If you’re thinking about starting an online business, then you’ve landed on the right site. Here, we’ll go through all best practices to keep your online business up and running, steps you need to take to legitimize your business, and maybe throw in a couple of business ideas for you while we’re at it.
Using the Internet to run your business
The creation of the world wide web truly is one of the best things ever to happen to us. It has changed the way we live, from how we get around (Google Maps vs traditional maps + asking for directions) to how we seek recommendations (online reviews vs word of mouth). It has also made running an online business easier than ever.
With the availability of high-speed broadband in most places around the world, we’re free to operate our business from the comfort of our homes, or even while sipping mai-tais at some tropical paradise (as long as WiFi’s available of course).
One of the most beautiful things about online businesses is that your market isn’t limited to just your country. Dream big. With the power of the internet, you’re able to sell your products globally!
Why most online businesses go belly up
Things are never as simple as it seems. Even with the conveniences and benefits the internet brings into our lives, you’ll find that many folks are still unsuccessful at building their business digitally. This is because most people simply do not know how to create, market, and sell their products in a digital space.
Setting up an e-commerce platform for your latest product without a plan and just hoping for it to sell is like buying a one-way ticket on the next train to failure.
Best practices and tips for online businesses
With this article, we’ll go through some of the things you’ll need to do to ensure the success of your online business. Who knows? With enough persistence and a dash of luck, you might even strike it big and turn your business into the next great unicorn startup!
Regardless of whether you’re an industry vet or a young, bright-eyed entrepreneur, we’re positive that you’ll find the following tips very useful so bookmark this page for easy reference in the future.
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Alright, enough shameless self-promotion, let’s get on with the article!
How To Start An Online Business
Step 1: Provide Solutions To Existing Problems
Problems are opportunities. Some problems can simply be a hindrance to someone, while others can be downright aggravating. By identifying problems and creating a product / service that solves that issue, you create a solution that the market already needs. This is a sure fire way to boost your chances of creating a successful business.
Even if you’re not in the business of solving problems, your business will greatly benefit just by identifying the problems of your customers. You can fix issues you didn’t know you have, therefore encouraging repeat visits from your customers.
You can do this by:
- Visiting forums that are relevant to your product / service.
By reading up about what people are complaining or are unhappy about, you’re getting valuable insights about their problems and what they’re trying to achieve. Some of the more popular forums you can visit are reddit and Bizwarriors. Alternatively, make use of Facebook and join groups relevant to your niche! You’ll gain plenty of insights from there.
- Visiting Quora
Quora can be a valuable asset for you to gather insights. It has over 200 million monthly unique users, all of them looking for solutions to their problems.
- Doing keyword research
Keyword research helps you find keywords that users are searching for. Zone in on a few keywords that people are searching for but doesn’t have much competition. This reveals the solutions that people want.
- Check out the competition
Visit your competitor’s websites to see what they’re doing right. You can see what kind of solutions they provide the market, and then you can “innovate” from there. (Just so you know, when I say “innovate”, I mean copy and improve.)
Step 2: Write To Sell
Writing good copy is one of the most effective ways to increase your sales. Learn basic copywriting techniques or hire a good copywriter (keep in mind that a good writer doesn’t make a good copywriter. They are completely different skillsets).
A good copywriter will know where to place a good call-to-action button. They’ll know how to write exciting headlines that are short yet powerful enough to hold the audience’s attention, guiding them step-by-step to the checkout page. They’ll expertly cross-sell after the customers have paid, and have them feel good about it.
Here are some pointers for you to write compelling copy:
- Keep your headlines short and sweet.
- Write for the digital crowd. They have really short attention spans.
- Don’t use complicated words or language.
- Write for a purpose.
- Use the buyer’s journey. It’s proven to work for a reason!
If you want to learn more, read our in-depth article on how to write website contents.
Step 3: Create A Site That Feels Premium
When someone stumbles upon your small business website, you’ve got less than 5 seconds to make a good impression. A site that looks amateurish doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in people, and once they say bye-bye, they usually say bye-bye forever.
Pay attention to User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX).
- Is your user interface easy to navigate through?
- Are your pages responding fast enough?
- Is the copy difficult to read on that background?
- What’s your value proposition?
- Does going through the site give your customers a pleasant experience?
- Is buying stuff from your site actually easy?
Think of your website as a physical store. You wouldn’t want to buy from a store that looks like it’s a front for back-alley drug deals. Check out this article to design a store that makes your customers feel like dropping some dough.
Step 4: Establish Yourself As An Expert In Your Field
This tip applies to both online and offline businesses. Notice how when you’re out shopping for something, you tend to make your purchase from the most knowledgeable sounding salesman?
The same concept applies to online businesses.
When you sound knowledgeable, confident, and authoritative, people tend to put their trust in you and will purchase anything you recommend.
You don’t even need to know everything there is about your product, you just need to know more than your customers and how they can benefit from it. Provide them with valuable content and write tips for free (much like this very article). Just make sure to always link back to your site, so that the people that are reading your pieces know where its coming from.
You can also:
- Write articles (based on keyword research).
- Create videos (if writing isn’t for you).
- Answer question on Quora.
- Write for Medium.
- Participate in relevant forums.
Step 5: Leverage On Email Marketing
Do not underestimate the power of email marketing. When someone provides you with their email address, they are essentially giving you a direct line of communication.
You won’t need to worry about advertising, no need to care if your message gets lost in the sea of social media ads.
When your customers give you their email address, it means that you’ve already offered them something they found valuable, and are putting their trust in you. This makes it so much easier to market new products to them!
So create an opt-in list to your newsletter on your site. You’ve got only got everything to gain by leveraging on email marketing!
If you need more email marketing tips, pay attention to these articles. Follow them religiously and you’ll be an expert in email marketing in no time!
Step 6: Upsell To Your Existing Customers
Getting that first sale from your visitors is probably the most difficult part of the selling process. Once you give them a compelling reason to initially part with their money though, a whopping 36% of them will be willing to purchase products from you again.
Suggest products or services that will complement their initial purchase. Create loyalty programs or discount codes which they can redeem with their next purchase. Offer “Thank You” deals for them upon check out.
Give them a lifetime of rewards, and they’ll be your lifetime customers.
Speaking of rewards, here’s a little something to help you with upselling.
BONUS: Newbie Friendly Online Business Ideas
Here, we’ll list down a few business ideas we can venture into with minimal effort.
1. Start an affiliate marketing website
Don’t you thumb your nose at affiliate marketing – according to Awin.com, it is predicted to be a 6.8 billion dollar industry by 2020, with a 10% year on year growth.
Do your research by visiting forums in your niche, check out user problems on quora and reddit, while doing keyword research. Remember, you’ll want to provide solutions to existing problems.
Once you’ve established what problems you’re going to solve, it’s time to create content. Write guides. Provide valuable information, give people a reason to visit your site. Write to sell, and make use of the buyer’s journey.
You’ll want to register yourself as a publisher on affiliate networks like Shareasale. Look for quality products or brands that you want to affiliate your brand with.
While you’re creating content, you’ll also need to create your website. Take UI and UX design into consideration, and create a professional looking site that feels simple enough to navigate through.
You’ll also need to market your affiliate marketing website or nobody will know it exists. Write articles or guest blog for other sites so you can backlink to yourself. Participate in forums and answer questions on Quora. Establish yourself as an expert in your field.
You should also create a “sign up” page for your newsletter, for email marketing purposes. The people that give you their email addresses are giving you permission to contact them directly, so make sure to take advantage of email marketing to draw them back into your website!
Don’t forget that upselling is key to keeping your online business in the black. Pepper your content with internal links that are related to one another, to increase the time people spend on your site. The more time spent on your site, the more likely you’ll make a sale.
You can also try your hand at lead generation. It’s basically the same thing as affiliate marketing, except that you’ll be collecting leads for brands. Target niches like credit card companies, banking, fintech, and contact the brands involved to discuss a pay per sign up model.
Now there are many things to keep in mind if you want your website to be successful, but the one thing I cannot say stress enough is this – make sure your web hosting is FAST, or you won’t get much visitors.
We did our research and compiled a list of the fastest web hosts, over here. For more detailed website building guide, hop on over here.
2. Start a blog
Although a blog and a website are similar, they are definitely not the same. A website creates mostly static content, while a blog is always constantly updated and is more personal in nature.
While people may be drawn to the content in a website, people might be drawn to the blogger’s personality.
Once your blog has a large enough following, you can monetize it by selling ad space, writing sponsored posts, providing people with consulting services, and even affiliate marketing.
In fact, there are quite a few bloggers that have turned their blogs into successful small online businesses.
Tim Ferris needs no introduction with his popular 4-hour work week blog, while Amy Song dominates the fashion niche.
One of our favourite platforms to creating a blog is WordPress, an easy to use site builder which is perfect for bloggers. If this is something you’re into, you might want to check out this article.
Remember, provide solutions to existing problems, write to sell, build a premium site, establish yourself as an expert, take advantage of email marketing, and always UPSELL!
3. Start an e-commerce business
With the e-shopping platforms like Amazon gaining popularity every day, it’s a no brainer to leverage on its fame and sell your products on their store.
But if you want to build a long-lasting, successful brand, you might want to set up your own e-commerce business instead.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with selling products on Amazon (even big brands does it). It’s just that as a new boutique brand, you’ll be competing with hundreds, if not thousands of people selling similar products on those platforms.
When you create your own e-commerce store, you can customise it and position your brand in a way that makes it stand out from the competition. One of the best ways to get started is through Shopify.
It’s made for e-commerce, easy to use, and has amazing marketing tools!
You can also try Dropshipping. It’s one of the most popular business models around since you barely incur any cost. The products are placed at your supplier’s warehouse, and is only shipped when you receive an order. Just be careful and get yourself a good supplier, because a bad one with bad service will only damage your brand.
You’ll have to invest in marketing, making sure your products gets enough screen time. Just make sure to keep our 6 best practices in mind, and your business should be able to withstand the test of time.
4. Start a creative design business
There’s always a need for digital visual arts, and although there are free programs out there, people prefer to pay professionals to get their artwork done for them. They understand that the artist produces the work, not the tools.
You can consider specializing in logo design, website design, or even specialize in general graphic design.
Make a name for yourself by sharing valuable design tips in forums like Quora or with people in your social media platforms. Don’t worry about sharing your skills or giving away secrets.
With Youtube, people can easily learn everything they need to, but they’ll still prefer to pay a professional to get things done professionally.
Remember, give value and you’ll get more value in return!
5. Start a studio or a production type business
The demand for image and video production is higher than ever, thanks to the advent of digital / social media advertising. It’s interesting, engaging, and most important of all, it needed to convert.
You can start a studio focusing on image production, retouching, video production, or just maybe focus solely on creating digital products like phone wallpapers.
You can then either sell your services to advertising agencies, submit stock footage to platforms like Shutterstock or Blackbox, or sign up for something like Samsung’s developer program and create themes to sell on their Galaxy lineup.
Best of all, you can easily scale your business by hiring freelancers! Do note that if you manage to find a good freelancer, you hold on to them like your life depends on it. Dependable freelancers are hard to come by, and if you come across one, reward them well!
6. Create an e-learning program
Online tutorials are all the rage these days. They’re cheap, informative, and provides good value for both the consumer and creator. Best of all, create the program once, and it’ll produce passive income!
Create a business revolving around e-learning programs. Produce valuable tutorials and information, upload to an e-learning platform like Udemy and you’ll have a set of products that never expires!
Here’s a little recap of the things we can do to make sure your small online business flourishes like a swordfish majestically leaping out of the water (it looks better when pictured in slow-motion).
- Provide solutions to existing problems
Discover your customers pain points and solve them.
- Write to sell
Nobody likes to read, so make sure your copy is written to SELL!
- Create a site that feels premium
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a wet potato or a designer handbag, you gotta make sure your shop looks good.
- Establish yourself as an expert in your field
Provide value to your customers with your knowledge, and they’ll reward you with a lifetime of value.
- Leverage on email marketing
It’s a direct line of communication to your customers. Take advantage of it, but treat it with respect.
- Upsell to your existing customers
If they bought from you before, they’ll buy from you again. You just have to give them a reason to buy.
There you have it. 6 solid steps to keep your small business venture in the black. Make sure to either commit these to memory or brand yourself with these tips. One day, you’ll look back upon your successes and thank Google that you stumbled across this heaven-sent piece of writing.
Anyway, if you’ve got any questions you’d like us to answer, just drop us a message or an email. We’ll be sure to reply you as soon as we can. Now go forth and show the world what regular everyday small entrepreneurs are capable of achieving.