By: James Bender, Marketing Specialist

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From providing online courses to offering video consultations, there are many ways to bring your business online and on track while working remotely. — James Bender/Bender Marketing Services

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There’s no doubt coronavirus (COVID-19) has drastically changed the business landscape in 2020, with more businesses than ever encouraging or requiring employees to work from home. While this may be somewhat difficult for many larger businesses, many smaller local businesses will not be able to physically stay open during this time. This may result in many local businesses closing their doors during this time and loosing money.

But don't worry! Fortunately for us, we have access to the internet. This means that many businesses can utilize the many online tools the internet offers. There’re many online alternatives to selling a service or product in person, such as Ecommerce, online courses, and video consultations (we will discuss more of these alternatives below).

Here are five ways you can migrate your business fully online. Looking for the best online tools to use for business communication? Checkout our Top Online Business Tools article.

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#1 Offer an Online Course Teaching your Specialty

We love online courses here at Bender Marketing Services! Online courses are a great way to learn at your own pace from virtually anywhere (as long as you have an internet connection). This is a great opportunity for local businesses to teach a skill they may have with video, audio, and written content to teach their interested audience. Wondering how to find my ideal audience? Checkout our Find your Ideal Customer with Online Advertising article.

Now I understand, you may be hesitant to start an online course teaching your forte. I mean you may be asking yourself questions like . . . "What would I teach?", "How do I record my lessons?", and most importantly "How do I get people to purchase my online course?". Of course, these are all great questions! Now by no means am I saying this is going to be "easy"; however, it can definitely be done. There are many online course softwares out there that give you the ability to record and upload your entire course agenda, accept payments, and manage your class. Having an online course is a great way to offer the teachings of a topic you are an expert at. Some examples of local businesses that offer online courses are hair salons (offering DIY dye your hair), yoga studios (offering online pre-recorded and live yoga classes), restaurants (offering DIY cooking classes). 

Now many business owners are busy and may not be too tech savvy. Fortunately for the un-tech-savvy business owners out there, Bender Marketing Services offers a fantastic Online Course Development Service, offering you the ability to create your own content while we do the tech work!

Set virtual office hours and be present on instant messaging apps throughout the day to help support customers.

#2 Sell your Products Online with Ecommerce

Online selling, better known as e-commerce, has truly hit its stride. In fact, Forrester reports that e-commerce sales in 2011 topped $202 billion and is projected to increase 62% to reach $327 billion in 2016. With this much money on the table, it may be time to consider taking your business online. Fortunately, getting started is easier than you might think.

Decide what products to sell. Before you do anything, it's important to decide what types of goods you'll sell online. Whatever you choose, it's important to work with products that you're passionate about. Chances are, you'll be working with these products day in and day out, so make sure it's something that won't easily bore you in the future. If you don't have products on hand, take a look at various drop-shipping providers—you can conveniently choose from their product list and sell them on your own site.

Choose the best e-commerce solution for you. Depending on your budget and level of expertise, the next step is to decide which type of e-commerce solution is ideal for your store:

  • Hosted: Hosted solutions house your website on their servers, as well as provide web-based software to build and power your online store. This type is best-suited for beginners in site building.

  • Licensed: Licensed solutions are out-of-the-box platforms that you install onto a computer. Unlike hosted solutions, you're required to find your own hosting and security protections, which can be tricky.

  • Open source: Open source solutions are typically free downloads that require you to build your website from scratch. While this is a great choice for full customization, expect to do some heavy programming to configure the site—which may mean you'll need to hire someone.

Start building your store. Now it's time to start building your store. Depending on the type of solution you chose, you'll want to learn its functionality and begin setting up your important pages, including your product and category pages, home page and content pages, and more. Keep in mind that you'll want to consider branding and design every step of the way—these are important elements to the success of any e-commerce site.

Pick a domain name. Your domain name is the web address (URL) where customers find your online store. This is a big business decision, so don't take it lightly. If you can, pick a domain name that's short, simple and describes your business. After that, decide on your extension (.com, .biz, .net) and register it with a domain name provider.

Get paid. We're all in business to make money, right? The next step before launching your store is to decide how you'll receive payment from your customers. Many first-timers start off with PayPal or Google Checkout, but you also have the option to accept credit cards directly on your site, which is the preferred and more professional route. If this is the case, you'll want to research credit card processing options, particularly merchant accounts to make sure that you're clear on all of the rates and fine print.

Market your business. Once your website is ready for the world to see, you need to drive customers to your store with marketing. Whether you leverage email, social media, SEO or other forms of online marketing, it's critical that you share your store with the masses. In other words, even if you have the most amazing site in the world, if no one can find your store, you'll struggle to pay the bills.

Selling online can be a rewarding experience that allows you to express yourself and your entrepreneurial spirit. More importantly, it can be the way to start a new business or grow an existing one. If you're ready to get started, these six steps can help keep you on the right track to success.

We understand that developing an online store is time consuming and can be difficult, so Bender Marketing Services offers an all-in-one Ecommerce development service. Be sure to schedule a free online video chat with one of Bender Marketing Services' strategy specialists to discuss a plan for your business.

#3 Pre-Sell Gift Cards and Appointment Vouchers

Businesses need cash flow right now, and the easiest way to help them out is to buy some gift cards to use down the road. This is a great way to lessen the hurt for cash flow by offering gift-cards online. 

Lots of shops are offering gift card bonuses right now, so treat yourself. Even better, treat someone else. Email a gift card that lets your nurse friend order some after-work tacos. Donate an art store gift card to your local school. Or stock up on cards from coffee shops, nail salons, yoga studios and bookstores to hand out as gifts down the road. It may be hard to believe, but Mother’s Day, birthdays and teacher appreciation week are still going to happen this year. Get your gift-shopping done now when it can make a huge impact on a struggling local business.

Offering digital gift-cards  is a great way to spruce up your cashflow. Let Bender Marketing Services help setup an online gift-card  store for your customers. Schedule a free online video chat with one of Bender Marketing Services' strategy specialists to discuss a plan to offer gift-cards for your business.

To help you manage your business through the coronavirus crisis, Bender Marketing has created a toolkit for businesses and a customizable flyer for businesses to communicate their coronavirus efforts to customers.

Bender Marketing — aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a Bender Marketing professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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