8 Basic Steps to a Successful Online Business

For many the idea of starting an online business may seem like a daunting task. However, have you ever wondered why some businesses are successful whilst others are not? There’s a lot to be said about the phrase ‘it’s not what you do, but how you do it’. There are many people running the same types of online business, yet whilst some are very successful others simply are not doing well at all. In short, success if generally down to the approach you take and how you execute the business that you run.

Categorised under three key headings of Target, Strategy and Tactics,  we have outlined 8 basic steps, that you should implement to set you on path for running a successful online business.

If you follow these tips and do them well there is no reason why your business should not succeed. We cannot cover everything in depth here, so our intention is to give you a good overview of what you should be doing and, at the very least, try to point you in the right direction. In the guide below, we have provided a few links to further material you may find useful, some of which will be relevant across sections even if they are only listed under one. Nonetheless, we encourage you to always continue to take time to learn more, expand the ideas you are introduced to here, and keep up to date with methods and techniques to safeguard the success of your business.

TARGET

1. Find a market gap and fill it

Start by identifying a market. There is no point trying to sell something unless you are sure there is a viable market for the product or service you are planning sell. Use the very same internet over which you will be running your business to identify potentially profitable business areas. There are really only two main reasons why people buy online. One, they have a problem they want to solve and two, because the thing they are buying simply makes them feel good or better.  Start with some research to discover what people are searching for. Try performing keyword searches (Google is great for this). This will help you identify the types of products or services that people are interested in. Think outside the box. Look at some of the ideas that others have come up with and be inspired.

Mining through online forums, is equally just as useful. Not only will you discover the types of products and services that people are interested in, but you will also get to find out about the issues they are facing and looking to resolve. Now, Just because something is a popular search does not mean it is a more viable market choice. Be aware, if it is that popular, then there is likely to be more competition, so you may need to up the ante against your competitors. Finding a niche that is not particularly competitive, could be a more lucrative option for you. By not having too many competitors, being able to resolve prospective client’s needs (essentially, the issues or problems you have identified from your research), and being able to successfully fill that void could be your key to success. Remember, the internet is a global market, so your potential clients could come from anywhere in the world you are prepared to sell to.

Related texts:
Finding Your Niche (What 5% of Business Startups Know and Do to Succeed And What 95% Don’t Know and Fail. Book 1)
Buy Buttons: The Fast-Track Strategy to Make Extra Money and Start a Business in Your Spare Time [Featuring 300+ Apps and Peer-to-Peer Marketplaces]
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STRATEGY
2. USP: Stand out from the crowd

You have probably heard talk about USP (unique selling point), the idea of identifying a unique business angle for the product or service you are providing. Once you have identified a market area. It is important you position yourself in a manner that will set you apart from your competitors.  In order to do this, you need to know what your competitors are doing, first and foremost, then secondly, develop a strategy to determine what it is that you are going to do differently.   The only way to do this is by conducting research to discover exactly who your competitors are and to spend time examining exactly what it is that they do and how they do it. You should be looking at both the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. You can find this information on testimonials, review sites, online complaints (social media sites are great for this) etc. Once you have this information you can then start to figure out how you could do things better or more efficiently.  Remember, providing a better product or service is not limited to the service or product itself, but also involves the level of customer care, support and engagement you have with your clients. Essentially, you’re looking to find a way that would encourage a prospective client to decide to buy a product or service from you rather than any of your competitors.

Related texts:
The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money, And Stand Out From The Crowd
Finding The Right Message: How to turn voice of customer research into irresistible website copy

TACTICS

3.  Engaging with potential clients

The easiest way to think about this is to imagine you were the prospective customer here. What would be your expectation as you journey through the sales process? Confidence in the business you are buying from about the value and quality of the product or service you are buying? Assurance, that you will be looked after and that the business has your best interests at heart, even after the sales process? I think you get the point.

The tactics you deploy to get new customers and hold on to them should include:

a. Ensuring confidence by writing engaging, valuable content;
b. Setting off with a convincing and persuasive headline to capture interest;
c. Identify the problem your product or service can solve;
d. Stating how it is different to competitors and explain its benefits;
e. Giving assurance about your business’ credibility;
f. Validating your claims with testimonial or customer reviews;
g. Demonstrating value in your price offer;
h. Adding confidence with a strong guarantee;
i. Creating urgency. You want them to act now, not come back later; and
j. Asking clients to take action so you get that sale!

Related texts:
The Content Marketing Equation: Start or Grow Your Online Business Using the Power of Blogging, Podcasting, and Content Creation
SEO for Growth: The Ultimate Guide for Marketers, Web Designers & Entrepreneurs
100 Content Marketing Tips: Learn How to Drive Thousands of Visitors to Your Blog
100+ Free Tools to Create Visuals for Web & Social Media

4. Design and build a simple but effective website

Your site should be simple and user friendly. Make sure your design is appropriate to your target market. You would not build a website selling building supplies like you might a site selling baby clothes! If you are not knowledgeable enough to be to build your own site, and have a restricted budget, you can use drag and drop website builders which are suitable for online shops as well as simple informational sites. If you have a bit of technical knowledge in this area, you might look at customising a WordPress theme.  Alternatively, if your budget permits, and you do not wish to take a hands on approach in designing your site, you can hire a professional to handle this for you. Start small, only do what you need to do if necessary, and as your business grows you can add more to your site. Decide on some branding, a logo, a colour scheme for your site, and keep this clear and consistent throughout.  Navigation should be clear. Where to find you, how to contact you and how to engage with you should also be apparent. Be sure to include a contact form, address, telephone number, as well as social media links. Ensure you use media like audio, graphics and video only to enhance your message, include offers for email opt-ins, and the buying process should be simple and straightforward.

You can check out the website design services in our shop store, services available through our partner site In4Media Limited.

5. Marketing: Get traffic to your site

Once you have your site up and running get on with the marketing straight away. The quality of your website itself (e.g. site design, accessibility, copywriting, code inter alia) and the relevancy of your content to prospective buyers or those looking for your company continue to play a key role in generating organic (earned rather than paid for) traffic to your site. Of course there can be a lot of competition for that traffic. Using PPC (pay-per-click) advertising such as Google Adwords, for example means you can push traffic to your new site quite quickly via keywords searches. You can test out different keywords to see what is most effective, and ensure these are used around your site as well as your code, (of course, with relevance) to optimise search results.

Related texts:
The Little Book on Digital Marketing (Keyword Research)
SEO And Search Marketing In A Week: Search Engine Optimization And Search Engine Marketing Made Easy In Seven Simple Steps (Teach Yourself: in a Week)
Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day
Ultimate Guide to Pay-Per-Click Advertising (Ultimate Series)

6. Build your reputation

The only way to establish your reputation online is to build that online reputation. The more quality free content you make and can share online the better. Share as much content such as, articles, posts, papers, videos, etc. via social media platforms and article directories. This will broaden your online presence whilst allowing your opinions and ideas to be heard. The larger the amount of content you have online, the more content you have available to be indexed by search engines like Google, and subject to relevancy and quality, the greater the chances of increasing traffic to your site via organic or non-paid search results. You can also provide the opportunity for visitors to share your website content with their friends and family. Be sure to monitor your online reputation, listen to what people may be saying about your business in social media and be quick to respond to comments, queries and messages you receive, good or bad.

7. Communication is key: Keep in touch with your clients

A very valuable way of increasing your market potential is via email marketing. Email marketing is a very effective way of connecting with customers, because it is extremely targeted, cheap, and much more efficient than traditional media advertising such as TV, radio and print. By having an opt-in list, you present the opportunity for customers to subscribe and receive emails from you. Via emails to your subscribed client base, you can continue to build your professional relationship with your customers, sharing information that they might find interesting, useful or informative, but also (within balance) having the opportunity to present them with sales related content  such as new products or special offers that they might be interested in.  It is important you carefully balance your sales and non-sales content, because you want to build customer loyalty and maximise retention of your subscriber base, so don’t go too heavy on email content that is primarily trying to sell to clients all the time.

There are a number of great ESPs (email service providers) that can help you manage, organise, and automate your email marketing business. We cannot stress how important this is to an online marketer. You can learn more about these in a later news post, so keep an eye out on the site (or if you are subscribed we’ll let you know). However, our personal choices based on quality of service, professionalism, and value would be as below. You can trial these out for free if you are interested.

Recommended ESPs

Aweber, GetResponse 

Related texts:
Email Marketing: List Building and Campaigns (Making Money Online)

8. Income boosting

When it comes to marketing, one of the key objectives is to try and maximise what we call the ‘customer lifetime value’. Essentially, you want to get the most possible out of a customer, during the period of time they remain a customer of your business. The hardest part of the sales process is the first sale. Once you have a customer, your aim is to retain that customer, whilst continuing to try and find new customers. At the point of closing your first sale, why not try capitalising on the moment by cross-selling or upselling. Cross-selling means offering your customer an associated product that they might be interested in buying. So for example a customer buys some football boots, and you offer them a deal on football socks to go with the footwear they have just bought. With upselling maybe they are buying some software from you, and for a little bit more, you offer them the opportunity to buy the premium version of the same software because it has much more advance features, as well as full training, and technical support for a year.  Use your email lists to target clients and reward them for their loyalty via coupons, offer codes to reduced price or special offer items, tell a friend benefits etc.

Related texts:
Email Marketing Techniques: Email Marketing Beginner’s Guide and Strategies
The Online Sellers Bible: Everything you need to know to start, and grow your Amazon business.
Turn Clicks Into Customers: Proven Marketing Techniques for Converting Online Traffic into Revenue (Business Books)

Well, hopefully we have given you enough to think about and get you started. Remember, Rome was not built in a day. You just need to be methodical, persistent and committed. Start at the beginning, give it your all, do not try doing too much in one go. If you divide your attention between too many things you will not be able to give the required attention that your business needs. It is better to do one thing very well, than to do two things mediocre.

So, good luck with your endeavours, we’d love you to share your stories with us, so don’t be afraid to let us know how you get on, leave us a comment.

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