Small businesses have boomed in this new normal. Whether it’s Facebook shops selling pandemic essentials or Instagram shops monetizing craft-making hobbies, they’re good platforms for earning income at a time when money is harder to come by.
If you’re thinking of starting your own, we’ve got some tips for you.
Put in the research
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t jump headfirst into your business without looking into it first. “Research all angles about the business you want to start,” says Alexa, a sales executive who started an online plant shop with a friend near the onset of quarantine. Getting clear on your business idea’s possible pitfalls will save you a lot of headaches—and pesos.
You’ll need to go further than just the basics, too. You might have a great product or service, but if you don’t know who you’re selling it to, there’s little chance it can take off. “Don’t just think of the product and your market but think of their needs and how you can fulfill those needs by relating it to your product,” says Alexa.
Build a following
Establishing your online presence and having your own loyal customer base is integral to the success of any business, but it’s especially important for a small business. Your following will dictate whether or not your business will thrive. “Have a consumer-centric business model, not product-centric,” advises Alexa.
Now that you’ve done the research and know your audience, you’ll have to start building your business around them. For instance, where are they on the internet? If your target market are the titas of Manila who primarily live on Facebook, it wouldn’t make sense to direct all your efforts into creating an Instagram-only shop. Meet them where they are.
You need to be able to strategize well to attract a good following. With a good strategy, you’ll know what to invest your time and money in. For example, if you’re selling quirky handmade accessories for Gen Z kids, then it might be a good idea to start a TikTok and give them a look into your process, messy workstation and all. But if you’re selling accessories for the tastemakers of Instagram, it’ll pay to have a more curated Instagram feed with high-quality product photos.
Once you have a solid enough following, you can start investing in building your own website, (you don’t have to do it from scratch, you can buy a template from Wix or Squarespace), buying advertising space on Facebook and Instagram, or hopping on a selling platform. Word of advice: Doing the latter can bolster your own following. Joining a group of other sellers with large followings can help you grow yours. It doesn’t hurt to maximize partnerships with fellow small business owners.
Speaking of building partnerships with fellow small business owners, networking is also key in building your business. Other entrepreneurs in the same boat can help boost your sales posts by cross posting them on their platforms, and if you’ve built a good enough relationship with them, you could even have your products on their online shelves.
Of course, be strategic about this. Customers might not be willing to buy from you if you’re partnered with a low-quality business. On the other hand, a good co-sign from a popular brand with consistently good products would draw in a lot of buyers.
Make sure you’re accessible. This doesn’t just mean answering DMs and comments promptly—though of course this is important (“Always be accommodating to queries, even if they get irritating sometimes,” Alexa quips)—but also listening to the concerns of your customers.
For instance, if you’re starting an online fashion shop, you should listen to your customers if they have problems with your sizing and measurements. As a plus-sized person, I’ve rolled my eyes and unfollowed Instagram stores that reply to questions about sizing with, “It’s free size!”
Accessibility also applies to your payment channels. With digital banking on the rise, many customers like having the option of sending their payments through bank transfers. Because of this, it’s a good idea to have an account with banks like BDO. The likelihood of your customers having accounts is high, and allowing them to do intra-bank transfers means that they won’t have to pay transfer fees when making their payments to you. However, other customers might still prefer checkout options—on a personal note, I know that there are some transactions I’d rather pay with my credit card.
In truth, convenient payment methods can spell the difference between a one-time and a repeat customer. I know that’s true for me, at least: If I know that buying from a certain shop is a hassle, the likelihood of me buying again (even if I do like the products) is small.
One payment method you can look into is BDO’s Checkout service. It allows online sellers to accept credit and debit cards on top of their current modes of payments even without a website. Sellers just need to create a Checkout link and send to their buyers over any messaging app—helpful for Instagram or Facebook shops. It’s safe and secure for buyers, while it keeps sellers organized. You get a real-time view of your customer transactions, and monitor your cashflow through the dashboard. Plus point: You don’t have to worry if this system is secure or not, like you would with other checkout systems, since it’s connected to a trustworthy bank.
Don’t be intimidated by the steps and tips we’ve laid out! We’ve prepared an easily digestible checklist of best practices.
Small business 101:
Research, research, research!
Grow a social media presence
Offer convenient payment options
Network with similar businesses
Starting your own online business can be daunting, but it’s worthwhile, especially in these tough times when extra sources of income are harder to come by. And though growing it isn’t easy, it’s not impossible either. Many inspiring entrepreneurs like Pampanga’s Best’s Denise Alelis have shown that, with the right partners, it’s possible even during this time of adversity. Good luck!