The internet has given a boost to thousands of country businesses previously hampered by rural isolation.
Yet many are still struggling to fulfil their potential online, so here are my top tips to help them get noticed in a crowded marketplace.
1. Make sure your business has an online profile: It’s still possible for customers to find your business online without a website. You can register with Google My Business, a free page that allows you to list your business and what it does. Your business will also feature on Google Maps, which can help if customers are travelling into the countryside to find you. It even allows for reviews and customer feedback.
2. Think visually: It’s so much easier to understand what a product or service is like when there’s a picture alongside it. Invest in good photography and creative images so potential customers can visualise their purchase first. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not create a short video that also gives your customers an experience of what you offer.
3. Be social: If you’ve never used social media before, speak to your customers to find out which ones they use the most. Start by setting up social media accounts and use good images of your business or products to make it interesting and engaging. However, go slow and keep it professional – remember that this is an extension of your ‘shop window.’
4. Set up an online shop: If you’re selling a service or product that customers could buy via a website, learn how to set up a simple, func- tional shop tool that means they don’t have to visit or call you to purchase – if they don’t want to.
5. Be mobile-ready: People in the UK spend two hours on their smart-phones every day – twice as long as on laptops and PCs. Make sure your website is functional on a mobile-sized screen and that customers can just as easily purchase from their mobile device. This means you maximise your chances of potential customers using you and not simply opting for the easier option and buying from a competitor that has a more user-friendly site.
6. Learn how to measure your success: It’s very important to learn how to understand what is working for your business online and what isn’t. It may be that people are going to your website but not buying your product – learning how to read and understand the analytics can help convert potential customers into buyers. It can also give you valuable insight into what days your website is busiest or what pages are the most popular. You’d be surprised how easy (and fun!) it is to measure and improve your progress bit by bit!
Visit Google’s Digital Garage on Barker’s Pool, Sheffield city centre, or catch our Digital Garage bus as it travels around South Yorkshire for free digital training or visit g.co/digitalgarage