Op-Ed: How to grow your business with the Internet’s help
According to Internet World Stats, an organization that periodically records the advancement of the Internet worldwide, more than 1.6 million people are connected to the web in Puerto Rico, this is almost half of the population and 50 percent more than those who were connected two years ago.
The progress that the Internet has had in Puerto Rico recently is undeniable. A recent study released by comScore showed that Puerto Ricans users are among those who spend the most time surfing in the region (16.2 hours a month per user, on average) and that among their favorite activities are getting informed, entering entertainment sites and accessing social networks.
If you’re reading this article it’s because you’re one of them and surely you have at least one email account, a social network profile, online photo albums or pay bills through the Internet.
In addition to sharing information, many of us use the Internet as a platform for doing business. And small and mid-sized businesses are not the exception, I would say, who are the main beneficiaries.
According to the latest report on the Economic Impact of Internet developed by McKinsey and BCG, small and mid-sized businesses that invest in emerging web technologies increase their revenue by 8 percent on average while reducing their costs.
If you are an entrepreneur, freelancer or have a company, taking the first steps on the Internet and enhancing your business is easier than you think, the important thing is to have an action plan and start early. These are the things you cannot miss:
1) Before starting. Think about the audience you want to reach. Do they have a local business? Are their users in Puerto Rico or in other countries? How do you want to communicate your company information? Communication must be consistent and logical, starting with the business cards, the tone in which we speak to customers, the local aspect and, of course, the design and content of our website.
2) Establish your online presence. Create your web page. When designing your page, present the information in an attractive, clear and orderly manner. Use images, videos, maps and descriptions of products and highlight the deals so the user experience on your site is positive. This will increase the chances of translating visits into customer.
3) Place yourself on the map. Nobody likes to get lost. And much less your customers when they are looking for you. Add your business to maps platforms like Google Places for Business so users may access your business’ information with other relevant information like address, hours of operation, photos and promotions.
4) Attract more customers. Did you know that eight out of 10 Internet users regularly consult the web to analyze their purchasing options? Why not try online advertising to reach those doing searches related to your business. You can create a Google AdWords campaign and appear in search results and pay only when users click on an ad and visit your site. When you design your campaign think about whether your customers may be searching from their cell. For example, if you have a restaurant in a commercial area, it is likely that many residents and locals look for the type of product you offer from their phone as they move from one place to another. Simply select the option to display your ads on a mobile platform.
5) Take advantage of social networking. They are efficient tools to reach a targeted and very active audience. In Puerto Rico, at least one third of Internet users have a profile on a social network. Take advantage of the fact that right now dialogue is on social networks and open profiles and for your business in media like Google+, Facebook or Twitter.
6) Bet on video. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and today, having your own communications channel through online video platforms like YouTube is simple to make and requires little budget.
7) Measure the results. It is the best way to assess your Internet strategy and understand if you’re on the right track or need to make adjustments. Use measurement tools to know how users access your site and how they act in it. Google Analytics allows you to monitor these behaviors and then make changes to your site to improve performance by increasing the number of visits, contacts and income.
These are some keys so that your first experiences on the Internet are successful. Because the most important thing is to maintain focus and follow your goal step-by-step without losing your way. And do not forget that this is only the beginning and that each passing day, thousands of new users go on the Web and each one is an opportunity to become a customer.