Let’s get straight to the point here. Building up a business from scratch is difficult. Often, the first few years of starting a business are the most challenging and stressful you are ever likely to experience – especially with the struggle to market your ideas in a cost-effective way (hint…Social Media). With cash flow being notoriously volatile during the early years, and building a respected brand taking plenty of time, the first year or two of business is pretty much guaranteed to stress out any entrepreneur. There is one area of business though, that once good foundations are set down, can have good implications across the board. With a few rare exceptions, making sure your ‘online footprint’ is as good as possible, should be a priority for any new business. From good looking websites, to well thought-out social media posts, your online presence should be uniform and as simple as possible to decipher from your rivals. A good online presence will often mean more engagement, and more engagement will often mean more sales. When setting up your business initially, there is no better place to start, than with your website. Yes, Your Small Business Website is Still King If you are thinking to yourself that a website is not really a necessity these days, think again. Whilst social media accounts may very well be the place that you engage with your customer base, you can leave yourself in a pretty desperate situation should that particular social network close down or change its terms of service. Having a website, even if it is a basic one, will give you some peace of mind, knowing that should your social network of choice become less popular (or even cease to exist), you will still have a presence on the web. It can be especially tempting for small B2C companies to forget about their website when they sell so readily on other platforms, but should the ‘bottom fall out’, you can end up with no sales, and no way of getting your customer database back. For those of us without deep knowledge of coding or web design, plenty of options are available to build simple, elegant, and functional websites that look like they have been built by the professionals. Many website builders will now use a ‘drag and drop’ system, where you can design the look of your website by simply, yes you’ve guessed it, dragging and dropping the desired style onto your pages. While there are more complex builders out there, the need to use them has decreased rapidly over the last ten years. If you aren’t a website expert, do yourself a favour and let a company like Squarespace or Wix do the heavy lifting. Engage Small Business Experts If you aren’t an expert in some aspects of starting your small business – don’t worry, it’s impossible to be an expert in every facet of entrepreneurship – you can always hire an expert. Some common areas where small business owners engage experts include: Website Security Encrypting Internet Traffic Stock Photography Licensing VOIP Communication Solutions POS Systems Antivirus Software Reasonable Pricing for Custom Technical Solutions Accounting Software Cloud Deployments These services can also end up saving you money as well as time. For example, online bookkeeping software can alleviate the need for an accountant to deal with the financial side of things, or using the right VOIP service could save you a small fortune on international calls. If there is an area of business that isn’t your strong point, take heed from the experts to avoid regrets later. Social Media Marketing for Small Business When it comes to social media, making sure you atleast have a presence on the most popular sites is always a good idea for businesses that deal with sales direct to the consumer. This doesn’t mean you need to be tweeting every hour, or updating your Facebook feed every day, but having at least a presence on the big networks will help you look more professional, and will increase your visibility on search engines – potentially increasing your traffic quite considerably. If you are new to social media, again, feel free to listen to those who are ‘in the know’ when it comes to using these services to increase your brand awareness. Plenty of websites offer tips for using social media within business. Once your ‘digital foundations’ are set up, you should be in a position to concentrate on the actual business itself. Trying to sort out the technical side of your new business whilst you are also trying to keep on top of a burgeoning workflow can place unnecessary stress on you, and as anyone who has tried to juggle too many tasks at once will understand, prioritising one task at a time not only produces better results but it is also far less stressful to achieve. Put yourself in the strongest position possible by getting your online presence sorted out early. If you’re ready to start your own small business, here are some quick steps to help you move from startup to profitability quickly: Hire a qualified attorney and CPA. These two people will help safeguard you against self-inflicted wounds with the IRS in the early-stages of your business. Plus, if you need to raise capital, you will be taken more seriously if you have the basic legal and financial foundation for your business fully in place. Choose the shortest path to market, with the highest probability of success. Don’t get hung up on the idea that you need to be absolutely perfect in your first run – that’s an expensive goal that will require you to sacrifice more equity and time than is wise. Use targeted Facebook advertising to reach your target market. PPC campaigns can be very expensive. Social media advertising provides a higher ROI for startups with smaller budgets. Find 5-10 valuable things you can give away for free to establish your expertise and industry knowledge. If you want customers to trust a new business, you need to give them some proof that you’re more than a shiny logo. I wish you the best success in your venture! And I look forward to hearing from you in the comments section below.