Launching a successful small business has never been easy. However, in today’s increasingly competitive global marketplace, the challenges aspiring entrepreneurs face are perhaps greater than ever before.
To survive and thrive in a volatile economy and crowded market, businesses need a robust online presence. This allows access to a virtually limitless target market while minimizing the operating costs associated with a physical office space or brick-and-mortar storefront.
Capitalizing on the myriad opportunities available to businesses online, though, depends on a business owner’s ability to successfully navigate the various difficulties of operating in the digital domain. This article describes the best practices small business owners and decision-makers can implement today to unleash the power of the internet for their company while mitigating the risks.
Far and away the most important thing you can do when you take some or all of your small business operations online is to prioritize cybersecurity. If, for example, you’re operating an online store, then your first order of business must be to implement a comprehensive e-commerce security strategy which includes both a strong security infrastructure and robust employee training.
At a minimum, you will need to ensure you have the most up-to-date security technology possible to protect your company as well as your customers. This will likely need to include a combination of password-protected devices, Wi-Fi, cloud storage, and more secure technologies — such as firewalls and virtual private networks (VPN) for particularly sensitive data and processes.
In addition to using technology to secure your operations, it’s also imperative you implement robust and ongoing employee training in cybersecurity risks and secure processes. Such training should include education on identifying and avoiding security risks, such as malicious links, phishing scams, and insecure websites.
Similarly, shoring up your small business’s cybersecurity will necessarily involve establishing, and enforcing, stringent security policies. You might, for instance, institute a zero-tolerance policy for using unsecured personal devices to do company business.
If you’re looking to increase brand awareness and dramatically expand your market reach, there’s perhaps no tool more powerful than social media. When used strategically and judiciously, social media can be a tremendously cost-effective and enormously potent marketing tool, providing unparalleled access to a worldwide target audience.
However, the efficacy of social media marketing depends on how you use it. It’s critical, for instance, to identify and leverage the top social media sites for your specific market.
Younger audiences, such as millennials and Generation Z, for example, tend to prefer video-focused platforms, such as Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. Not surprisingly, given their platform preferences, these audiences also tend to want short-form video content when researching a product.
Video-focused digital marketing is a great strategy for introducing new products, posting product demos, posting influencer reviews, or soliciting user-generated content (i.e. videos made by your customers and often featuring one or more of your products).
By selecting the appropriate platforms and content genres, you can engage with an immense audience of existing and prospective customers while also building a thriving online community oriented around your company’s brand.
But there is, however, a caveat: the accessibility and immediacy of social media also mean your company’s platform may be compromised if you’re not vigilant, potentially resulting in significant damage to your business’s reputation. For example, bad actors may engage in social media impersonation, falsely claiming to be you or your company when posting offensive, misleading, or fraudulent content.
The key is to plan ahead when minimizing the risk to your social media platforms and strategizing your response if your accounts are hacked. The most dangerous threats, after all, are those which aren’t detected in time to prevent the most significant damage from occurring.
This is why it is imperative to be proactive and vigilant. Ensure you are monitoring your social media accounts daily. It is also advisable to install reputation-monitoring software on your platforms to alert you to any suspicious use of your name, brand, or accounts. Above all, it’s imperative to be engaged, transparent, and highly communicative with your customers, partners, and employees alike. The more they know you, your business, and your brand, the less likely they will be to believe the fraudsters.
Launching a successful small business may well be one of the most difficult but also one of the most rewarding challenges you will ever undertake. Taking your small business online is a powerful way to drive growth and expand your market reach in a crowded and competitive market environment. Nevertheless, there are several difficulties small business owners must be prepared to navigate when operating in the digital domain. By prioritizing cybersecurity and judiciously leveraging social media, though, the internet may well be the site of your company’s greatest success!