How to Start a Business Online (even if you’re a Newbie)
Launching a new business is exciting and frightening at the same time.
It’s like diving into the cold water for the very first time, you feel the chills through your body but instantly begin to enjoy the swim after a while.
By reading through this guide, you will learn to avoid the mistakes that most newbie entrepreneurs make and successfully follow steps to grow your new business online in the best way possible.
BENEFITS OF CONDUCTING BUSINESS ONLINE
Here are some of the benefits of conducting a business online over renting a workspace.
Low Cost to Start
An offline business will most likely incur a large investment thanks to the physical facilities required in running business operations. Consider adding the electricity and labor costs, and you’ve just overshot your budget.
An offline business must also provide uniforms, security cards, invest in equipment for its employees. All this causes the business to ride uphill as far as finances are considered. The margin of error for failing in a business with a large investment attached is dangerously low.
By starting an online business, you perform the same operations except everything is digitalized. Logistics is covered by a shipping partner, products are all digitally marketed, advertisements are managed through free organic traffic and SEO scripts. You only pay for a domain name and a hosting platform. That’s it!
The margin of error when there is little investment attached to an online business is large, you can afford to make mistakes and still recover with minor losses.
Unlimited Income Potential
Online businesses offer the worldwide market as your consumer base.
There are no restrictions, laws, or geographical boundaries to stop you from expanding your business.
Everything is conducted on the internet and hence, your store is available for everyone to see and purchase.
Imagine opening a storefront in front of a bustling and crowded market and having over 1 million visitors every single day— this is how an online business functions, there are no space constraints or fear of running out of space for your customers to shop.
All you need is a dedicated hosting platform that can handle large volumes of traffic without slowing your site down.
The objectives that an online business needs to concentrate to achieve success are —
- Social-media marketing strategies to help capture your target audience
- SEO optimization of your website to ensure your site is ranked among the top searches
- Email marketing to send out various advertising campaigns to your loyal shoppers
Work from Anywhere
Your office is your laptop, the best part about running an online business is you can be in any remote location around the world and simultaneously be connected to your business.
The freedom that online business provides makes you wonder why isn’t everyone opening an online store and driving profits to their products.
Every time you visit a café such as Starbucks, notice the number of people actively hooked to their laptops that are busy typing away.
A large percentage of these people in coffee shops are actually entrepreneurs running their business in the comfort of their preferred destination.
You too can join the club by running an online business at your favorite spot.
Online businesses also offer flexible work timings, you don’t necessarily need to commit to a 9-to-5 work timing.
You decide the time factor and you can hire freelancers on websites such as Fiverr and Peopleperhour to help you with additional tasks.
When you first start your business, it’s like a footprint in a sandy beach. To create a trail of footprints, entrepreneurs are required to invest in marketing and brand awareness.
Luckily, unlike physical storefronts, online businesses require a small percentage of the marketing investment to get their brand out in the open.
While a physical store relies on the radius around the store to attract customers, an online store attracts customers from all over the globe, thereby increasing its scalability remarkably well.
By expanding to a worldwide market, you could sell items that are particularly hot in a remote location such as Germany.
In such cases, you just need to ensure that your product can be shipped to Germany to make a sale and you’ve created a successful online venture.
10 STEPS TO GET YOUR ONLINE BUSINESS STARTED EFFICIENTLY
1. Find a Product the Market Needs
Brainstorm the type of business you’d like to start and register the domain name.
This is the most important step and is completely dependent on the type of business you’ll run.
Understand the consumer demand and try to meet it by launching a product. Ensure the product you launch offers a unique perspective to it that your competitors don’t have — lifelong product service, 24/7 on-call support, etc.
An online business is something you will invest a lot of time in, understanding the demographics and geographical locations where you intend to launch your business is incredibly critical. Ask yourself questions such as —
Who will benefit from the product?
What age group is most likely to buy my product?
What kind of marketing strategy should I consider when targeting my audience?
When you understand the type of consumers you are targeting, you can conveniently create a marketing strategy that caters to their tone and style.
For example, if you’re launching a digital marketing business, it’s important to understand whether you will be working with B2B (Business to Business) or B2C (Business to Consumer), this helps you build specific marketing campaigns exclusively for your clientele.
2. Host and Design a Website
The very first thing to do when considering to run a website is acquiring a domain name.
A domain name is an address through which you are found on the internet. Examples such as —www.google.com, www.yahoo.com are all domain names.
Consider opting for a domain name with a SSL certificate for added security for your customers. You can acquire a free SSL certificate from Cloudflare. Remember to choose a domain name that is easily identifiable with your business.
Next, your online business requires a powerful web host, you don’t want your customers accessing your site only to know it’s down.
This causes you to lose business. Always opt for top hosting platforms like Bluehost, In Motion, and HostGator.
You have to choose a content management system to host your content such as WordPress, Weebly, and Wix. We suggest WordPress for new business owners as WordPress has plenty of convenient plugins and you can launch your website within minutes of acquiring your domain name.
Now, we move towards the design portion of the website. You need to design the site in a user-friendly manner to ensure visitors navigate efficiently along your website.
You could also consider acquiring premium WordPress themes to instantly attract your visitors. Difference between premium and free themes is mostly down to the fact that paid themes have less work for the user to do as much of the design is readymade while free themes usually require the user to write a few lines of code to access their preferred website design.
3. Write Intelligent Copy to Attract Visitors
Have you ever entered a shopping site or a professional website such as Apple or Amazon?
You will notice that these sites have well-written advertising campaigns and amazing clarity in demonstrating marketing strategies for their products. Exceptional copy is what diversifies a good site from a stunning one.
Don’t clutter your website with unnecessary widgets and plugins in order to capture your audience.
Take a look at some of the sites below to get an example of how a business site should look with great copy —
- Found is a business website that helps with B2B marketing. The website is simple and easy on the eyes of its visitors.
- Slack is a website concentrated around shared workspace and bringing together teamwork related activities.
- Pingdom is a business site that allows consumers to build their e-commerce business and how to retain customers. It has a simple overlay to its website design.
As you can see the following sites have varying levels of design, while some are simple and require a little bit of knowledge in HTML5 and CSS, others are heavy into jQuery and other programming languages.
If you feel you’ve got other errands to run and no time to develop a website, you can always hire a web developer on freelancer sites such as Fiverr.
4. Utilize Search Engines to Drive Organic Traffic
Now that we’ve setup our website and had our way with the design.
It’s time for the fun times to begin.
Now we need some customers to come over to our newly generated online business.
But how should you plan to generate your traffic —Organic traffic or Paid Traffic?
Organic traffic is traffic that is free and is usually created by increasing your presence on the internet.
When search engines rank your website high for the keyword that your customers search for, your site ends up getting a lot of clicks and thus, free publicity.
Search Engines Optimization or SEO is an exceptional technique to ensure your site is ranked among the top searches when a user searches for a related keyword.
Let’s say your business is about “Photography” and you sell photos on your website. What are the words that link your website to the target audience when they type a keyword into the search field? — Photos, free photos, images, stock photos, etc.
Pick a niche, if you’d like to provide professional photos at a fee, then choose a keyword such as “professional photos”, if you’d like to give out free stock photos and earn ad revenue, choose “stock photos”.
When you pick a niche, you generate more dedicated traffic to your site. This is how SEO works and utilizing the Yoast SEO plugin can do wonders to your WordPress site.
5. Email Marketing is a Great Way to Keep in Touch with Your Customers
Having new customers is good but you know what’s great?
Acquiring recurring customers that come back to your website and buy your products frequently.
These loyal customers are where you should spend most of your marketing efforts on.
Businesses that have recurring customers tend to grow much faster over acquiring 100 new customers every month. One way to ensure repeat customers is by introducing Email Marketing to your online brand.
Customers are always looking for the latest news without having to come over to your website. By providing opt-in email triggers to acquire user email addresses, you can send weekly newsletters regarding the latest product launches and discount offers.
You could offer a free eBook or a freebie in exchange for their email. By building your email customer base, you simply have to send them an attractive email every week or month and your customers are bound to be interested and come over to your website to have a look, if they believe in your brand, your product is bound to sell.
Here are a few Email marketing tools to help you with your online business —
- Drip: Drip is an email marketing platform that allows bloggers and ecommerce marketers to generate leads by integrating with your website.
- Aweber: Aweber is great for small businesses that have just started to begin sending email campaigners to a small userbase. You can also opt for a 30-day free trial before you pick up their product.
- MailChimp: MailChimp is quite popular for free users or new businesses that want to handle a user-friendly design and have no experience with email marketing campaigns. The free plan allows you to send mails to over 12,000 subscribers.
- Mad Mimi: This tool is great for creating professionally styled emails utilizing several popular social-networking platforms. Mad Mimi even integrates with Google Analytics.
6. Setup an Efficient Customer Service System
Imagine a customer were to purchase your product and he finds an issue with it, he comes back to your website to contact the customer support but you haven’t established a support section.
Not only will he leave a negative feedback about your website, you will also lose valuable traffic to your site as any kind of negative publicity is harmful for an online business.
After-sales service is the single most important feature to introduce in an online business. If customers have queries, they need to be attended to immediately.
Either start a ticket system where they receive an automated mail sent to them regarding the amount of time they have to wait for their issue to be resolved or have a chat bot answer most of the common questions.
An online chatbot automates over 85% of customer’s queries on its own, according to a report. If the query is advanced it can be forwarded to your support team and hence, this can cut down your overload of customer queries and quickly generate responses via chatbots to keep your customers happy.
Remember happy customers are returning customers.
Chatbots also convert visitors into buyers without a waiting period.
7. Social Media Campaigns to Increase User Visibility
Social-media marketing is simply unmatched in terms of increasing brand awareness and gaining new customers. Most of the world hangs out in social-media platforms due to how social norms have begun to develop in a digital age.
You can find all kinds of audience on these networks — young, old, middle-aged, married, single, etc.
Let’s take Facebook as a social-media campaign, a business must first —
- Build a Facebook business page
- Run paid ads or promote blogs to redirect traffic
- Create a video or two on the product/brand you’re advertising
- Eventually, increases likes and followers on your Facebook page
Similarly, on Twitter and Pinterest, the target audience would be attracted via tweets and pinups, respectively. Individual marketing strategies are required for distinct social-media platforms. Instagram requires high-quality images to attract an audience.
When you build up your business and earn profits, it’s recommended to invest in Google AdWords, YouTube ads, Facebook campaigns, etc. although, it costs a percentage of your profits, the amount of traffic you’re likely to generate is astronomical.
8. Write Blogs and Articles to Ensure Customers Make Smart Purchases
Individuals on the internet are always hunting for information time and again. It’s no different when you launch your product, perhaps your customer base is cautious and may not buy the product until there is feedback or information about it.
By writing blogs and articles explaining your product in-depth, you can redirect your customers and provide them with knowledge.
In this way, they will be more than happy to buy the product once they understand what it truly does.
Customers in the modern digital age prefer to make informed purchases and hence, articles about your business is a necessity if you want your customers to make informed purchases.
They will also learn to appreciate your company for the information it provides over competitors that don’t provide product information. In this way, you can build a loyal rapport with your consumers.
To write articles, you can either hire content writers from Fiverr or simply write a short product breakdown yourself.
9. Create Referral Systems and Reward Systems to Spread the Word
Rewarding your customers with a reward point system is a great way to pass on your brand from one customer to the next.
Consider this, you want to spread the word without spending too much money on advertising campaigns, the best way to do this is by word-of-mouth.
By spreading the message to your own customers, you begin to increase your audience gradually.
Referral systems that include discount coupons, gift vouchers, prizes, etc. are great ways to reward your loyal customers for spreading the word to their social circle.
A single Facebook post or a Tweet can spread to thousands of their friends within a few minutes, this type of advertising is unmatched and most big brands such as Amazon and Apple, utilized referral programs to get their brand awareness out during the early days.
Here are 3 popular ways to create loyalty programs —
- Tier System: A tier system is where a customer moves through 3-4 tiers of placements such as Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum based on their purchases or number of referrals. Each tier should offer a specialized option such as bronze can offer 50% reduced shipping while Gold could offer free shipping and Platinum offers a flat 15% discount. This way the customer tries to aim for the highest tier and refers to as many people as they can.
- Point System: This system relies on gathering points overtime to redeem for prizes on the site. Say a single referral earns a customer 10 points at around 1000 points then can claim a gift such as a table lamp or a t-shirt. By increasing the value of prizes for various point levels, you create an addictive reward system for customers to shop at your store as well as refer your store to their loved ones.
- Spinning Game: While not as popular as the point or tier system, the spinning game is similar to the prize wheel at carnival events. For every purchase, the customer rolls a digital game wheel and upon stopping on any of the colored sections, a reward is chosen that the customer takes home. This game system can be redeemed for every purchase of $500 with jackpot prizes being a holiday trip or a luxurious item from your store. The better the prizes the more customers you attract into trying the wheel.
10. Increase Reputation of Your Brand Through Back-end Sales
The first time a customer buys your product, it’s known as front-end sales.
Every other sale after the front-end sale from the same customer is known as back-end sales.
Online businesses earn up to 8-times the profits by recurring sales.
While most companies focus on front-end sales, back-end sales are equally important to improve success and growth of the company.
Let’s take an example — If you were to open a café and sell a single cup of coffee to 10 new customers on the first day at $3 a cup, you will make a profit of $30. If you were to gain 10 new customers on the 2nd day as well as 5 of the customers from day 1, you now earn 30 + 15 = $45.
That’s an increase of 50% in profits on day 2 just by recurring sales alone.
Every time you carry over your recurring sales, the profits increase exponentially and thereby you build your customer base over time.
THE FINAL TAKEAWAY WHILE LAUNCHING AN ONLINE BUSINESS
By following the above 10-steps, you successfully create a plan that launches your business in the right direction. Understanding your audience is extremely important when expanding to geographical boundaries you aren’t familiar with.
Make sure your products aren’t offensive to the culture followed in a specific country.
If you are running an organization or a business, or just thinking about starting it, you must be …