTube, more work is required than with Pinterest in that you need to record and produce videos, but if jumping in front of a video camera is your jam, the opportunity to grow your brand is phenomenal.
Of course, it doesn’t always have to be you in front of the camera; there are many creative ways to deliver content and promote your brand via video.
Just as with Google and Pinterest, your content can still be found years after posting, so get creative and look for ways to include YouTube in your ongoing promotion strategy.
Run giveaways or contests
Who doesn’t love a good freebie! Contests and giveaways are an excellent way to build your email list, generate engagement, and attract organic traffic all at the same time.
Your prize must be highly relevant to your brand and niche to target your specific market and ensure high-quality leads. If you’re unsure what to give away, think of partnering with a collaborative or complementary brand and running a giveaway together.
Your goal is to raise your brand profile, attract your target audience, start a conversation, and showcase your products or services.
Host a quiz
Much like contests and giveaways, quizzes are fun, viral in nature, and a great way to increase your brand profile while doing necessary market research!
There are many user-friendly online quiz apps, but my favorite is Interact.
Easy to set up, interactive, and multi-media friendly, you can create a quiz that asks the questions you’d love to know the answers to about your prospects and customers.
A good example of this in action is Tonic Site Shop, a company that creates unique and customizable website templates. The brand uses a cocktail theme (websites “mixed to perfection”), and when a user navigates to its website, offers a pop-up quiz on the home page titled, “What’s Your Brand Cocktail?”
The quiz includes a dozen creative questions, giving the company a mass of information about the styles of branding their quiz takers like and where their roadblocks are to creating the perfect website.
What a powerful way to both increase your brand’s exposure and get to know your audience!
Partner with brands and businesses to run co-promotions
The fastest way to grow your business and brand is to network and connect with collaborative and complementary brands.
Reach out to other entrepreneurs to see how you can help promote each other’s content. Work with Facebook group owners in your niche to do some cross promotions or collaborate with other brands on Instagram to do Story takeovers.
Entrepreneurs are in similar positions, looking to increase their exposure and get in front of a wider audience on a shoestring budget, so provide solutions as to how you can help your peers do that and create a win-win.
Reach out to influencers using Facebook for Creators
In 2018, Facebook introduced “Facebook for Creators,” encouraging brands and creators to partner up.
You can sign up either as a “creator” (in other words, an influencer) or as an advertiser looking to work with an influencer and create a paid collaboration. The influencer, who has to have a minimum of 1,000 followers and tens of thousands of recent engagements on their posts, will talk about and showcase a brands’ products.
Facebook has also added this feature to Instagram, and “Shop Now” buttons are connected directly with the Instagram and Facebook shopping apps.
Keep in mind that as a new business, your best bet will be micro-brands with smaller but highly engaged audiences.
Encourage user-generated content
As with my prior RedBull example, the best content is content created and published by users of your products or services. Word-of-mouth remains the best way to market your business, and there is no better recommendation than a customer who’s so impressed or engaged with your brand that they’re prepared to voice it!
User-generated content can come in the form of reviews, videos, images, or even just comments and shares. All are welcome; however, the more you can encourage users to publish content related to your brand, the more engaged they’ll be.
Live a Great Story is a great example of a brand with user-generated content embedded into its brand. The whole point of buying one of their products is so you can take a picture of yourself wearing the T-shirt, holding the flag or displaying the sticker and telling your version of how you’re “living a great story.”
As a result, the company’s social media accounts are full of user-generated stories.
How can you encourage users of your products and services to talk about and publish content relating to your brand?
Run creative ad campaigns
When you run an ad on Facebook or Instagram, you can target someone almost down to what they had for dinner last night; they’re that granular.
Even though costs have been rising over the years, running ads on Facebook and Instagram is still far cheaper than some other options like radio or TV (and they’re more targeted, too).
Competition is fierce, though, so think creatively. How can you demonstrate your product or service with an innovative video or meme that catches people’s attention and makes them want to click on your ad?
A great example of creativity in advertising are the videos produced by Dollar Shave Club. Innovative, funny and generating millions in views and sales, it’s no wonder Unilever eventually bought the company for 1 billion dollars!
Utilize Instagram shopping
Using attractive images and videos of your products or services, you can add a button that takes a viewer directly to a shopping page, and in the U.S., customers don’t even have to leave the platform to complete the purchase.
Create and add products to a Facebook shop first, connect your Instagram Business account and start tagging! It’s that simple.
Visitors will be able to click, view and purchase your products right from your Instagram page. It doesn’t get any more seamless than this!
Go live on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube
A study by Livestream and New York Magazine discovered that “82% of consumers prefer live video from a brand to social posts.”
How can you incorporate livestreams into your brand’s marketing efforts?
Perhaps you can demonstrate how your product works, run a Q&A for potential or current customers, launch a new product or service live, or deliver a training and educational session relevant to your brand.
Get creative and use your social media networks to ask your audience how you can best serve them and what they’d love to experience live from your brand.
Become a storyteller
As so many large-scale brands present themselves in such a standard corporate way, this is your chance to stand out and tell your story. Your customers want to know!
Think about what catches your attention on social media. We love real life stories, hence the rise in popularity of reality shows over the years. Traditional advertising is old hat, with storytelling being the hot new content medium.
What’s your story? How did your business start? What inspired you to get it off the ground? What were some of your challenges along the way? How have you transformed or added value to the lives of your customers and clients?
Start a podcast
It’s no wonder podcasting as a content medium is on the rise. It’s one of the most convenient ways to consume content: you can listen to a podcast while cooking dinner, going for a walk, running on the treadmill, sitting in the garden… you get the idea.
So, how can you leverage this growing trend for your business? One of the easiest ways to get started is to simply make a list of all the questions your ideal target market might have about your products or services.
Then, sign up for a free podcasting app like Anchor.fm, create a podcast name, description and image. Buy a lavalier microphone for your phone (to ensure quality sound) and click record!
Start by publishing your podcast once a week and go from there. Anchor will automatically distribute your podcast out to Apple, Google, Spotify, Castbox, Stitcher, and several other podcast providers.
As you grow, you can get more creative, answer questions live, interview relevant people in your niche, and try different strategies.
Invest in advertising or sponsorship
These days, advertising has become incredibly personalized, allowing you to put your brand, product, service or offer directly in front of your target prospect.
Signing up for full-service ad management services such as Mediavine, Ezoic, or Adthrive allow you to choose the types of websites and publications on which you’d like your ads to display. You can also approach website owners and brands directly, asking for advertising space on their website or whether you can sponsor a podcast or an event they’re hosting.
Be sure to only contact brands that align with your target audience, and always remember, everything’s negotiable!
Become a guest blogger
A positive way to grow both your brand and your website is to write guest posts for other publications in your niche.
By offering to contribute and collaborate with a brand similar to your own, you’re exposing a new audience of like kind individuals to your brand. This also works for guest podcasting, being interviewed on a video, getting involved in an online summit or speaking at a local networking event.
In doing so, you’re leveraging an audience a collaborative or complementary brand has already built to add value and showcase your brand. You’re also going to build some great relationships along the way with peers in your industry, which over time will help you to grow your network, which, as we’ve already established, is a positive thing!
Publish a book
In this day and age of self-publishing, books are fast becoming the new business card. The good news is, if writing is not your bag, you can outsource the task to a ghostwriter.
As with podcasting, start by writing down every question your potential prospects might have about your area of expertise and answer those questions in a book.
Publish your book on Amazon KDP, get a few copies printed to give out at socially distanced dinner parties, and add the link to your website and social media accounts.
Even with the overabundance of books in the marketplace, you’ll position yourself as an expert in your niche while adding massive value to your audience, which will undoubtedly generate more leads and sales.
I’ve talked about partnering with brands, connecting with influencers and leveraging others’ audiences, all of which help in building a network of collaborators and peers. However, just general networking will go a long way to attract both peers and potential customers.
While we used to head to a local networking event and chat with strangers over wine and cheese, nowadays it all happens online in groups, direct messages and comment threads.
This new networking is done remotely, but can be equally as effective if you’re willing to put in the work.
Diversify your income streams
I’m a huge proponent of starting with one, particularly if you’re a solopreneur. It’s unlikely you have a bottomless budget to spend on all the resources needed to grow your business, so it’s crucial to prioritize and focus on the most important strategies that will significantly impact your business.
If you start with too many products, too many services, and too many strategies, you can quickly become overwhelmed and end up going nowhere fast.
That’s why I recommend starting small and building as you grow. As your audience increases, so will your sales. As your sales increase, you can afford more team members to work on more strategies to grow your audience, and so on.
However, as soon as you’re ready, I recommend diversifying your income streams to accommodate more of your customers’ wants and needs. The beauty of the online world is the ability to add different business models as you grow.
If you currently sell physical products, explore adding digital products to the mix. If you’re selling information, perhaps there’s the opportunity to add physical products to your offerings.
Think creatively and always listen to your customers. They’ll soon tell you what they want from you and what they don’t want!
The year 2020 simply accelerated a number of already changing trends in entrepreneurship. More and more businesses are either starting or moving online, and now is the time to gather the skills needed to stand out from the crowd and take advantage of the online tools available to serve your customers where they are.
Existing online allows you to reach a worldwide marketplace with your products and services. Pick the strategies that work for you, be creative, build your network, and let the world know you and your business exist!