Owning a small business has never been easy. However, in today’s highly competitive and increasingly crowded global marketplace the challenges are more formidable than perhaps ever before. That means that if you want your agency not just to survive but to thrive, then you may need to leave your comfort zone and think beyond traditional brick-and-mortar operations.
Indeed, for most businesses today, success is predicated on the ability to navigate the online world effectively.
Consider the digital native
Nowadays, cultivating a robust digital presence for your business isn’t just a luxury. It’s a necessity. That means understanding, accommodating, and capitalizing on the unique needs, requirements, and expectations of digital natives—those who came of age in the aftermath of the digital revolution.
These are the teenagers and young adults who probably received their first digital device as toddlers, who may have learned to read and write on a digital screen, and who have developed their own set of criteria for engaging with the global marketplace.
These are consumers who want more than a transactional relationship with the businesses they support. They also want engagement, interaction, and fulfilling experiences.
Therefore, it’s essential to use a multi-pronged approach for your online operations. At a minimum, you will need an up-to-date website that enables customers to engage with you and with fellow customers directly through discussion forums, chats and related media. Ideally, your website will feature a blog or news feature that will allow your target audience to learn more about topics related to your business, its products or its services.
Above all, your agency website should be optimized for multiple platforms and for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, which are the primary online access channels for young adults.
Perhaps your greatest tool for engaging target audiences of all ages is social media. Social media provides the accessibility and immediacy that both digital natives and members of the older generations value.
Platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok are particularly suited for millennial and Generation Z audiences because of their video-rich content. While baby boomers and Gen Xers tend to prefer more traditional platforms, such as Facebook.
By using a saturation approach that includes customized content for each of the major platforms, you can drive brand awareness and engage customers from around the world. Best of all, social media automation tools mean that you don’t have to devote your entire workday to managing your accounts. Once you have the marketing content you need, you’re free to address other issues—such as fielding customer inquiries or addressing their online comments.
As essential as a strong online presence is for your business, there are risks. One of the most critical is the threat that your agency’s intellectual content may be stolen. Therefore, it is imperative to protect your agency’s proprietary material—from your brand to your blog.
It’s also vital to safeguard your intellectual property from internal threats, including theft, misuse, and mishandling by employees, contractors, and other third-party stakeholders. Requiring staff and stakeholders to sign nondisclosure agreements before they are granted access to sensitive proprietary content is imperative—particularly if you decide to take some or all of your operations online and begin contracting with remote workers in the digital office environment.
Running a small business is a labor of love. Your business is more than just a company, after all. It’s also your baby. And, in today’s challenging market environment, one of the best ways to ensure your baby grows big and strong is to cultivate a robust online presence.
Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, education, and fitness-related content. When she isn't writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.