How to Use Your Online Knowledge to Help Offline Businesses

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By Susie L Jones

The Internet has become extremely important to every operating business, whether the marketplace is the local neighborhood or an entire continent. Businesses of all sizes are coming to heavily depend on the power of the Internet to get their products seen and their services delivered to their customers in more efficient and cost-effective ways. One of the most pressing needs these days is the growing trend to transition between the offline “bricks and mortar” storefront in a very localized area to an online presence. Most enterprises want to keep the local flavor of their businesses and need to have a professional help with that transition.

As the Internet has grown in popularity and influence, many traditional storefronts have been passed by. Understanding this new technology is a daunting task for many shop owners. Understanding the power and exploiting it well has never been easy, even in the early days. With the speed of change that is now occurring, the delivery of an online presence is even more of a challenge to develop and employ.

The number of local establishments migrating online grows with every passing day as the Internet becomes more deeply embedded into the daily lives of the consumer and retailer alike. To be successful, a business must be highly visible to the local market through local and regional Internet directories, Web portals, specialized websites such as blogs, and activity on various social media websites. Without these increasingly standard ways to stay in contact with the consumer, it becomes more and more difficult for even local businesses to compete.

Bridging the void between the physical storefront and the online experience has become a very lucrative field for specialized consultants. It is the consultant’s basic goal to suggest the best methods and practices necessary to address the unique needs of each individual business. They must be able to help transition local establishments into healthy and growing online entities. The job has never been more complex.

The consulting business must be able to provide the complete range of products and services required to make this transition. The menu of required services is wide and varied depending on the needs of the client. In the long run, the consulting professional must become the proverbial “Jack of All Trades.” The difference is that in order to deliver the ultimate product or service, the consultant’s business must excel in all areas, rather than be produced by a “master of none.”

The apparent paradox in delivering excellent work in all areas when it is virtually impossible to be an expert in every area is achieved through the magic of outsourcing. The client may only see a single name on the consultant’s business card, but that does not mean that the full use of a team of carefully chosen experts is not available behind the scenes. Each consultant’s team will be different, but there are a number of important positions that must be filled for the success of the enterprise and the ultimate satisfaction of the client.

It is the composition and construction of the team and the expertise each brings to the table that determines the overall success or failure of the consultant’s business. The consultant must be able to orchestrate the symphony of parts into the whole finished product. He is the driver that pushes each task to its appropriate location once the plan has been defined.

The team concept can often start right from the beginning, even before the actual consultant becomes involved. A commissioned sales force can be used to drive traffic using a variety of techniques. These may include, among others, networking, Referrals, cold calling, and word of mouth. In most cases, it is the consultant’s subsequent task to meet with the new client and to determine both their needs and expectations, and then implement those into the client’s journey to the Web.

The consultant must be the team leader of the business. By using a series of carefully crafted information gathering tools to determine the ultimate implementation and ongoing services that are required, an action plan is created. Once the overall plan is put to paper and approved, the consultant needs to become the quarterback of his virtual team and get the actual work done by those best qualified. Web development, hosting, writing, advertising, marketing and promotion all may require outsourcing by the consultant, depending on their skill set. Each detail must be handled.

When everything goes right, and the networking and cold calling pay off in multiple jobs, the team concept allows much greater volumes of work to be done efficiently. Multiple clients can be accommodated in the production funnel as the majority of work is farmed out to other Freelancers on the team. It takes time and effort to develop the network necessary to produce any team that excels in all areas. This outsourcing ingredient is very important for the professional looking to build a business that works fluidly, gains strong testimonials for past achievements, and continually grows over time. The best growth is through positive Referrals from satisfied customers, and that only comes from consistently under-promising and over-delivering superb results.

The final plan, as presented and authorized by the client before work is done, needs to determine the full extent of the consultant agency’s ongoing involvement. In many cases, much of the ongoing development and additions will be the responsibility of the client. If it is a storefront that is only interested in selling physical products, the need for maintenance will be minimal if the product mix rarely changes. In most cases, there would be a training period, and then the store would handle the maintenance of the e-commerce shopping carts as required.

If the new client’s Web presence is that of delivering ongoing, detailed, or proprietary information, attempting to become a recognized expert in the field or a “Web rock star,” a commitment must be obtained. It must be clearly understood that the business must provide the ongoing support of the blogs and other Web entities required. Only they would be able to furnish the fresh content required on a constant basis to keep both their customers and the Search Engines happy.

Even before the original project of producing a Web presence is finished and the client is established on the Internet, the ongoing maintenance schedule and fees for the account must be considered. The consultant often provides a hosting account for the business that in many cases is looking only to continue its accustomed routines. A single bill and peace of mind is all that the client requires. Maintenance of the physical website can be an important part of the residual income provided by the client.

Expansion of services is an important element of the ongoing income streams of the consultant. Increasing the visibility of the local store through inclusion in local advertising directories and Web portals takes time and ongoing effort. Online advertising and promotion strategies, such as e-mail campaigns and social media blitzes, are all offerings that need to be agreed upon and paid for by the customer.

As you can see, there is a vast amount of detail that needs to be dealt with in the journey from offline storefront to established online presence. The consulting professional’s purpose is to make this migration as painless as possible for every client. Each will present a different challenge. In the long run, it is the development of a professional “behind the scenes” outsourced team that will allow a single consultant to provide useful services to a wide variety of businesses in the local area. The stronger the team, the higher the number of clients the consultant can satisfy at one time.

Once the scope of the project has been defined, the resources needed to develop the solutions have to be placed into motion to ensure the satisfaction of the client. Besides the correct selection of the appropriate Web vehicle and supplementary online resources, networking, outsourcing, Web development, and social media all have large roles in defining the successful route onto the information highway that any offline business will need to take.

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Article Source: How to Use Your Online Knowledge to Help Offline Businesses

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