Moving business online to beat the downturn


Dollymount towards Dublin © Darran Morris 2009

With the current decline in the economy, budgets of businesses of all sizes have been hit hard, especially SME’s.

In Ireland in particular, after the bludget (as it charmingly got christened on Twitter), things are looking particularly grim. Alexia Golez has great first reactions to the budget here and Damien Mulley also eloquently handled it in his bludget post. There weren’t any significant measures taken to encourage or even enable enterprise, tech or otherwise, in these difficult times. Not even a mention of broadband, a basic enabler for small businesses in all regions of the country. Its hard to see anything in the budget for new and current businesses to give them an edge in this climate.

How can anything look good right now?

Well, I reckon right now, its not all doom and gloom. I think there are some great opportunities open to forward thinking businesses. Amazing companies started during economic downturns, by being innovative and taking advantage of the situation at the time.

Moving some or all of a business online can really crush some of the obstacles that are in the way.

The big glaring obvious advantage is that you can run a huge amount of different small businesses from your own house, and quickly reach a much bigger audience than a high street store or office building. You have instantly just dropped the cost of rent and possibly even some employees. 


Dollymount to Poolbeg © Darran Morris 2009

Lets take the example of an online store, but much of the stuff below applies to all kinds of online businesses. Instead of having to employ customer facing staff, the job could be done by a finely crafted website, designed to attract a specific target audience. Imagery and text portray the kind of attitude that customers would expect walking into a store. 

Products can be offered at lower prices than brick and mortar shops due to lower overheads. This gives shoppers great incentive to shop online instead of the high street. 

But what about customer service? Where is the human aspect? Well, with the huge upsurge in the use of social media such as blogs and social networks such as Facebook, Bebo and Twitter, the human aspect is returning to business online. There is now this incredible opportunity to place a business head and shoulders above the rest. Businesses can leverage the social aspect of the web to easily maintain the personal touch with customers online. 

Blogs are a great place to present the face of a company online. If a blog contains regularly updated useful information, the copy takes the right tone and can generate some buzz around an intriguing product or service, then you got yourself some free marketing! Submission to online directories such as Technorati(and also Irishblogs in Ireland), can help to raise the profile of a blog, as can submission social bookmarking sites such as Digg or

The new but intriguing and phenomenal rise of Twitter can also give a business great marketing opportunities. Perhaps even more than this, a great way to relate with customers. Twitter offers a chance to converse directly with potential and existing customers, with the world of Twitter users as an audience. Everything you and your clients say on Twitter is available for everyone to read. This allows savvy companies to create enormous good will by appearing helpful and willing to divulge helpful information on a frequent basis. Confrontation can be turned into kudos by simply quickly and effectively resolving customer problems with the world watching. 

As I discussed in a previous post, you can now tie a lot of the above elements together with string and sticky tape to present an all round web presence for your business. 

The point is, that with careful planning, design and a creative spark, businesses both young and old, big and small, can grab the bull by the horns and lead the way into the future.

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