How to Start an Online Business

There are 6 essential and consecutive steps you can follow to effectively launch an online business. Following these (tried and tested) steps ensures that your online business hits all the right spots and captures all the time-tested principles that constitute successful online business.

In a nutshell:
  1. Find a Valuable Product or Service
  2. Analyze your Target Audience Well
  3. Design & Build an 'attractive' Brand
  4. Take it On-line (do it right, first time round)
  5. Find & Reach your Target Audience
  6. Track, Analyze and Fine Tune
Let’s take a look at them in more detail!

Step 1. Find a Valuable Product or Service

The most important and also difficult task is to come up with the idea of a product or service that will fulfill a need that people already have. You need to search for aspot” in the market and create a product or offer a service that solves a problem or creates an opportunity for people.

Ideas are all around us and a profitable idea may be as simple as making one small improvement on an already-existing idea. To enhance your creativity and come up with ideas for the product, reading magazines for franchises may help. Also, take a look at some existing businesses online and offline and find something that you can do better or maybe you had an idea before but never put it into action, now is the time!

Are there markets that are somehow under-served? Products and services around you that you just know you would offer better or at least offer in a better way to a specific set of people in the market. Some people might consider buying a franchise or purchase products at an amazing price from one country that can be sold at a good profit in other countries. 

Make sure the product or service is as unique as possible (you can make a common product more unique by making a small smart variation) and that it fulfills the need of some set of people. Ideally, the product or service you are offering should be something you like and find interesting as this will give your more motivation to create your business and see it to success. If it is not interesting for you or it doesn’t give you any satisfaction, try another idea.



Step 2. Analyze your Target Audience Well

With the right knowledge, you can define exactly which people to target your product to and where to find these people. The purpose is not to target everyone but on the contrary, to speak directly to only the right types of people based on what you are offering. The focus should be on customers that you can serve well and from who you can make a profit at the same time. This makes your job of finding clients easier, cheaper and more fruitful. 

You can define find the right customer based on different demographics like gender, age, education, family, income, nationality and other factors. Think carefully about what these people really need your product, why they need it and when, what they love, what bothers them and how you and your business can give them the best value and be as attractive to them as possible.  

You can brainstorm alone or with other people, ask questions in online forums, Social Media and by email, to carefully put together an accurate profile of this kind of person you want to be working with. Another technique is to create (using Google Forms for free) and distribute surveys online to gain customer insight. 'Google forms' allows you to create a questionnaire in a very easy way and lets you view the responses in a summary, including graphs. You can send such a survey directly to your target audience over email or share it on Social Me dia.

You can also hire a seasoned-professional to help you achieve this quickly and painlessly.
Lastly, a very good way to know if people REALLY like your product is to create a sample test campaign with a low budget and a simple website. If orders will start coming in, I can tell you that it is a product that people like! If not, than find out why, fix it and start again until you start seeing the results you want - or simply drop the whole idea if it turns out to be a loser.


Step 3. Design & Build an 'attractive' Brand

As soon as you have analyzed the values of your target audience and created the product that serves their needs, it is time to "dress your business up" and build a brand.
Whether you are providing a service or a product, you will always need to be design and package your offer in a way that looks appealing to the customer. 

A good brand will make your business stand out and be recognized among your audience. It serves to create a great first impression even when people have not yet experienced your business.

Business Name 

The first stage of designing and building a brand is to come up with a good business name. It should be something that is unique, simple, easy to remember and ideally available on a (.com) domain. This helps you secure your place on the web - remember that many people will simply write YOURBUSINESSNAME.COM, assuming that this is an obvious assumption to make. If you do not hold that domain name, you will lose tonnes of business to your competitors by default. If it is an international product, it should be able to be pronounced in as many languages as possible and no word can mean something weird in another language. 

The logo should be something that captures and transmits the personality of your business

If your company sells steel products and your main business idea is selling items that are stronger and more durable than your competition, make sure that your logo represents strength and toughness. 

If on the other hand you are selling china to classy middle-aged women it is important that your logo represents finesse and class. Your logo will serve as the foundation of your branding so don't cut corners at this stage.

You can outsource this to a professional if you have no idea how to design on.

Once your business name and logo have been done and dusted, you can proceed to designing your website, social media and other items that you may need such as bags and business cards.


Step 4. Take it On-line (do it right, first time round)

Now is the time to put your product in front of your target audience. You need to make sure that your website includes certain features as very clearly explained in this article on online-shops. Besides looking good and offering the basic functionality, your website should go the extra mile.

Your website needs to be very user friendly and makes things obvious. This means the user can easily find what it’s looking for and that the website has an unique design and isn’t complicated. In this way, you are able to generate more leads and you can even create a mailing list for follow-up and further contact.
An important feature is Social Media integration. This will increase the chance that potential clients will see your product and reach out to you and your website. Also, clients are able to subscribe to the website or follow your website on Social Media. This will increase website traffic and will help rank your website better on Google. 
Being Google friendly will allow you to rank even higher on Google and means that you need to provide your visitors with enough valuable content and using keywords so the website will be easier to find on Google. 

Visitors should be able to easily view the website on different devices. Nowadays around 30-40% will visit a website on their mobile device, so losing these possible clients is not something that you want.
Make sure that your website offers valuable answers to important questions, provides content that is interesting, helpful and that allows your clients to make a good informed decision throughout their buying process.

It is important that these features are always included in your website package as can be seen on this page.


Step 5. Find & Reach your Target Audience

Without an audience, there is no possibility that people are going to buy your product- imagine your shop is located in the middle of the desert where no one ever passes, how are you going to sell your product then?

There are multiple ways on how to attract visitors to your website and keep coming back for more. One of them is Search Engine Optimization, where people find your website automatically when searching on Google. There is pay-per-click campaigning (if you have a the budget) where you pay to attract clients directly into your website’s sales pages using Google, Social Media and other websites that are offering places to advertise. Social Media, email marketing and advertising on online sources are also effective. Another thing you can do is create a good content strategy and start writing articles to post on your own blog or on other websites and share these on different Social Media. 

To get the best results, you need to have a structure and combine a couple of these techniques to create a good digital marketing strategy. Combined with a good website, this traffic will translate into sales.

You can ask to get a (no-obligation) solid web-marketing plan for your business from a trained professional. This will make sure that you do not waste time chasing your tail, especially if this is your first online business!


Step 6. Track, Analyze and Fine tune

If you are starting a business online, you can see how well your website and all your different marketing techniques are doing, by using Google Analytics. 
You can see how many people are visiting your site, how long they are staying on your site and you can even see how long they are staying on one particular page. There is also more in-depth information about the demographics of visitors, namely age, sex, nationality, and language. Google Analytics will also show you how people are finding your website, whether it is from Google, Facebook or other advertising mediums you might be using.
You can also see which pages are performing best and which need modification because Google Analytics will show which content is performing, where people click on most and how people go from one page to another. 

A very important feature is that Google Analytics shows you where people usually leave the website or when they leave the shopping cart. The bounce rate shows the percentage of visitors who leave the website after viewing only one page. 
You can see which marketing methods, like Social Media, Search Engine Optimization or other websites will generate the most traffic and sales. 

All these features allow you to make the necessary changes to improve your online shop to get better results. 

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