The proliferation of the Home Business has been on a steady rise over the past decade and with the lockdown pandemic even more community-based enterprises have sprung up.
A 2018 report by The Small Business Institute (SBI) claims only a quarter of a million formal small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs) in South Africa.
This differs to many other previous reports that estimated 5.6 million SMMEs (Small to medium size businesses) of which 1,7 million are micro businesses.
But perhaps the most important factor is the one that made you start or think of starting a home business.
That is your eye for an opportunity and the recognition of a need for your product(s) or service, either in your community or region.
Many home businesses are tactile enterprises with offerings that are borne out of the owner’s existing skill set – this can be service related e.g. handyman, plumber electrician, etc. or often it is a small range of products such as food, furniture, ornaments… the list can go on and on.
We are a resourceful bunch, us humans, and South Africans seem to have this in abundance as we live in an economy that demands hard work to succeed.
There comes a time in every home business owners’ journey when he/she realises the need to be online in the digital world.
A realisation that beyond one’s own neighbourhood there is a whole bigger market out there and having an online presence is a MUST to broaden the reach of one’s business.
However, it can all be a bit overwhelming to a micro business owner who simply wants to ply their trade and offer the best product/service they can for a reasonable offering.
Computers, internet and social media are not your forte and you certainly cannot afford an inhouse IT guy.
So where does one start?
Well, we have compiled this really simple guide to better understand what’s what in the digital pot so that you, the home business owner, can make an informed decision when you are ready to join the digital world.
1. Social Media
The best place to start with an online presence is social media.
Firstly, it is free and secondly it is a quick and easy way to have an online presence without needing to think too much about design elements, layouts etc.
It does require some input and guidance though. Small things like logo and header images plus a decent company bio are areas where you may feel you need the pros to help you with.
Facebook is the best place to start by creating a business page.
Whilst it does not completely fulfil the purpose of a website, it is a great start as you can host all your contact details, hours of trading, company logo and mission statement, plus you can post information about your products, using images or video as well as written text.
There is a plethora of other amazing tools for Facebook pages including even a shop store.
If you are not ready for a website yet, a Facebook business page is an essential first step to being online.
Instagram is another important platform as it is owned by Facebook and therefore you can cross pollinate your content across both channels.
If your product or service has a strong visual element to it then Instagram is an important platform, especially in tandem with Facebook.
Twitter is a high maintenance platform. If used correctly it can be immensely beneficial. Public figures find Twitter a great option to dispense opinions and communicate with their fans. If you love chatting online, then Twitter is where you want to be.
LinkedIn is probably not that crucial to a micro business unless your target market is business professionals.
A website is first and foremost your digital calling card.
It is the place where you host everything customers need to know about your business:
Who you are? Why the business was formed. How it started.
Your product range or range of services. Your online shop for eCommerce.
Your team (if you have staff) to personalise the business.
And of course, contact details and hours of trading.
These are all things a good website will contain.
You may ask why a website if I have a Facebook page?
Many people search for products or services in their area and the primary search tool they use is Google which has extremely complex algorithms to provide this information.
No website = no presence so this is 100% the next logical step beyond a Facebook business page.
We touched on the content under websites.
Content is king is one of the oldest catchphrases in the online world and for good reason.
Notwithstanding a functional and aesthetically good-looking website that presents your business image at its best, a well-designed site can often fall flat with shoddy content.
Images must be high quality.
Copywriting should be professionally written, SEO optimised precisely.
If you plan to have a static website – one that simply acts as an online calling card with content that is not updated regularly, then the bare minimum you should demand is the above.
A bad or cheap looking website will not sell your services or products.
Once you realise that your website is a great platform to inform existing and potential clients about your products, you may want to start updating the site on a regular basis with new information.
Content marketing is one of the most powerful online tools.
People respond to people and people love dealing with businesses that are pro-active and busy!
How do you let everybody know that you are busy, busy, busy?
Blog about it on your website.
Then share those blogs via your social media platforms.
Also, the more regularly you update your website content the more Google loves you and the better chance you have of coming up in people’s searches.
5. Payment Portals and shopping carts
In today’s digital world there is a selection of Online Payment Systems available to ensure that customers feel safe in transacting with your website and that you can offer a seamless process that protects both you and them.
Shopping cart modules can easily be set up for your product range to create a fully functional online business.
A virtual shop is probably more relevant now than ever, considering that social distancing may become the new normal for some time to come.
6. Mailing List
Whether you have any digital footprint or not, a digital mailing list is a MUST.
Right from the get-go every customer you have should be added to a database that you can email to on a regular basis.
Depending on your product or service, this can be once a month, bi-monthly or even quarterly.
Just stay in contact with customers so that they know you are still around and still in business.
Bigger Than Me specialises in all of the above and we would be happy to consult to help map out a plan to get online in a cost-effective manner.
As a digital agency that focuses on the ‘do-good’ sector of the market, we are all about helping communities and home businesses to grow their online presence and to get their stories told.
Chat to us and let us see how we can help grow your home business.