Everyone is talking about how easy it is to start a business online. It’s an appealing concept, convenient and low-cost. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can jump into the online business bandwagon and succeed from day one.
Starting is one thing; building is another. To achieve results and earn money from the Internet, you’ve got to follow the basic steps in starting a business online.
Idea, idea, idea. Before anything else, sit down and ask yourself, “What am I most passionate about? What do I love to do best?” From your answers, you will discover the things which you are most interested in, and ideas which you can dedicate yourself to nurturing and applying.
You will find out that what you love will bring out the best in you. The key to succeeding in business — be it online or otherwise — is enjoying what you do. Said Napoleon Hill, an American author: “All achievements, all earned riches, have their beginning in an idea.”
Before diving into the business, do your research. Research here means identifying a niche market to which you will cater, and then identifying the products and services that this specific market demands and will find most useful.
What do the people want? What are their problems and what kinds of solutions are they looking for? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you come up with truly unique business ideas. To make sure that your market is receptive to what you will be offering, find out what they are most hungry for.
You can implement several Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies — such as keyword research — to sharpen your focus and gain greater insights about your potential customers.
Choose and set up an appropriate domain name. If you are going to start a business online, start it right. Baptize your website with a domain name that is relevant to the business you are in. The search engines will rank you higher if your domain name contains the keywords that you’d like to be found for.
Unless you’re world-famous, avoid choosing a URL that promotes only your name and not what you have to offer. An appropriate domain name will also make you look more credible and professional, as will a real E-mail address (not one that’s hosted by a third-party server), a reliable web host (that won’t irritate people with frequent downtimes), and sufficient bandwidth (to support your website).
Build a professional website. The content, design, and layout of your website are critical customer touch points, so don’t scare visitors away with signs of amateurishness, such as annoying graphics, regurgitated content, and frustrating navigation. Develop interesting copy.
Communicate to visitors the benefits of what you can offer them. Use simple but catchy design that reflects your brand personality. Make your pages easy to read and easy to navigate. Include details about your business that make it unique. Share only relevant news and information, and exclude the rest.
Create an FAQ section for the convenience of those who’d like to make inquiries. Remember: a website that creates a professional impression of what your brand is all about and what you can offer will be a big boost to your online business.
Automate! Keep in mind that you can take advantage of Web-based tools and technologies to automate certain tasks needed to run your online business. For example, you can add a simple “Subscribe to my RSS feeds” button to your web page to keep customers and interested prospects in the loop.
And auto responders will help you keep in constant touch with customers and prospects by regularly sending them content in the form of E-newsletters and free E-courses. That way, you won’t have to build your online business and your customer base manually.
Outline a marketing strategy and implement it. So you now have a website up and running. Thing is, an online business won’t succeed unless it generates plenty of visitor traffic. This is why you need to outline a strategy for your marketing efforts, most of which won’t cost you a single cent. Brush up on the use of social media and basic SEO techniques to promote your business. Include your web address in all your promotional literature, including your E-mail signature.
Get listed in search engines by submitting your website to online business directories. Participate in relevant forums. Create a blog. Sign up in top social media websites. Join affiliate programs to establish your authority as well as generating additional income streams. If you have the budget, maybe you can even invest in pay-per-click advertising programs to let yourself be known — by the search engines and your market alike.