Once you set aside the fears (e.g.: don’t I need to be a tech genius with a ton of funding?) and the fantasies (e.g.: four-hour work week at the beach, here I come!), the reality of starting an online business comes into focus. It’s hard work, but absolutely achievable. You just need a roadmap for getting started. Are you ready to start your journey? Keep reading.
Identify The Business You Should Start And Want to Start
You know your business is going to involve selling a product, a service, or both. Beyond that, your options are pretty limitless, sort of. The ideal business will balance what you want to do with what you should do.
Starting the business of your dreams is great, unless there’s not a market for it or you just don’t have the skills to make it profitable. At the same time, if profit potential is your only focus, you could end up heading a successful business that makes you miserable. Focus on what is marketable, and will make the best use of your talents.
Create Your Business Structure
Before you go any further, you’ll need to decide how your business will be structured. The decisions you make here will have a lasting impact on your taxes, potential liabilities, even business partnership. Your choices are to operate as a sole proprietor, or to incorporate.
A sole proprietorship is the least expensive, and least complicated. However, this means that you and your business are one entity. If your business is ever sued, they can go after your personal assets. The process of creating a corporation is complex, and it will cost money. However, it can be more than worthwhile. Your corporation will be a completely separate entity. This means that you cannot be held personally liable for business debts and failures.
Before you make a final decision, it’s best to get the advice of an attorney. A short consultation will be well worth your time and investment.
Develop Business Relationships
Chances are, you’ll need to reach out to other people in order to launch a successful business. For example, if you want to sell products online, you’ll need to contact distributors and wholesalers. If you plan to sell your own products, you will need to source materials in bulk. Even if you plan to sell only digital products and services, you will likely need to reach out to others for help. For example, you may need a graphic designer to help you create your logo, and an accountant to help you manage your finances.
It’s also a good idea to establish positive relationships with other business owners, and industry influencers. There’s a lot of value in sharing knowledge, networking, and finding common interests with others.
Find Your Competitive Edge
Whatever business you choose to open, or however you choose to structure it, you won’t be alone. There will be other people doing what you do, and you’ll have to find a way to deal with that competition. Specifically, what will you do to differentiate yourself, and to ensure your business is profitable. This might include:
- Identifying Untapped Markets – Find the people and places your competitors are ignoring.
- Putting a New Spin on Your Product or Service – Not every business needs to invent something new. Instead, improve on an existing business idea.
- Creating Barriers to Entry – Make it challenging for your competition. Work to get exclusive deals with suppliers. Protect your IP rights by filing patents where needed.
- Find a Way to Charge Less or Offer More – Create disruption by offering your products at a lower price point, or go in the opposite direction by offering a premium.
Create Your Customer Personas
Writers will often create character profiles so that they have a better understanding of the characters they write about. Marketers do the same thing for their target customers. They develop personas of the various people they believe will be most interested in their products and services.
These personas start with demographic information, age range, gender, education, marital status. Next, it’s important to identify values, beliefs, interests, and concerns. By creating these personas, you can create a marketing strategy and user experience that is customized to meet the needs of your target audience.
Create Your Website
This may not be the first step you take, but it is the most important. Your website is the place where your customers will learn about your company, your products and services, and make purchases. Everything must be as close to perfect as possible so that they have a customer experience that leads them to:
- Develop Trust in Your Brand
- Return For Future Visits
- Make a Purchase
- Sign up For Emails or Complete Other Micro Conversions
Your website should be safe and secure; it should also be able to stand up to the traffic that you’ll receive from potential customers. If your website crashes or is exceedingly slow, potential customers will go elsewhere.
For an online business, you’ll want to create a website that allows customers to do things such as browsing products, chatting with customer support, placing orders, and making payment. Rather than developing all of those features from scratch, consider using Shopify or other tool that automates the process of creating an online store.
Finally, one of the best things about starting an online business is the ability to reach out to potential customers all over the world. However, a global presence can lead to some communication challenges. You’ll need to ensure that your website is optimized so that everyone has a great experience. Dina Indelicato is a blogger for Pick Writers, review site for translation companies, who says “It’s unfortunate that most entrepreneurs don’t consider translation and localization earlier in this process. If they take the time to do this, they can create a better user experience for entire groups of their target audience.”
Establish a Social Media Presence And Marketing Plan
You may choose to invest in paid advertising, but as your business is just starting social media marketing is a budget friendly, and highly effective approach to marketing. Start by creating a social media presence on platforms that are relevant to your target customer personas. Then, you’ll want to undertake the very complex task of using social to attract an audience, share information about your brand, build relationships with customers and influencers, and drive traffic to your website.
For someone new to all of this, these tasks can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, there is an abundance of tools, tutorials, and resources to help. You can start with these:
- Hubspot Academy – To access a variety of digital marketing courses
- Canva – For creating great looking visual content
- Buffer – To manage multiple social media account
- Unsplash – A site with a wide variety of royalty free images
- Yotpo – Helps brands find images of people using their products and gain permission to use those in online advertising
- BuzzSumo – For finding trending topics relevant to your brand
- TweetDeck – A multifunctional tool for getting the most out of your Twitter presence
By using these tools, you will be able to quickly create a powerful social media presence. It’s also imperative to build up an audience quickly. Some entrepreneurs do this by paying for followers. This is never a good idea. Instead, share your content, ask friends and family members to do the same. It will take longer to create an organic following, but it will be infinitely more valuable to your growing business.
Finally: Keep Your Customers Happy
Once you launch your business, you’ll have to take action to continue keeping your customers happy. This means establishing a customer support system that is responsive, effective, and flexible enough to meet your customer’s needs. You may also need to continue to update your website, networks, and other systems so that you can provide the best service possible.
Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she had found herself as a freelance writer. She observes with a special interest how the latest achievements in media and technology help to grow readership and revenue and shares her opinion. You can find her on Facebook and Medium.