6 Steps to Starting an Online Business
As a outsider or beginner to online business the internet can be a bewildering place. Where do you start? Have you missed the boat? What specialist knowledge do you need? Who can you trust? Will it be worth it? There are many questions you may have and these may have stopped you from taking the plunge, but it shouldn’t.
There are hundreds (or more) ways of creating an online business. The methods vary from values to working hours, location, e-commerce, service based products, e-courses and so on. What they all have in common are these following steps:
Steps to starting an online business:
1. Find a need and fill it.
The most common mistake of people who are just starting out is looking for a product first, and a market second.
If you want to increase your chances of success, start with a market. Find a group of people who have a problem, but can’t find the solution yet. The internet makes this kind of market research easy:
- Visit online forums to see what questions people ask and what problems they’re trying to solve.
- Do keyword research to find keywords that a lot of people are searching, but for which not many sites are competing.
- Check out your potential competitors by visiting their sites and taking note of what they’re doing to fill the demand. Then you can use what you’ve learned and create a product for a market that already exists–and do it better than the competition.
2. Write copy that sells.
There’s a proven sales copy formula that takes visitors through the selling process from the moment they arrive to the moment they make a purchase:
- Arouse interest with a compelling headline.
- Describe the problem your product solves.
- Establish your credibility as a solver of this problem.
- Add testimonials from people who have used your product.
- Talk about the product and how it benefits the user.
- Make an offer.
- Make a strong guarantee.
- Create urgency.
- Ask for the sale.
3. Design and build your website
Now you’re ready for your small-business web design. Keep it simple and efficient. You have fewer than five seconds to grab someone’s attention. Some important tips to keep in mind:
- Choose one or two plain fonts on a white background.
- Make your navigation clear and simple, and the same on every page.
- Only use graphics, audio or video if they enhance your message.
- Include an opt-in offer so you can collect e-mail addresses.
- Make it easy to buy–no more than two clicks between potential customer and checkout.
- Your website is your online storefront, so make it customer-friendly.
You can choose to outsource this to a professional, or DIY.
4. Get traffic to your website
Pay-per-click advertising is the easiest way to get traffic to a brand-new site. It has two advantages over waiting for the traffic to come to you organically. First, PPC ads show up on the search pages immediately, and second, PPC ads allow you to test different keywords, as well as headlines, prices and selling approaches. Not only do you get immediate traffic, but you can also use PPC ads to discover your best, highest-converting keywords. Then you can distribute the keywords throughout your site in your copy and code, which will help your rankings in the organic search results.
5. Become an expert in your field
People use the internet to find information. Provide that information for free to other sites, and you’ll see more traffic and better search engine rankings. The secret is to always include a link to your site.
- Give away free, expert content. Create articles, videos or any other content that people will find useful. Distribute that content through online article directories or social media sites.
- Include “send to a friend” links on valuable content on your website.
- Become an active expert in industry forums and social networking sites where your target market hangs out.
You’ll reach new readers. But even better, every site that posts your content will link back to yours. Search engines love links from relevant sites and will reward you in the rankings.
6. Use email marketing
When you build an opt-in list, you’re creating one of the most valuable assets of your online business. Your customers and subscribers have given you permission to send them email. That means:
- You’re giving them something they’ve asked for.
- You’re developing lifetime relationships with them.
- The response is 100 percent measurable.
- Email marketing is cheaper and more effective than print, TV or radio because it’s highly targeted.
Anyone who visits your site and opts in to your list is a very hot lead. And there’s no better tool than email for following up with those leads.
Although the internet changes so fast, the principles of how to start and grow a successful online business haven’t changed at all. If you’re just starting a small business online, stick to this sequence. If you’ve been online awhile, do a quick review and see if there’s a step you’re neglecting, or never got around to doing in the first place. You can’t go wrong with the basics.
Do you have questions on starting an online business, or tips to offer fellow entrepreneurs?