In 2008, I founded and launched a website (DesignCrowd.com) with a laptop, $10,000 in savings and 3 credit cards.
Today, DesignCrowd is a leading global design service for small businesses and is approaching $20 million in revenue per year with customers in more than 100 countries and over 500,000 designers from around the world.
Recently, we launched a second website BrandCrowd – an online design maker tool for small businesses and entrepreneurs – which is doubling in size each month.
While we started our business in Sydney, we always wanted it to be global.
Since we launched, we have received over $12 million venture capital funding to help us scale the business internationally and today 85 per cent of our revenues come from outside of Australia.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve learned plenty about trying to grow an online, global business from Australia (and I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way).
A few months ago, I spoke in depth about my experience on the Collab Zone Radio podcast (an Australian podcast series that is part of Collab Zone, a networking and collaboration community powered by ANZ).
Top nine tips on how to grown your business online
As a follow up to this podcast interview, I’m writing this article to share some of these lessons and my ‘top tips’ for growing a business online.
1. Think big
When it comes to planning the launch or growth of your business, bigger is better.
The bigger the market, the more opportunity for growth and as Steve Jobs said “We’re here to put a dent in the universe.”
Think Australia-wide, think global and go for it.
2. Understand your market
Before diving in, it’s really important to understand the market. What do your potential customers want? What are other businesses offering online and what is working well for them?
Research what people are searching for online. Understand which products, services or phrases people are typing into Google (using a tool like Google trends).
The more you know about the people who are buying, the better you’ll be able to cater to them.
3. Offer something awesome
Whether you’re an ice cream shop or an e-commerce startup, the most important ingredient for online growth is to have an amazing product and constantly improve it.
Constant evolution of your product will increase loyalty and longevity of your business.
If you have something great (and different) to offer, your business is going to grow AND it will grow faster and more easily than something that everyone else is offering.
4. Invest in great design
How your website looks and works is essential to maximising growth.
Nobody likes navigating a clunky and counterintuitive interface and a smoother browsing experience will mean potential customers will be happy to spend more time on your website.
Get a great logo design (I am biased but I would recommend using DesignCrowd’s logo crowdsourcing service or try BrandCrowd’s logo design maker) and get an awesome website design.
5. Never stop testing
Once your business or website is launched, you need to try to improve things constantly.
Whether it’s your advertising or your website design or your prices – you need to be constantly testing and measuring the results. Never stop testing, and your business will never stop growing.
6. Google is king
Most businesses trying to grow online are going to need to find customers through Google. Google is still king.
Consider running ads on Google (at least test it to see if it will work for you) and make sure your website is friendly to its search rankings. Google it (!) if you don’t know where to start – there’s plenty of info out there.
You might also consider writing some blog posts that could help attract visitors to your website.
7. Word of mouth is key
If Google is king, then word of mouth is queen.
Work on improving your product and service and delighting your customers.
Consider adding features that encourage a ‘viral loop’ or getting your customers to share their experience with their friends and colleagues.
8. Measure Everything
The following two things are true:
- it is hard to improve something you’re not measuring and
- anything that is measured and watched will improve.
One fantastic aspect of running an online businesses is the amount of data you can get your hands on. Traffic data, click through rate, conversion rate, bounce rate, lifetime value and so on.
Figure out what your important metrics are, measure them and then test things that can make an improvement.
9. Start immediately
Before you grow online your business online you have to start!
Get a domain name, get a logo, get a website, write a business plan, create a Facebook page – JUST GET STARTED.
Taking action is the first step to turning your idea into a real business.
Alec Lynch is the CEO of DeisgnCrowd.
The Collab Zone Radio podcast series is available through the Collab Zone online platform and iTunes. The community is dedicated to connecting like-minded small business owners and supporting them with useful information to help start, run and grow their businesses. For more information about Collab Zone and Collab Zone Radio, or to join the community, visit www.collabzone.com.au. Listen to Alec Lynch’s interview on Collab Zone Radio’s first episode here.