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Six Tips to Have An Effective Online Presence On A Shoestring Budget As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, leveraging digital technologies means creating business opportunities.

By Anna-Liisa Goggs

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Most businesses wouldn't think twice about whether or not to have a website or a social media presence, but as an entrepreneur working on a limited budget, you may want to think if it's worth the trouble or investment. However, as the world becomes increasingly interconnected, leveraging digital technologies means creating business opportunities.

As an accelerator for social entrepreneurs, the Dubai-based Consult and Coach for a Cause (C3) is leading by example taking advantage of existing digital resources to grow its business and achieve greater social impact. Working on a shoestring budget, C3 couldn't afford to design and develop a platform that manages and track mentoring and coaching relationships online. Nonetheless such a digital environment was needed (and in a short time!) to better engage with its community of social entrepreneurs, now scattered across the MENA region.

After extensive market research, rather than reinvent the wheel, C3 approached CoachingCloud, an online coaching and mentoring platform built for communities of experts and professionals. CoachingCloud's founders were excited to partner with C3, because supporting C3 meant contributing to its mission of fostering social enterprise in this region. C3 also engaged with DW Studio to redesign the website and integrate it with CoachingCloud in a seamless way: the fresher look and feel has boosted its online reach and appeal to the young community of emerging social entrepreneurs.

Going digital can provide the spark that is needed to ignite your business. If you are moving forward with it, here are a few tips that will make the process hassle free:

1. Define your W's

Your website and social media pages are the virtual shop window for your product or service, where potential clients will look for information to make business. Make this information as clear as possible. Start from the basics and keep in mind the 5 Ws rule:

- Who are you? Mission, vision, values and target. If you can tick all these boxes, you can create an identity and positioning for your company, with which people can relate with.

- What do you do or sell? Be clear in explaining what service or product you provide. Keep the information short, simple and visible.

- Why do you do it? All businesses have a purpose, whether purely commercial or social. Be transparent and cohesive on why you are doing it to keep the focus.

- Where? Where do you want to take your business, and where are your markets.

- When? Websites take time and effort to develop, make sure your launch date is realistic and in line with the timelines of your developer, your PR company, etc.

Once these aspects are clear in an entrepreneur's mind, developing the concept for the website is a smooth task, saving you both time and money during the process.

2. Plan in advance

Creating a website and social media pages with good visuals and engaging content takes time, so planning will make the process easier. Research what style your target segment likes, and get inspired by websites that you can use as a reference to define your own architecture and design. Define what type of information and features you want to include: a digital catalogue if you are selling a product? An embedded blog? A direct link to social media? Also, create content (text, images, audio) ahead of time to ensure that when you launch, your website already has good quality content and well-established social media feeds.

3. Simplify

If a website is not easy to navigate and user-friendly, it won't retain visitors. In the digital world, less is more, so establish key messages, write short sentences, use catchy images (not too heavy), keep features to a minimum and create a clean look.

4. Partner up

There are many platforms to create your own website for free. But why bother having a website like thousands of others, with poor performance and a non-professional look? If you can't afford an expensive web design company, then look into barter opportunities, or trade services or products with them, or work with freelancers or young professionals willing to build their portfolio. Trust in those who know how to handle the art and help them grow with you. If your business needs to manage operational processes online, such as e-commerce transactions, customer or community management, membership schemes or others, check first if there are white-label platforms out there already providing what you need. Don't reinvent the wheel, and partner with the best-in-class providers that can help scale your business faster.

5. SEO and social media

If you are creating a website, it's because you want to be found: so, investing in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is mandatory. There are three main aspects to SEO: you need to optimize your code to make it easy for the search engine to see what your page covers, you need content (that the search engine can read) and is worth linking to, and you need to get customers to start linking to you. Having social media pages is also crucial to connect with your target audience- you don't have to be active on all of them, just choose the right platform for your business.

6. Leverage your social mission

If your business has a positive social impact on the community, chances are that service providers would consider giving you discounts, or agree to terms favourable to you: they might want to contribute to your social or environmental mission. Also, positive news travel well on digital, and in particular, on social media: so make sure you prove and measure your social impact, and don't keep it as your best-kept secret!
Anna-Liisa Goggs

Co-founder and COO, C3 (Consult and Coach for a Cause)

Anna-Liisa Goggs is the co-founder and COO of C3 (Consult and Coach for a Cause).

Anna-Liisa is responsible for C3’s strategic and structural goals as well as its business performance, social impact and corporate governance. She was responsible for C3’s successful Social Enterprise Mark application and has developed strong links with corporates looking to become involved in skills-based volunteering.

Her previous experience as a corporate lawyer has given her a breadth of understanding of the corporate and legal world and she is passionate about giving back to the community and leveraging her background to help social enterprises maximise their business potential.

From 2006-2010, she worked for Linklaters in Dubai, working on high profile deals, such as the IPO for DP World. Then, as in-house counsel to a large family conglomerate, she advised on corporate governance, a group wide restructuring and gave contractual and structuring advice on M&A transactions. Most recently, she helped set up and support the corporate team for Herbert Smith's Abu Dhabi office.

Anna-Liisa holds an MBA with the Open University (England). She is a Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England & Wales and holds a BA Law with French from the University of Sheffield (England).

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