Contrary to popular belief, e-commerce empires aren’t built on the internet alone. There are real world steps that need taken to ensure success. This brief guide will share four steps that any web entrepreneur can take to step their game up to the next level.
Naturally, most of the tips you read about improving your web ventures cover stuff that you do online. There are tips on web design, creating good content, engaging users, targeting your niche, and everything in between. And all of this stuff is important.
Equally important, however, are the steps you take offline to bolster your reputation and improve the legitimacy of your operation. Despite often being associated with traditional brick and mortar operations, these offline actions are actually basic steps that every serious business should take. Without them, it’s difficult to differentiate serious, established organizations from those that merely exist on the internet.
Why does this matter, you ask? Well, for a variety of reasons, but mostly because anyone can get set up online and claim to run a business but not everyone takes what they do seriously enough to go the extra mile and establish themselves. And as consumers deciding who we’re going to do business with, wouldn’t we rather work with organizations that are established and care about their reputations? Of course we would. When it comes to buying goods, making investments, developing partnerships, etc. legitimacy matters.
By following the four steps outlined below, you’ll be able to take your venture from obscure blog to budding enterprise, instantly bypassing the millions of people who aim simply to exist on the World Wide Web. While some of these steps do require some capital, none are too expensive or out of reach for the average site owner.
1. Officially register your business
It’s easy to accept payments as an individual on PayPal or add your would-be company name to the footer of your blog, but actually registering a legal business entity is the legitimate way to go about these things. For a few hundred dollars you can register an LLC with your state and begin doing business in the name of that organization. From your domain registration to the name of the company that appears on your site, having a legal company behind your venture can be used a lot of different ways. If you need help, check out Legal Zoom, who will walk you through the entire process for a fee.
2. Establish a mailing address
You don’t have to rent office space or expose your home address to establish a mailing address. All you need to do is register a P.O. Box. If you have already registered your company as described in step one, you can register a P.O. Box in your business name and use it to accept snail mail. Once this is done, you can share this information on your website, business cards, directory listings, etc. and help show the world that you exist beyond your website.
3. Set up a business telephone number
Similar to establishing a mailing address, setting up a business telephone number shows that your venture is real and that there are real people who stand behind it. Businesses that don’t have a telephone number listed instantly raise red flags in the minds of consumers. The question is inevitably, “what are they hiding from?”
A service like Google Voice can be used to obtain a free telephone number, and a small business answering service or call center can be used if you want to maintain a professional image when people call your line. If you want to keep this free, though, you can simply record a professional voicemail greeting and ask that callers leave a message.
Technically all of this can be done online, but picking up a telephone and calling someone is still viewed as an offline activity, which is why I have included it in this list.
4. Enhance your real world experience and credibility
How you spend your time offline can have a serious impact on your business, and rightfully so. By joining organizations like the Chamber of Commerce or a local rotary, you can put a face to your business and network with other professionals in your community. Invariably, these offline relationships translate into increased online exposure, as the connections you make share your information with their networks and help enhance your reputation.
As I said, all of these steps are pretty basic, and they are things that business people have been doing forever. However, with the current focus on web-based businesses and online enterprise, many of the basic steps for establishing a business have been forgotten. By taking the time to focus on the structure of your business and your offline profile, you’ll catapult yourself ahead of the competition and be on your way to creating a real organization, not just another e-commerce website.
Are there other steps you have taken offline to enhance your online business? Please share and help improve this list.