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Top digital tips for small businesses "not keeping up with technology"

The Drum hears from individuals in the digital industry to find out their top tips for getting online.

The European Commission's Digital Agenda revealed earlier this month that only 14 per cent of businesses are selling their products online, despite over 70 per cent of Britons shopping online. With British businesses being described as "not keeping up with technology", we asked digital agencies across the country to give their top tips for businesses struggling to respond to the growing need for a strong online presence. KNOW WHO YOU ARE“What’s your story? At Folk we see brands as storytellers, and in order to have meaningful engagements and digital strategies there needs to be an authentic understanding of what a brand’s story is. Without this, I can't really see how a brand can grow and succeed online. We see so many brands panicking because they haven't got a Facebook or Twitter presence – but without having something interesting to say to the right people, these social tools are irrelevant. If a brand knows who it is and its story, then the social strategy happens much more naturally, authentically and successfully." Joanna Cruickshanks, creative director, Folk DigitalRESEARCH“The first thing I would do would be to research the marketplace and see what opportunities there are and who the potential customer base would be. They need a clear understanding that the opportunity exists in the first place and that they are not going into a market that is hugely competitive. Secondly, look at competitors in the marketplace to see what they are doing and how they are doing it. Learn from them and put that into practice. Lastly, set a realistic budget – you get what you pay for. I do believe if you invest in e-commerce in the right way, with the right tools, guidance and support, then there is every likelihood you will be a success online and as your business grows, it will grow with you.” John Cavanagh, SEO & online marketing specialist, Digital SixDELEGATE “People, time and delegation! We have a lot of SMEs that fail with this basic necessity to employ someone who is committed to making sure you succeed online. They must have knowledge of the industry and the time to make processes happen. As the owner of a small business you probably won't have enough time in the week to properly focus on what's really needed and keep up with current trends. Don't try to spread yourself too thinly by doing it all yourself. With this in mind, get three estimates before committing a company to build your online presence. And don't just assume the cheapest quote wins – get referrals and choose companies who are proven in the industry. This is an industry which is still in its infancy and there are a lot of cowboys in the 'wild west' of the digital market!” Elisabeth Mancini, creative director, YOMAACCESS FREE SUPPORT“Access free support for small businesses and approach the city council for grants. So many small businesses are not aware that the city council supports this kind of thing and they can approach places like the Chamber of Commerce with problems, be they financial or digital, and they come to agencies like us. We then go into small businesses and conduct audits of the activity they are doing, and come back with recommendations, helping them along with their knowledge with the hope they can implement some of these changes themselves. Ross Hamill, senior account manager, Spider OnlineUSE FREE MARKETING TOOLS“Google Analytics tells you who’s visiting your site, how they are finding you and what they’re looking at, kissinsights.com asks your website visitors questions to understand what they want and mailchimp.com is a great vehicle for emailing existing customers to remind them you’re there and that you want to work with them. These are just a few examples of the many tools out there. And don’t ignore change – mobile internet access is expected to overtake desktop access, so if your website isn’t accessible or usable on a mobile device, start thinking about this now. The digital world moves quickly and those businesses that have a good understanding of how their customers are accessing information online will have the greatest success when it comes to targeting them.” Chris Kell, Sales Director, 9xb digitalBLOG“My top tip would be to make sure your website has a supply of fresh, unique content. A blog is the easiest way to achieve this. You don't have to blog every day, or even every month, just do what you can. Use your blog to help people and demonstrate your expertise – not to sell. Add helpful information, images, or better still videos– content that your competitors don’t have. Video doesn’t have to be professional, just informative, and use Facebook and Twitter – they're free! Use them to share your best blog posts and engage with other people who would be interested in your content.” Ben Acheson, head of SEO & social media, DigivateCONSISTENCY“Some businesses treat online and in-store as completely different entities. But customers see you and your brand as one; on the high street, on the phone and online. So offer the same customer experience and customer service that you would if they came into the shop. Always look to improve from customer feedback through usability testing, questionnaires, and even trying little things like AB split testing –you can't always change prices, but you can change the way the page visibility looks! Embrace customer feedback and test until you find what works for your business. Katrina Brownless, digital marketing manager, Orange BusLightbulb image via Shutterstock

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