Today is the final installment of our series with Weebly on getting your online business off the ground and thriving! So far we’ve covered inspiration and working through your initial fears, what to know before you go live, how to tell your brand’s story, and today we’re bringing things home with a look at what to do AFTER you’ve launched your new online business.
There’s so much work that goes into launching a new online business and sometimes it’s easy to forget that once you launch, there’s still so much to do and change as your new customers and community interact with your company and your website. So today we’re talking with Weebly customer and artist, Mandy Fitzgerald. She’s going to talk with us about the changes she made to her website and business after she went live, and what tools she uses to keep her business growing now that it’s up and running. Because no matter how long you’ve been in business, course-correcting, analyzing numbers and evolving your brand are always a part of the process.
For those readers joining this series after the publication month of May 2018, you can find Parts 2 – 4 at the following links:
- PART 1: Finding Inspiration + Motivation To Start!
- PART 2: What To Do (And Know) Before Your Launch!
- PART 4: How To Tell Your Brand’s Story
How do businesses grow and adjust over time — and what tools can you use to help in that journey?
We all start businesses with different goals and missions, but one thing we all have in common is the desire for our businesses to thrive, be successful and have longevity. But staying on that course requires a lot of maintenance work and it’s always helpful to know how other business owners do that in their lives. So I asked Mandy about how her business changed once her website went live.
“I launched my business when I was 16. For a long time I made work that people could easily recognize and finding customers was easy because I was so eager to please,” explains Mandy. “But I found my true passion in college when I explored abstraction and color theory and from then on my goal was to find an audience that would feel the same enthusiasm as I did about my work, so that I could support myself creating the work that I loved.”
I asked Mandy how she went about course-correcting with that new goal after launching with a different style. “Blogging became my best friend. My new work was not the straight-forward realism I had become known for and it became necessary to create a platform to explain my work to others so they would understand why it was important.”
“I blogged Monday through Friday for over two years and eventually I found my people. It still takes constant reminders that I’m here – making art – and ready to talk to anyone about it. I used social media, email marketing, and constant website updates to send those reminders.”
Mandy’s method of staying in constant contact with her audience, via her website, blog and social media is one of the best ways to keep many doors open to new audience members finding your work. And it’s never too late to start! Even if you didn’t launch your business with a blog or social media attached, it’s always a great idea to add these features so people can learn more about you, your process, and how you’re changing. But staying on top of how those features are performing is key to making sure you’re always evolving based on how your audience reacts to that communication.
“I learned about the best times of day and the best days of the week to post on different social media sites,” Mandy says. “I learned the value of Pinterest, the importance of implementing video into Facebook posts, the necessity of engaging with your audience, and not just expecting a sale because a painting looks pretty.” Getting into those granular details and paying attention to engagement and how people react to your company online is crucial. But how do you get that information?
Tools for Your Trade
No brand can analyze data from their website, social media platforms, search rankings or sales data without a few tools at their hand. So here are a few services to look into to help you make the best decisions about your brand once you’ve launched.
You have to use some version of web tracking to understand your clients and their behavior on your website. Weebly offers detailed website statistics and real-time information on your visitors/customers to its clients, but you can choose to integrate even more tools on your website like Google Analytics and Heat maps (to tell where people click and hover on your web page) to better understand how people interact with your website. Be sure to gather at least a month or two of data before making any major changes to your layout or design. Once you’re up and running smoothly, browse the App Center if you’ve built your site/store with Weebly. This is where you’ll find helpful extras in the form of apps that can help you perform a variety of things to optimize your site for your business. Think blog post schedulers, customer support chat, and special landing pages to capture information about your potential customers.
Social Media tracking
Most social media platforms have their own built-in tools for business accounts these days. From Twitter and Pinterest to Facebook, Youtube and Instagram, be sure you are using the analytics software they offer to see what types of posts are performing best for you, when to post, and what gets people to click/buy on your posts the most. You can also use a service like Hootsuite to analyze social data in one place.
For more expert feedback, I spoke with Katie Swett of Weebly, who runs the team behind “Promote” — Weebly’s email marketing platform that they designed to help business owners engage their customers.
What is your biggest tip for people who are totally new to marketing a business online?
There are so many ways you can start marketing online, but before diving in I always recommend defining your target customer. To develop this target customer you can take a look at current customers’ common interests, purchases, or even characteristics. Also take a look at your competition to understand who they are targeting and how your offering is different. Once you understand this, everything else really falls into place. For example, your tone, your content, your visuals, and even the channels that you market / advertise on will depend on who you are speaking to and what they are interested in hearing! Ultimately marketing to your target customer will make your marketing efforts more efficient and affordable.
What tools should people be using to best market their new business online?
Email marketing is still the most effective marketing tool to maximize your ROI (return on investment). The first step is to start collecting email addresses on your website as early as possible to build that list of subscribers. This will ultimately turn visitors into first-time customers.
If you are looking to increase first-time visitors to your online business, I highly recommend running some Facebook ads for brand awareness. Facebook allows you to create ads that target very specific groups of people with specific interests for a fairly low cost. It’s easy to test a few different ads on their platform and quickly measure the results.
What advice do you have for website layout and functionality?
Keep it Simple! We often see business owners try to add too much information on their homepage. It’s natural to want to explain everything you do and why you are so amazing, but we know from research that a user’s attention span is very short, they rarely read, and they decide very quickly whether or not your website has what they need. So your website’s first impression is crucial!
Create a clear and concise navigation! A great navigation clearly lets the visitor know exactly what you have to offer. Try to think of the most logical groupings for your information or products and expose the top ones in your navigation.
Your headline should quickly explain what you do and why you are different! Create one clear CTA (call to action), which is a single button that tells the visitor exactly what they should do on your website. These buttons often say “Shop Now” or “Shop” and take the visitor directly to a key area in the store.
Invest in a couple high-quality images that also feel authentic to your brand. A large high-quality image is crucial to connecting with your customer emotionally. Your brand is promising them something and your main image should allow your target customer to feel emotionally connected.
Do you have any tips or pitfalls people should avoid to market effectively?
Be Authentic! You have a huge advantage when you are starting: you can be real and authentic with your customers, that’s hard for bigger brands to do. Respond to customers that reach out on social media and build a community that reflects your brand.
Get Smart! The big brands have huge marketing teams, funds, and technology to power intelligent marketing, but a lot of that power is now more available than ever before. You can now automate marketing, personalize content, and market uniquely to different segments of your audience within small business platforms like Weebly. The goal here is to make available more tools within one simple platform so your time spent “marketing” is more efficient and you can spend the majority of the time creating your product.
Use automations to reduce your daily work and let your marketing run on its own. Set these rules one time and let them work for you while you are at an important meeting (or just sleeping!). Abandon Cart Emails allow you to automatically detect when a customer leaves a cart with products in it and sends them an email follow-up with their abandoned products. This lets you potentially win back customers you may have lost without doing any work.
Before I send you off with a bit of final homework, I wanted to share some advice from Mandy, who has been running her business since she was 16 and knows a thing or two about keeping a business going online.
“My advice for up-and-coming artists is to create as much as possible and document everything,” Mandy explains. “Take photos of your work, make videos showing your process, tag the brands of paint and brushes that you use, reply to comments, utilize hashtags, network with other creatives, be kind to people. It’s about consistently creating quality content – and that’s not as hard as it sounds.”
Just keep showing up, remind people why your work is important and you’ll build trust with your ideal audience.
Now that you’re on the road to learning best practices to keep your business growing and thriving online, there’s a bit of work that’s helpful to do to keep yourself on track! You can download these ideas and to-dos right here or cut and paste them from below. From all of us at Design*Sponge and our partner Weebly, we wish you all the best of luck with your new businesses!
What are some current challenges or pain points you’ve noticed since launching? Write down at least 3 issues and reach out to friends in your mentorship/support circle to see if they have any advice or tips to share on moving past them.
What are your monthly goals for website sales? What are a few ways you want to work toward achieving them? Tell your friends and mentorship team these goals so they can help hold you accountable.
What are your monthly goals for social media? What are a few ways you want to work toward achieving them? Tell your friends and mentorship team these goals so they can help hold you accountable.
What are some new social media marketing ideas you’d like to try? Write down 2-3 ideas and people you could partner with on them. Then work on contacting those people, one per week!