7 Steps to Starting a Small Business Online
When we wish to succeed at something, there are a couple of different ways to go about it. One way is through trial and error, learning as we go. Experience, they say, is a great teacher. Another approach still relies on experience, only it is the experience of others. By following the successful methods perfected by others, we greatly improve our own chance of success.
If you are planning to start an online business, here are the seven steps followed by thousands of people who have succeeded before you.
- Find a Need to Fill
To be successful, you need a market. Take the time to identify a customer need that you can fill. This can be accomplished by visiting forums where users post looking for answers to problems they have, or by doing some keyword research to find terms that are being searched without much competition from existing sites.
You may also wish to visit the sites of potential competitors to see how they are attempting to meet this demand. This can give you some ideas on how to proceed, but also ask if there are any gaps in what they offer? Can you take what they are doing an improve upon it?
- Write Effective Copy
Writing good copy isn’t as difficult as it may appear. As with many things, there is a formula that can be followed. If you want copy that sells, try the following, which takes visitors through the entire selling process.
- Use a compelling headline to pique their interest
- Describe the problem that can be solved by your product
- Establish your credibility as one who can solve this problem
- Add testimonials from existing satisfied customers
- Explain the product and how it helps the user
- Make an offer
- Make a strong guarantee
- Create a sense of urgency to provide motivation
- Ask for the sale
Remember that every customer wants to know how a product or service benefits them or makes their lives easier. Put yourself in their shoes to determine how to appeal to them.
- Design and Create Your Website
Now that you have a product and understand the selling process, it is time to design your website. Keep in mind that many consumers today will only give you a few seconds to grab their attention. If you can’t get it within five seconds, they will likely move on. Keep the design simple and remember the following tips.
- Use a white background and only one or two plain fonts
- Ensure that navigation is clear, simple, and consistent on each page
- Use graphics, audio, and video only when they enhance your message
- Collect email addresses via an opt-in offer
- Streamline the buying process. It should be simple, with no more than 2 clicks to complete
- Think like a customer to make your site user-friendly
- Drive Targeted Buyers to Your Site
Although you will want to grow your organic traffic over time, a brand-new site benefits from pay-per-click advertising in two important ways: PPC ads will appear on the Search Engine Results Page immediately, and PPC will allow you to test keywords, headlines, and selling approaches. This will let you determine which keywords are the highest converting, while also benefiting from immediate traffic. Once you have this information, you can spread those keywords throughout your site in both your copy and code, to help with organic ranking.
- Establish Your Reputation as an Expert
People are constantly using the internet to seek out information. You can provide this information to other sites, including a link to your own, increasing your traffic and search results.
- Create valuable, informative articles, videos, and other content, then share it through online article directories or social media platforms.
- Include “send a friend” links on high-quality, informative content on your site.
- Be active in industry forums and social networking, displaying your expertise where your target audience will see it.
Not only will you reach new readers, but your content on other sites will also link back to your own site, which will improve your rankings.
- Make Use of Email Marketing to Create Buyers
Your opt-in list provides you with one of your most valuable assets: a list of customers and subscribers who have agreed to receive email from you. This benefits you by allowing you to develop an ongoing relationship with them and their response will be 100% measurable. This targeted advertising is cheaper and more effective than other types of advertising such as TV and radio, and it is something that they themselves have asked for.
Those who opt in are hot leads and email is the best means of following up with them.
- Use Back-end Sales and Upselling to Increase your Income
It is vital that you develop your customers’ lifetime value. Of those who purchase from you, at least 36% will do so again provided you follow up with them. Your first sale with a customer will be the most difficult and expensive, so concentrate on back-end selling and upselling to encourage another sale.
- Offer products that enhance or compliment the original sale
- Provide electronic loyalty coupons usable on their next visit
- Offer related products on your “Thank You” page following a purchase
Loyal customers who feel appreciated become even more loyal and these are the ones who will help you grow through repeated purchases and potentially becoming an ambassador of your brand.
Starting a business—whether online or off—is challenging. Following in the footsteps of those who have successfully gone before you will help to put you on the right track.