How to know when it’s time to go Online
Something that I find myself discussing quite a lot within my Get More Clients Saying Yes! course, which is currently running, is that it’s so easy these days to fall in to believing that an online business is the holy grail of a truly successful business.
Whereas in truth too many small business owners jump on the online bandwagon way too early and this actually hurts and hinders their business growth, rather than accelerating it in the way they hope.
Now let me be clear at this point – I’m a HUGE fan of running a business online. This was always my big dream, and my own business is currently 99% online (I do the occasional speaking engagement, and a quarterly gathering for my membership community).
I find it immensely exciting that we can reach a truly global audience, all without leaving home (I typically have people from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and all across Europe in my programmes – yet as I write this I’m snuggled up on a sofa in my pyjamas!). I also love it that we can use online technology to automate our processes so that people buy from us or book themselves into our diary in for consultations – even while we sleep!
So it’s all very exciting, and without a doubt an amazing time in history to be running a business.
But the problems come when you try to go online before you’re ready…
Many members of my current Get More Clients Saying Yes! programme are what I call “early stage” businesses. They are either just starting out, or have maybe been in business for a while but without seeing any significant number of clients.
For many of them the rush to go online too early is counter-productive.
You see, when someone comes across you online you have a miniscule amount of time to “hook” their attention before they move on. This means that when someone lands on your website or social media profile it has to be crystal clear to them exactly what you do and how you can help them. They need to have that “Oh my gosh she really gets me, this could be the solution I’ve been looking for” feeling. Which makes them want to read on or click through to find out more.
If there is anything at all bland, vague or very general about what you do people will be quick to move on.
The online world is much more unforgiving than the “real” world offline. Offline you can get away with being a little clumsy about how you communicate what you do, and a little vague and woolly about how you help people. This is because a personal relationship is also being developed, and a real-life conversation takes place that allows people to find out more about you.
But in the online world that’s not the case. You need to be able to “hook” someone’s attention within seconds, so that they want to stick around and keep reading to find out more about what you offer.
So if you can’t “hook” someone’s interest offline and lead them all the way through a process that ends in them buying from you (which means them actually giving you money in return for your service or product), then you really have very little chance online where competition is fierce and attention spans are shorter than a gnats.
If you go online too early it can really hurt your business…
I speak to far too many people who spend hours endlessly tweaking website copy that just doesn’t sound compelling to any particular group of people, creating Free Giveaways that nobody wants, plucking up immense courage to do Facebook Lives that nobody takes any notice of, or spending hours and hours (and then hours and hours more) on social media and then feeling confused and downhearted when it doesn’t seem to make any difference.
The end result is a huge amount of time and energy invested, no clients to show for it and these business owners start to lose confidence and doubt their ability to make their business work – it becomes a downward spiral.
You need to be “Velcro”
This is why I always start all my programmes making sure that my clients are crystal clear about what they are offering and to who, and that they know how to communicate it in such a way that their “ideal client” hears them loud and clear (and if not their ideal client then someone who knows their ideal client, or someone who might be able to offer an opportunity like a collaboration or platform to share their work).
I call this being “Velcro”. When someone comes along you want to be so clear about what you do that these ideal clients stick to you like Velcro. If you meet them offline they ask you questions to find out more. If they find you online they want to keep reading, sign up to your Free Giveaway and then stay subscribed because they are finding value in what you share (if you’re reading this then it’s likely I’ve been Velcro for you). When that happens you are now able take them on a journey through to deciding to become a paying client.
But what I actually see is too many people going online when their message and positioning is more like damp cotton than sticky Velcro.
But what if you’re dreaming of an online business?
That’s totally fine and I’m with you! That was my dream too, and for the past 3 years I’ve been pretty much entirely online.
If you want to run your business online here’s where I recommend you start:
1. Do the work to get clear on what I call your “one ideal client”.
2. Develop a message and positioning that speaks directly to that ideal client.
3. Create a Captivating Introduction to communicate the value of what you offer very clearly and in a succinct way so that you’re able to “hook” their attention within moments as soon as they come across you.
4. Go out into the offline world and start tell people what you do. You’ll quickly get feedback that tells whether you sound more like damp cotton or sticky velcro! Tweak that message until you start to hook people’s attention.
When one of my course members typed her new Captivating Introduction into our Facebook group here’s the response she got:
“Oh my god yes. How do I find out more?”
For your business to work online that’s the sort of reaction you want to be getting.
Once you know your message works to attract people then it’s time to take it online! Yay! Whether that’s a website, a landing page, or a Free Giveaway that people can sign up for so you can stay in touch with them as you build trust. You can then develop a journey you can take people on to become a paying client.
Because when you’re “sticky” your marketing becomes easy. All you have to do is “get seen” by as many people as possible. This might be through content marketing (blogging, video or podcasting), social media, Facebook or Google ads, or joint ventures if you are online. Or networking, speaking or collaborations offline.
Your “Velcro” will do the rest.
Now, of course there are ways you can test out your message online too. But to do this really effectively it involves lots of “fiddly bits” like landing pages, free giveaways, paid traffic, tracking and analytics. If that’s easy for you, then go for it. But for many of us that’s an awful lot of work to find out that the thing you are offering isn’t hooking anyone – for me and many of my clients it’s far easier to get the feedback offline and then take it online when you know it works.
What do you think? Have you tried to take your business online before you were ready and felt the pain of that?
Or is your message and positioning crystal clear and actually you could be doing much more to get visible online? Do let me know in the comments below – I always love to hear from you!
Join the Business from the Heart Membership
From Tuesday 5th November I will be opening enrolment for the Business from the Heart Membership for just a few days – and for the last time this year.
If you’d like to get more of my support in creating a long-term vision for your business, getting clarity on the marketing approaches that are likely to work best for you and come up a plan of action for marketing you can actually enjoy then I’d love to have you join us!
Just pop a note in your diary – I’ll be sending you an email with full details on Tuesday next week!
With Love & Gratitude,