The answer is both
Even if you meet customers or teach in person, an online presence gives you options to enhance your customer interactions, lead generation, and sales.
Before 2020, the answer to the question of where to focus sales efforts might have been different. Creative businesses could get by with one or two social media profiles and vending/promoting at live events.
But when the pandemic hit, if the bulk of your income or leads came either from appearances at events, festivals, and shows, or teaching live classes, you had to figure out how to pivot to online sales or increase the online presence you already had.
Now, live events have returned. Does that mean you should stop all your online activity? Of course not. Maintaining an online presence has many benefits.
- Give customers a choice of how to buy, in person or online
- Less seasonal – you can keep your sales more consistent throughout the year
- Opens up your customer base to more locations
- Protect your sales if people don’t want to shop in person
- Gives you the ability to add another income stream, important in a worsening economy
The pandemic changed how we look at the world and even though live events have come back, there’s always a little worry that things can change in an instant. And if a recession happens, it’s important to have an infrastructure in place that will allow your business to change as necessary.
If live events are part of your mix, you have to be ready to turn around in an instant and throw more resources to online activities.
What did you do when the pandemic first hit and during the lockdown phase?
Maybe you used any downtime to come up with new designs, products, or services. Or maybe you finally built that website or improved the one you had. Maybe you hopped on social media and really built up your following. One of my clients made how-to videos for face masks, scrub caps, and face shields, got tons and views, and tripled her youtube following!
Ideally, if you didn’t already have one, you would have created your site in April 2020 as soon as you realized how much the world had changed, but you may have had a lot of obstacles.
Maybe you found yourself caring for everyone else and keeping the kids busy and didn’t get any business done at all, or decided that helping to make social change was more important than business activities. You may have felt so overwhelmed you decided self-care was paramount. Or maybe you contracted the virus yourself or had to care for a loved one.
Whatever effect this strange time had on you and your business, “normal” has changed. The best way to cover the possibilities is to think ahead of time about what you’ll do in changing situations.
Move sales online
The bottom line is you need to sell your design services, classes, or products, and there may be times you can’t do it in person to the extent you could before.
Finding an alternative way to make sales could mean the difference between keeping your business going, or going under.
So what do you do?
You move your business online so you can operate even if you’re thrown a curveball.
If you teach in the real world, it’s not as hard as you may think to start teaching online. There are lots of options to implement online courses which are fairly simple to use. The real challenge isn’t virtual teaching, it’s pulling in students, ie marketing.
When you already have people who enroll in your classes in person, you have an advantage. You know their needs, what works and what doesn’t. Use that knowledge to find your ideal students online, using a variety of marketing techniques.
It’s all about finding your niche audience and pulling in the right traffic
If you’re used to teaching in person, or vending at shows and events, you know your audience. You know who buys from you and who does not. How do you find those buyers online?
Search traffic and social media, whether organic or paid, are two of the most obvious ways for people to find you. Guesting on blogs or podcasts of others with the same type of audience is another way.
Build an email list of those you attract online through these methods and send to them regularly.
If you have a website/online store
If you have a website or online shop already and simply don’t have all your products and services up for sale there, you already have the infrastructure in place to move more of your business online and attract the right people.
Get more products online
Job number one is getting more of your items up for sale on your site. That means taking pictures and writing descriptions that use the words and phrases your customers use. It’s tempting to be cute when you write a product name or description, but your customers won’t appreciate it if they can’t find it. Ask yourself, “Would anyone search for this using this phrasing?” If you want to know for sure if anyone would search on that term, use an SEO tool. Free versions allow a limited number of queries or have a free trial period. Here are a couple to try: Ubersuggest or Wordtracker.
Then, put your site in the best position to pull in customers. Ensure your messaging speaks to the audience you want to attract, write an “about” page that’s compelling, get your content optimized for SEO, and get an email newsletter signup form in place.
Pump up your marketing efforts
Choose one or two areas to concentrate your resources so you aren’t spread too thin, especially when you’re still doing live events.
- Define your audience clearly and make sure your messaging speaks to them
- Start an email newsletter if you don’t have one already
- Make a free offer (for example, run a contest, make a downloadable pdf, or make a page of goodies accessible only by email subscribers) for visitors that will make them want to join your email newsletter mailing list
- Add products to your website and do SEO for each product page
- Optimize existing content to move up in search rankings
- Use your content to increase social media followers and engagement
- Create more shareable content, also optimized for search
- Go back through existing content and figure out what can be repurposed or refreshed
- Promote your business with online ads, social media, podcast guesting, media profiles
- Find a virtual event or team up with other creatives and make your own.
- Find out where you stand in search engine rankings and make improvements to your site’s content so you can improve traffic
- Have resources available at live events to steer visitors to your online newsletter, soical media, and website
What if you don’t have a website already?
There are a few options
- Social media platforms
- Create a shop on an e-commerce site
- Build your own site on its own domain
You could rely on social media alone. In my opinion, however, relying on one or two social media platforms as your entire web presence is risky, simply because you are at the mercy of whatever decisions those platforms make.
Use social media to amplify your content, share curated items, and engage with your customers. Try to get more engagement on social platforms where you already have a presence, and perhaps branch out to other platforms.
A shop on a large e-commerce site
Another option is a place like Etsy, Amazon, or Ebay. The drawback of these sites is also their benefit: lots of vendors who sell something similar in the same place, which makes it easy to get traffic but also provides more competition.
A site on your own domain
Or you can put up an online store/website of your own. Some choices are Shopify, Squarespace or WordPress. You can DIY any of those, or pay someone to do basic setup and customization.
You don’t necessarily need a fancy, fully customized site that will cost a ton of money and take months, but you should have a site with its own domain, not one that is a subdomain of a website builder.
I know this is a lot to think about, especially if you’ve never created a website before.
Here’s the good news about making a new website. You have the opportunity to start from scratch and make sure your site and its content are optimized from the beginning, which makes it more likely to get traffic that will turn into buyers.
First, focus on getting the site operational, adding an email opt-in form, and getting products in place. As soon as that’s done, optimize content for your audience and for search engines and look into some of the marketing suggestions mentioned above.
- Choose a great domain name
- Make sure your messaging is optimized for the people you want to attract
- Plan ahead so your content structure is optimized for search
- Create content with SEO (search engine optimization) in mind
- Optimize pages, posts, and products (on-page SEO)
YOU DON’T NEED TO DO IT ALL ALONE
If you need help figuring all this out, I can help. Find out how to work with me here.