Last week I helped teach local business owners how to get their businesses up and online fast.
With limited time to speak, I had to boil my marketing and sales strategies down to the very first steps. Now I want to share these resources with you, too.
Note: I’ve personally used tools followed by an asterisk (*). Those without have been recommended to me. Some – but not all – of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you sign up for them I may earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).
The Super Basic Sales Funnel
The strategist in me can’t unload all this marketing wisdom without some guidance on where to start. So here it is:
Try out different offers using the most basic sales funnel. Starting with the end of the funnel and work your way forward.
- Create an offer
- Use simple tools to deliver
- Get in front of an existing audience
Now is not the time to invest weeks in building out a completely automatized sales system. Now is the time to do the unscalable work and see what sticks.
Create an Offer
Moving your entire business online in one fell swoop will be anything but fast. Instead, pivot your offers to ensure you meet your customers’ current needs.
If you’re not sure where to start, ask your customers. Show up to serve first. Find out what you can do to change your usual offers (or create a new offer).
Use Simple Tools to Deliver
The following tools are especially important for service-based business offers. I’ve included some use cases for a local retailer to try out.
Setup a Payment System
Regardless of what you’re offering, you need a way to get paid without personal contact. The following are a few of the many payment processing options available in Canada.
Interac E-Transfers are not a permanent solution, but they can work for testing an idea. Provide customers with an email address to send money from their bank account. No processing fee for you, although your customer may have a fee. Discuss with your bank if you can set up a business account to send invoices/request money.
Accept credit cards and Visa debit. With PayPal, you can connect to the checkout of your online shop or request payment via invoice. PayPal deducts a service fee from each transaction. Recurring payments are available.
Accept credit cards online, over the phone, via invoice, and in-person. Capabilities to integrate with an online shop. Square deducts a service fee from each transaction. Recurring payments are available.
You are able to send one-time or recurring invoices with your bookkeeping software. You can often make them payable online (with a processing fee). Check with your existing bookkeeping software (e.g. QuickBooks*, FreshBooks, Wave*).
Avoid the back and forth of calling clients or scheduling customer deliveries. Scheduling software will simplify your operations without a ton of setup.
Acuity Scheduling is my preferred choice for scheduling appointments. The free plan allows you to create as many different appointment types (services) as you would like and send a link for customers to book their times. Paid plans allow you to charge for your appointments and integrate with online conferencing software. I love that acuity allows you to create intake forms to gather the information needed to be productive.
Another popular online scheduler is Calendly. The free plan allows you to embed the scheduler into your website, schedule reminders and allows you to create one appointment type. The paid plans offer different appointment types and group offers, as well as integration with payment processors and online conferencing software.
Video chat has become a very popular way to communicate in a more personalized way than phone or email.
You can use most tools used with friends and family (e.g. FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype) with customers to get started. The following conference options provide further functionality.
Zoom allows you to broadcast and interact with video guests privately and in real-time. It offers a variety of conferencing and collaboration features including screen sharing. The free plan allows you to schedule calls of up to 45 minutes with 100 participants or unlimited lengths with one-on-one calls for free. A paid plan is required for integrating with schedulers. Guests must download the Zoom app to their computer, phone or tablet but do not require an account.
This web conferencing tool offers a free trial and allows up to 150 participants. While no free plan for GoToMeeting is available, the lowest-paid plan offers plenty of features. Guests must download the app to their computer, phone or tablet.
Get in Front of an Existing Audience
It would be nice if you could create an offer and people knocked down your (digital) door for it. Unfortunately, you have to take action to get your product or service in front of people. Capitalizing on an existing audience is the fastest way to reach people and test out your ideas.
Google My Business
Search engines are the ideal place to reach web users when they are looking for an answer to their question, problem or desire. Google My Business is a key place to update your information and communicate with customers. The content you publish shows up right in the search results/map, meaning you are able to reach customers right at the time they are looking for information about you or businesses like you.
You have to sign up for this tool and verify your business, so if you haven’t already created an account I suggest doing so right away. You can sign up at google.com/business. The options available will vary depending on the type of business you operate.
The first thing you want to do is tell Google what you offer in your business. You do this by adding your contact information, selecting service categories and areas of service, and writing a description of your business.
You can set regular business hours as well as special hours due to holidays or emergencies. These hours will show up for your customers to let them know if you are currently open or closed on Google.
Menus, Products & Services
Restaurants can add different sections and items to their menu which makes it easy for customers searching for that dish in your town to find you. Update this for any changes you’ve made to your menu at this time.
Retail businesses can add the prices and products they sell into collections. Focus on the specific items you want to highlight rather than everything you offer.
Businesses that offer services can list their offerings and relevant prices to make it easier for customers to find your business and verify they are interested in your offers before visiting your website.
Posts, Events & Offers
What you post on your business page will show up in the sidebar on Google Search and Google Maps for one week. Depending on your business category, you can publish posts, events and special offers. These posts can feature photos, descriptions, prices and links.
Download the Google My Business app to invite customers to message your business with questions directly from Google. With notifications on the app, you can respond in real-time.
Answer questions about your business and offerings that customers are asking on Google.
Respond to reviews for your business on Google.
Facebook Business Page
Facebook remains one of the most popular websites in the world. Meet your customers where they are already spending their time by publishing on a business page. Rather than just sharing information on your personal profile, publish it first on your business page and share it on your personal profile for maximum reach.
If you don’t already have a business page, follow this guide to get set up: facebook.com/business/pages/set-up
You can include information about your business including a description of your business, a link to your website, and hours of operation.
Let people know what you are doing in your business and stay connected with written posts, shared links, photos, and videos. Both informative content and relevant entertaining content are appropriate for sharing to keep your business in the mind of your audience. Deepen your personal connection with your audience by streaming live video.
Menus, Products & Services
Add tabs to your Facebook page to feature your products and services including photos and prices, and encourage customers to message you within Facebook about the offers. You can add them directly to Facebook or connect with an e-commerce tool that you are using. Be sure to download the Facebook Pages app to your mobile device to answer questions on the go.
Let people know about online classes or events you are hosted, as well as special dates for product pick-up, etc.
Communicate with your customers directly from within Facebook for real-time communication. You can also set hours of availability and autoresponder messages.
Some sort of website is a must if you want to do business online, but now is not the time to invest in the perfect site. You’re testing out ideas, so you just need something that will work.
If you have an existing website, it’s best to use what you have and update it to feature your current offers. If you do not have a website, the following tools can get you online easily so you can invest in a more permanent solution once you’ve found an offer that converts.
Google My Business Site
If you have no website and need to get online fast, you can create a basic web presence using the site builder on your Google Business page. You can buy a personalized domain and connect it. This option is very rudimentary and only good as a temporary measure.
WordPress* or SquareSpace*
Both have a learning curve, although SquareSpace is easier to pick up. Almost unlimited addon abilities make WordPress more customizable, but also harder to learn. In 2016 I published some thoughts on the two platforms that might help inform your choice.
So those are my quick and dirty recommendations for getting online fast and testing out your new product or service offers within a few days.
If you’re struggling to come up with a new offer I would love to help. I’ve opened up a few FREE 30-minute Pivot Your Offer Brainstorming Session, only available for a limited time.
What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments!