Business Profile: Netlens. Nett spoke to Susan Ward about why her business went online, what she learnt doing so, and what her goals are for the future.
Why did you start a small business?
We started Netlens to expand on our bricks and mortar business of an Optometrist Practice, tapping into the online market after realising that a lot of our patients were beginning to look online for better deals on buying their contact lenses. We knew it would become the way of the future and wanted to be a part of it to maximise sales on all levels. It was either this or risk losing a big chunk of our business, which would only become bigger over time.
What inspired you?
We were inspired by our own personal trends to start shopping around online for better deals. We were thinking if we’re sitting here trying to find the best bargains on cameras, shoes, luggage etc I bet people are shopping around for the best price for contact lenses too! We only had to listen to our patients in-store to have our thoughts confirmed.
What’s the next step for your business?
The next step for Netlens is to concentrate on growing our brand name and getting awareness out there about what we offer. We are focused on building our customer base but at the same time keeping our existing loyal customers happy. Part of this will include exploring the full potential of social media and how we can use it to its full potential.
Which internet activities are you struggling with?
SEO is a constant challenge as search engines like Google are always changing the criteria and ways of prioritising rankings. As we are fundamentally not IT type people we find it hard to keep up and even to understand in the first place! We rely heavily on our Web site developers for this, but it’s something we are really want to get a handle on ourselves, to help us have more control and more understanding. We are also just starting to delve into Social Media and are struggling to keep up with all the different ways to interact with our customers, and how to link and streamline all the different mediums and just keeping up with all the trends in social media. It can be overwhelming.
What have you learnt about business online since you started reading Nett?
We have learnt so much!! I don’t even know where to begin. We very quickly learnt that there’s a lot more to it than just throwing together a website and watching the sales come in! Web site development and tweaking are ongoing, it’s just not something that you can set and forget.
What are the 3 biggest issues that Australian small businesses face at the moment?
I think the first thing is that small business find time management difficult, mostly due to the fact that usually in small business one person does numerous roles, then it becomes a case of is that person spending enough time on the right tasks. Often we find ourselves bogged down with the day to day things and not spending enough time on the bigger picture like developing our brand name, and looking for new clients because we are stretched so thinly already, but are under financial restraints so our options can seem as though they are limited.
Secondly, I think the staff is always an issue – finding and keeping good quality people who share our vision and being able to afford those people. The third big issue we, as a small business, the face is that of advertising – growing our brand name and reaching out but working to a budget that we can afford. We can’t always keep up with the big companies in this arena which makes it hard for us to become known amongst those big players, even though our products or deals may be just as good, if not better.
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