The Internet has changed how we do business. For lifestyle businesses, this is a great thing.
In the past, many things limited the potential of lifestyle businesses. They could only target local markets. Print, radio and television advertising were usually too expensive, and manpower was always limited. They competed with other small businesses, not the big box retailers. They couldn’t afford to.
Now in the Internet Age, many of these limitations can now be overcome, making it possible for lifestyle businesses to grow and compete with larger companies.
There are many reasons why lifestyle businesses will thrive in the next decade. Below are a few of those reasons along with action steps you can use to seize these opportunities for your lifestyle company.
Opportunity #1: Internet Tools For Improved Efficiency
The Internet has allowed business owners to focus on the most important parts of running their business. They don’t have to do everything themselves anymore. Tons of online tools and services are available to make running a business more efficient.
If you’re not good with numbers, you can use accounting tools like FreshBooks or Wave Accounting.
Easily run a background check on a prospective employee with Intelius. Perform marketing researching using SurveyMonkey.
Developing a business website has never been easier either. Amazon Web Services and 99deisgns can make web design as painless as possible.
With all of these tools readily available, it allows entrepreneurs and lifestyle business owners to concentrate on the things they’re good at. They’re not limited to their own personal weaknesses.
– You work hard enough as it is. Consider investing in a new tool or service to make your life a little easier. Tools can handle the things you struggle with or don’t like doing while you focus on more important areas of your business.
– Check out these 20 must have tools for small businesses.
Opportunity #2: Lower Costs And More Profit
The Internet is making it so lifestyle business owners can worry less about paying for expenses like utilities, rent and overhead and more about investing in activities that directly result in sales.
Communicating to customers is cheaper than ever. Social media is completely free, and email marketing is one of the best investments you could make. The ROI of email programs is typically the highest among online marketing efforts.
Some companies are completely online and don’t have to pay for space. Others have brick and mortar, but they don’t necessarily need as much storage because online communication has made re-stocking and re-ordering quick and efficient.
The Internet helps to reduce all those little expenses that eventually add up, giving lifestyle businesses wider margins.
– Invest in quality Internet and software up front. It’ll pay itself back by giving you more time to focus on sales.
– Reduce your overhead expenses by using software to handle tasks and specialized virtual assistants for administrative work instead of in-house employees.
– Reduce travel and training expenses by hosting or attending webinars or online seminars.
Opportunity #3: No One Knows You’re A lifestyle Business (Unless You Want Them To)
No one has to know that your company is made up of a single person or a handful of people. They don’t know how you create your products either.
You have the power to create any kind of brand image you want, because you control what customers see.
Some products require a different image than others. If you need to look like a big box retailer, you can, as long as you’re willing to invest a good amount of time and money into maintaining a website that portrays that image.
Inversely, some customers prefer to buy from smaller establishments. Original products like homemade chocolate or hand-carved wood sculptures are two products that would benefit from having a lifestyle business image.
– Create a target customer profile. Determine what they expect from a brand. Use a service like 99Designs to create basic branding. Use a service like Web.com to build a basic website.
– Use Usertesting to learn how customers interact with your website and brand.
– Make adjustments based on the results of those tests. A possible change might be to edit your About page to make it feel more like a large company or more like a small, lifestyle business.
Opportunity #4: Offer Better Customer Service (Than Big Companies)
Large retailers have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of customers making it impossible to address every one of their concerns.
With fewer customers to worry about, lifestyle businesses have an advantage. They can give their customers more attention.
The Internet has made customer service more personal and more custom. Lifestyle business owners can go above and beyond without a lot of extra effort.
One lifestyle business owner I know responds to every review he comes across that mentions his business. If it’s a positive review, he thanks the customers and expresses how happy he is to have given them a great experience. If it’s negative, he addresses the issue honestly.
Many big companies monitor social media for negative comments, but even then, how often are their responses to those comments as personal as the example I just mentioned?
Building a loyal customer base is easier when you can give each customer the attention he/she deserves.
– Use tools like Usertesting to make monitoring online behavior easier.
– Tweet Alarm and Hyper Alerts are monitoring tools for Twitter and Facebook.
– Keep an eye on complaint websites like NotGoodEnough.org, Yelp and Google Reviews.
Opportunity #5: You Get More Return For Social Media Followers
We’ve talked about this before. Everyone starts at the same place—no likes, followers, and readers. Social media is an even playing field, and anyone can use it to raise brand awareness and create leads.
In addition, one customer for a big brand via social media doesn’t make a big impact. But that one customer could be big for a lifestyle business.
While large companies may have a big social media budget, you don’t need one to have success. A big budget can’t buy loyal followers. You still have to engage. You still have to have a strategy, and you still have to be creative with how you utilise the different platforms.
Social media provides an affordable opportunity for lifestyle businesses to reach customers. About 75% of customers talk about brands on social media, and 64% of customers say they have made a purchase based on social content.
– If you haven’t yet, develop a social media marketing strategy that aligns with your marketing goals.
– Get creative with your social media marketing to differentiate your brand.
Opportunity #6: You Can Sell Anywhere Anytime
Geography isn’t an issue anymore. The number of markets is unlimited, and it doesn’t cost you a fortune to reach those markets.
Even the smallest business can go global.
Businesses account for more than 40% of all Australian goods exported, a number that continues to increase as it becomes easier for these businesses to expand into international markets.
These days you can target any market in the world using social media, email marketing, and other online marketing efforts. You can engage with like-minded customers and contribute to niche communities without having to have a physical presence in those communities.
With so many markets available, lifestyle businesses have every opportunity to grow.
– Invest in developing an international or multi-language SEO strategy.
– Identify potential markets using tools like Google Market Finder.
There’s nowhere to go but up for lifestyle businesses.
The Internet continues to provide tools and capabilities to help you overcome those common business limitations.
Try new things online. Invest in new tools. Take advantage of all the services out there are that could make your life easier and push your sales to the next level.
How has the Internet helped your lifestyle business?
Tell us in the comments.
Image: Firefly Coffeehouse