Thanks to accessible and affordable technology, and a hunger for fresh products and services, there has never been a better time than now.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of websites and posts out there claiming you can start an online business for free. Is this possible? In a nutshell… no, not really.
When it comes to business, nothing is really free. Sure, you may not have to fork out too much money up front. But when it comes to your time? Expect to spend heaps of it on getting started!
In the ever competitive world of online business, time is money. You could try going the free route. But the amount of time you will need to invest can have a negative impact on your online business startup.
With that said. You don’t need to have hundreds of thousands of dollars set aside. Just look at the creator of Spanx, Sara Blakely. She started her body shape-wear business with just $5,000 USD. Today Spanks generates her an annual revenue of $400 million USD. Not a bad little earner if we say so ourselves.
To help all you budding entrepreneurs get on the fast track to online business success. Here’s our quick start guide to help you kick things off.
Find a Problem, Then Fix It
Unless you have already come up with a brand spanking new product or service to take over the world, you have other business idea options you can try.
Some of the world’s most successful businesses started by piggybacking off of an already existing product. They came up with an idea to simplify or improve upon something already out there.
Don’t believe us? Just check out Skyscanner. There were already thousands of airlines out there. And every day, people were going from site to site looking for the best flight prices they could find. A time-consuming task to say the least.
Skyscanner started by creating a spreadsheet that pooled all of the most competitive flight prices into one place. This gave them the foundations for creating the world’s biggest flight comparison website. But why did it work so well? Because they provided a service that answered a million people’s questions.
Michelle Phan is another prime example of a business-savvy piggybacker. She used the idea of cosmetic sample boxes, as pioneered by Birchbox. She then turned this into an online phenomenon by leveraging her relationship with cosmetic brands and her 8 million + audience on YouTube to create her own subscription sample box service that has generated over $150 million USD in revenue.
Basically, you don’t need to create a brand-new product or service. You can enjoy huge success by taking an already existing product or service and reworking it so that it is a new and improved version.
Five Steps to Online Business Success
While the above may be encouraging, a lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes. It doesn’t matter whether you want to start an online retail store or provide B2B or B2C services, the leg work is the same.
Find Your Niche
Before you start building your online business, you need to find the right product or service to sell. This is your niche market. Every entrepreneur needs to pick their niche carefully. But how do you pick the perfect niche? It’s all about research.
Start by compiling a list of potential business ideas. Let your head run wild. Explore crazy ideas. And don’t over analyse or overthink things too much right now. Some great questions to kick things off include:
- What hobbies or experiences can you turn into a profitable online business?
- What types of niche are you already a customer of yourself?
- What would your dream business be?
- If you could improve an existing product or service for yourself, what would you do?
Once you have finished brainstorming, it’s time to narrow things down. Take all of the ideas that you would personally enjoy turning into and running as a business. It would be easy to choose those you think are going to generate the most profit.
But remember, you will be pouring yourself into every aspect of your business. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t give 100%. And If you don’t give 100%, your business will fail to thrive.
Of course, profit is important. So choose ideas that are going to earn you an income. As soon as you have found a niche with profit potential and that you are passionate about, you will be ready to move on to the next step.
Check Your Business Viability
Knowing where to start when it comes to checking business viability can be hard. But luckily, there are some simple ways to check if your business idea has potential.
The easiest and quickest way to start this is by doing a little bit of keyword research. High volume keywords show that there is a demand for a product or service.
Naturally, the higher the search volume is for a keyword, the more competition there will be in your business niche. Make a note of these keywords as you go. These will all come in handy when it comes to your digital marketing strategy at a later date.
The best place to check out keyword competitiveness is with Google Adwords Keyword planner. Every entrepreneur serious about starting an online business should sign up to this. It offers real insights into the amount of search is performed each month across your chosen niche or category.
Check Out the Competition
Another great way to verify that your business idea is a viable one is to check out the competition. Not only does this help you understand how similar businesses market themselves to their audience. It also gives you a chance to check out their products or services and find ways to improve on them.
It is important to remember that when you first start your online business, you will most likely not be competing with those who rank first. These companies have invested time, dedication and effort into becoming market leaders. They will have a comprehensive digital marketing strategy in place to keep them in the top spot.
While this may not be what you want to hear, it’s not all bad news. You can learn a lot about your potential online business from your competitors. Everything that makes them successful is there for the picking. From their brand identity, the layout and presentation of their website, the social media channels they use, even the keywords that work best.
That is not to say that you should create a complete clone of their business model. But if something works well, don’t be afraid to use yourself.
Know Your Customers
Here’s the thing. If you don’t know who your customers will be, you won’t know who to target. Every successful online business and entrepreneur will have a buyer persona plan in place. Why are these important? Basically, they allow you to humanise your target audience and create a personalised marketing strategy.
If you know the type of person you will be talking to, it helps you create content that speaks to them. It also gives you a better idea of the social media channels they will use and what their expectations are. Here is an example of a buyer persona:
- Her name is Emily
- She is 30 years old
- She lives in a detached house in Sydney
- She is a stay-at-home mum of two children under 5 years old
- She owns a three year old beagle called Bonnie
- She likes running on the beach
- She wants to take part in a marathon
The buyer persona gives a human face to the data that you collect. It allows you to get into the mind of your potential customers and work out what it is that they want and need. Demographics are hugely important to tailoring and targeting your products or services to the right people.
You will use your buyer personas every time you need to make a business decision. Whether this is choosing different products or services, selecting an appropriate font or choosing the right tone of voice. You can use social media to find demographics and start building your buyer or audience personas.
Create Your Website
Once you have completed all of the steps above, you will be ready to create your website. This is where your business will live. The face of it. Where the magic happens. It is tempting to go for a generic, free website template. But if you are serious about starting a successful online business, then generic is not the way to go.
Every successful entrepreneur knows that to stay ahead of the competition, you need to stamp your mark. If you use a generic template, standard font and a template used on a million websites, what is going to make you memorable? The most successful online businesses have websites that include:
- Personalised colour schemes and fonts
- A professional and a memorable business logo
- An intuitive user interface for improved user experience
- A mobile-optimised website
- Comprehensive SEO and marketing strategies
- Detailed and targeted original content
- Well-presented product and service menus
- An established brand identity across all platforms
- A funnel designed to guide customers from potential to actual buyers
- Effective SEM, that ties into the website and brand identity
These are just a few of the basic elements of a successful online business website. There is so much more that goes on behind the scenes.
Each individual component has its own benefits. But when working together, they create a website that is high-impact, memorable and builds customer trust.
Think of the first four steps as the foundation that you will build your business on. Your website is the house that you build on these foundations.
By skipping them, you will be building a house on sand. And when you build a house on sand, it’s only a matter of time before it collapses.
Our blog has lots more useful information for entrepreneurs and those looking to start a successful online business. Why not check it out today and get yourself onto the fast track to success.