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Starting an online business soon? Here are my predictions for how to succeed in 2016

The online world can feel like a tough gig sometimes. No sooner have you mastered a strategy to market your website, the goalposts change and suddenly there’s a new tool/strategy/social media platform on the horizon that you *have* to learn. Doesn’t it sometimes feel like you are forever playing catch up?

I wanted to use this post to help entrepreneurs get away from that shiny object syndrome, whilst still acknowledging tactics that will work now – in 2016 – rather than in a good old days of the internet (when was that exactly?).

So here are my predictions for what is going to help your business succeed this year; solid proven, strategies that will help you avoid the fads and trends that can set you off path.

Become comfortable with the idea of paying for traffic

I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but if you hoped to create a flourishing business on organic (i.e. free) traffic alone, then you are mistaken.

I read a great quote recently that put the whole organic vs paid thing into perspective for me and I’d like to share it with you (apologies for not revealing my source as I can’t remember where I read it from. If it belongs to you let me know so I can credit you!):

There’s no such thing as free traffic. ‘Free’ traffic still requires expertise, time and effort in mastering search engine optimization, social media etc. It’s definitely not free.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? And the reality is, if you are serious about your business then you really should be investing money in your marketing, and one of the most straightforward ways to do that is to pay for traffic. There’s plenty of ways to do that and here’s some of my favorite:

  • Facebook advertising: It’s so important to me I’ve produced an entire course on it. It isn’t as cheap as it used to be, but it’s still very effective and profitable if you know what you are doing.
  • Instagram advertising: You can do this via the Facebook platform. If you have an instagram profile, I’d definitely recommend it. It’s still very new to the platform, so Instagrammers don’t have the same sort of ad banner blindness that they have (trust me, I’ve clicked on dozens of ads myself).
  • Banner ad buys: Buying banner space on other websites has been around for a long time, so you might be surprised to see it in a 2016 blog post. So why did I include it? Because it still works. You can approach a website directly (worth doing, but research the website on Alexa first) or use a third party (e.g. buysellads.com)
  • Payperclick: PPC i.e. advertising on Google, Bing etc has fallen out of fashion in recent years. I think that will start changing in 2016. So many advertisers have fallen out of love with PPC that it is a pretty open market (unlike Facebook which is getting more competitive by the day). What I like about PPC is that you are getting the ‘perfect’ customer to your website – when someone is searching online, they are the most likely visitor to be in a ‘buying’ mindset – selling to that person is easy. Here’s a link to a free PPC training course that I personally recommend – it’s by one of the industry’s leading experts in the field: enroll on this free PPC course¬†

Learn how to do retargeting. It’s not as complicated as it sounds

Retargeting is a must for any business. If you aren’t familiar with the term, retargeting is where you advertise to people who have already visited your website. You will have experienced this yourself, even if you aren’t aware of it. You might notice a banner ad occasionally for a website you visited (you might even see it advertising the actual product you were thinking of purchasing). Adroll is one of the leading companies for retargeting, or you can retarget yourself on Facebook using their custom audience feature (I’ll write a full post on this at a later date).

Retargeting works because you’ve already ‘won’ over that person when they visited your website. They know about you, they’ve heard of your brand, and they are much more likely to pay attention to an ad you place in front of them.

In short, retargeting is incredibly profitable for any online business. So make sure you use it

Connect with your customer on a deeper level

Customers value personal connections with the people they are buying from. That is an ancient rule of marketing. But for your business, this is something that is going to be essential if you want to stand out from the online competition in 2016, which is only going to get more fierce.

So how do you build a connection with your audience? Well, blogging is the obvious route, but why not try video instead? If people can see you or hear your voice, it helps them relate to you. Alternative, try an app such as Periscope, where you can live stream to your audience.

Instagram is my favorite social media platform for promoting my business – and here’s why

I’ve spent a huge part of 2015 just experimenting with different ways to drive traffic, so that I can help my customers get a great return for the time they spend on their business. And hands down, Instagram has been consistently one of the best ways of growing an audience rapidly and driving traffic back to your website. It isn’t as saturated as other social media platforms, and Instagrammers are incredibly receptive to what you have to offer.

Plus, Instagram is a lot of fun (business doesn’t have to be boring!). I personally love the visual element of it, and it’s pretty addictive. If you are good with aesthetics and can put together a visually appealing Instagram page, then your business may reap the rewards.

My friend and owner of Shop Compliment, Melissa Camilleri has used Instagram to grow her entire business and she now runs a fantastic course teaching others how to do the same. You can find out more about her course here:

Instagram 21 day course

Keep learning

Marketing online changes rapidly and you need to move forward with it. Your number 1 priority should always be about connecting with your customers, but high on your list of priorities should be learning new tactics that are going to help your business grow. Don’t become complacent. If you are profitable, you are driving regular traffic to your website, and you have happy customers, that doesn’t mean you are doing things perfect. Neither does it mean that you’ll still be seeing that same success in 6 months from now. There is always room for improvement, and you always need to try and stay one step ahead of the competition.

Stay connected with other entrepreneurs

If you are a solo entrepreneur, it’s really important that you create solid connections with other business owners. This isn’t just for your own sanity as you spend day after day on your laptop in your pyjamas. It’s also because business connections are one of the most valuable ways you can grow your business. You can connect with people from around the world and you never know what sort of alliances or joint ventures you could forge with these entrepreneurs. Find the right person, and they could help propel your business forward faster than you ever imagined.

Now I’m passing the question on to you. What’s your prediction for 2016? How are you planning to do things differently this year to help grow your business? What tips would you give other entrepreneurs? Drop a note in the comments box below.

* Disclaimer: I’m an affiliate for some of the recommendations in this blog post, and may receive commission for any purchase made through my link. I only ever recommend things that I’ve personally used myself and are of the highest quality.¬†

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