You’ve finally got a website for your business, because you know it’s the key to getting found by new customers who start most of their searches online.
But your website can do more than raise your visibility in search results.
It can also provide another revenue stream for your business.
Whether you sell physical goods in a brick-and-mortar location, provide in-person services to a local market, run a restaurant, or offer your freelance expertise online, there are ways you can make your website work harder for you.
One or more of these options may be just right for your small business site.
1. Build an Online Store
If you have a brick-and-mortar retail shop, selling your products online is an obvious choice to expand your market, but other businesses can benefit from having an online store, too.
Own a coffee shop or bakery? You can offer your branded merch (t-shirts, mugs) online along with special coffee blends or cakes and gift baskets. And any type of business can offer gift certificates online.
No physical products? No problem. If what you sell is expertise, consider putting some of it into e-books on topics that matter to your clientele, and sell them in your online shop. (We’ll talk more about expertise in a moment.)
Setting up an online store is easier than you may think. Gator Website Builder’s eCommerce plan gives you the templates and drag-and-drop tools you need to set up shop online fast.
The eCommerce plan supports HD video and audio so you can create compelling product videos, and you get tools to manage your inventory, calculate shipping and sales tax, and offer coupons to your customers.
2. Let Customers Book Appointments Online
Worldwide access to global knowledge is great, but I think the real benefit of the internet is being able to book appointments without a phone conversation between two harried people who toss out days and times until one works.
Setting up appointments online is easier for everyone—your receptionist can focus on other tasks, and your customers don’t get stuck on hold.
Online booking also lets customers reserve a spot whenever they’re ready, instead of having to wait for office hours to make a call. When you make people wait, they sometimes forget—or find a competitor who lets them book online, so you lose out.
You can add booking capability to your WordPress website with a plugin. One of the most popular is Booking Calendar, which lets you customize the fields customers will fill in, notifies you of new booking requests, and stores all your booking information in a single database so you don’t have to toggle back and forth to manage your client list and appointments.
3. Share Your Knowledge Online
Once you’ve been running your business successfully for a while, you’ll probably have insights other people will pay to learn. Writing, design, and coaching businesses are a natural fit for online one-on-one entrepreneur mentorship programs and group courses aimed people in the same field who want to learn more about some aspect of the business.
Other businesses can use this approach, too. Maybe you grew your landscaping business from zero to six figures in under two years. Other new landscapers will want your advice on marketing and customer retention.
Does your HVAC repair company have the lowest employee-turnover rate and the best customer reviews in town? Other contractors will want to know how you retain top talent.
There’s one big difference between selling this type of expertise online and setting up an online store or booking tool: You’ll need to reach a different audience from your regular customer base. That requires some research to see if there’s a demand for your knowledge, and to find out where your potential customers hang out online so you can start connecting with them.
You’ll also need to establish yourself as an expert, with a blog, podcast, or videos that gives away some of your knowledge for free. You can set up a blog fast with the Gator Website Builder and its blogging templates.
You’ll want to make sure your business website’s hosting plan can handle more traffic and load audio and video content fast. It may be time to upgrade to cloud hosting if you expect spikes in traffic when you open new course registrations, or if you need faster load times for your instructional videos and podcasts.
Building up this type of revenue stream takes some time, but it can be lucrative if there’s enough demand and you put in the marketing work. And if your main line of business is seasonal, like landscaping or air-conditioner repair, an online sideline can help smooth out income peaks and valleys.
4. Add Ads and Affiliate Links to Your Small Business Website
With a decent amount of traffic, your site can also generate revenue through affiliate links and ads. Affiliate marketing is big business, and just about anyone with a website can take part. Simply defined, affiliate marketing lets you earn commissions on sales of other people’s products that you promote on your site.
Let’s say you own a cupcake shop, and your shop’s website has a popular blog that features tips on decorating cupcakes. You might sign up for the affiliate program offered by your favorite decorating tools company, include links to their products in your posts (along with an FTC-required disclosure that they’re affiliate links), and earn a commission on each sale that comes from your links.
You can also run ads on your website. Google AdSense is the most popular option, because it’s easy to integrate with your site, it gives you control over which ads appear, and it tailors ads to your content and audience. It can take a while for your AdSense ads to bear fruit—you need to reach a $100 threshold before you receive your first payment. But as far as revenue streams go, it’s a low-effort, low-maintenance way to start monetizing your site.
Want more ideas for making the most of your small business website? There’s always something new and useful on the HostGator blog.