Posted by Pamela Swift in Starting Up
Do you remember what the famous Chinese philosopher Laozi said? “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. We will discuss those steps right below.
Do you have ideas, dreams, ambition but lack a magic dash to take the first step or maybe you just don’t know much about the startups?
Take a deep breath. In fact, starting an online business is not as difficult at you might think. It consists of a series of steps that need to be taken.
If you don’t have a business plan, you need the one. Before starting with online business, you first need to decide what type of business you want to enter into. Take into consideration your knowledge of that particular business. Think about the geographic area you would be operating out of and the geographic regions you would be selling to.
Best advice: Stick to something you know or are passionate about.
A business plan gives you more than the holistic view of what you are trying to do, but also puts things into perspective for you. Here are some free and paid resources you can reach out to regarding your business plan:
- Bplans – is an online paid website that allows you to choose from 100 business plans and write your business plan online.
- Microsoft Word Templates – lets you search through their resource for “business plan” templates.
- Score.org – offers business planning templates.
- How to Write a Business Plan – tips from Small Business Association.
- Search ~ Creative Market – Creative Market has some amazing templates for a very low price.
- Top 10 Business Plan Templates You Can Download Free.
- BizGym – all in one paid business planning and pitch development website.
A thought out business plan will make you aware of the competition, the existing opportunities, the pros and cons of the industry, etc. But what’s really important, it will highlight your unique selling point.
BTW, a business plan also acts as a sales pitch book.
If your financials are correct, you will clearly know about what your expenses will be, and what it will cost you to run this business.
Once you have determined your vertical and niche for your product &/or service, it’s time to pass over to the next step.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Is your supply line competitive and reliable enough?
- What is the competition like? How many of your competitors are from your country/worldwide?
- Will you be able to compete against them and make your way into the first search engine results pages?
- How many of your competitors are buying ads? What is the average price they are paying per click? Will you be able to compete with them?
- What is the average selling price?
- What is your unique selling point (free shipment, extras, discounts, whatever)?
- Is the product you are going to sell cyclical in nature?
- Does your market scale horizontally or vertically?
- Do you need to invest in inventory? If so, how much does that cost?
- You may also need to look into Affiliate Marketing and Drop Shippers. These two options are great ways to start without having to worry about any sales process. You simply divert the user to the sale mechanism of the company you are representing as an affiliate, then all the rest is usually handled by them. Passive income for lazy-bones. Actually, referral sales are how most of businesses today are doing business on the web.
Online selling model
Internet Marketing Model is pretty much the same for most businesses.
Supposing you have the most attractive website on the Internet, selling the exquisite product or service. Though, if you don’t have any visitors, you will not be seeing sales soon. In other words, very often we concentrate too much on making our website absolutely perfect and ignore the necessity of visitors/traffic to make sales.
To understand traffic, you need to understand your visitors first. They can be divided into destined: visitors who are destined for your website, that is, they are typing the URL or click on a link to come to your website; transit: the visitors who use your website to go to another one; accidental: visitors who did not mean to come to your website.
Now, when you understand your visitor types, it’s time to get to know what sort of traffic types exist.
The four traffic types are:
- comes and builds up naturally
- usually involves search engines traffic as well
- comes through relevant linkages
- is slow to build up
- Google loves organic traffic as it is well-behaved
- also Organic in nature
- comes through articles or linkages
- is usually a derivative of SEO
- when optimized – search engines are a major driver of traffic
- not Organic at all
- existence is based directly on your ability to pay
- is “keyword” specific
- expensive – but the more sure to instantly generate traffic for your website
- most preferred / utilized method
- hinged on your ability to go keyword research
- is Organic in nature
- word of mouth / offline referral / brand-identity
- repeat / bookmarked visitors constitute largest segment
- most internet marketers would not rely on this method alone
- largest contributor if you have a brand
You need a domain name for your online presence. You can opt for a generic domain name, or a unique domain name. Click here to know more about choosing a domain name.
You need to keep in mind that current online stores heavily rely on online optimization and marketing. That is why, choose your words for your domain name carefully. SEO is the matter you will have to consider later on.
Once you settled the issue with your hosting, you would most likely need to have a website developed. Here you have two options: either design it from scratch or use a ready-made template from a reliable provider, like TemplateMonster.com. The latter option is simpler, faster, and most cost-efficient, but of course it’s up to you to decide which way to go.
If you are selling physical goods, it would be a good idea to sign up with say USPS, Fedex, UPS, etc.
Now, when you are almost done with your store, you would need to take care of a couple of things:
- Telephone Number and Address for your business
- Be aware of what your tax rate is if you are shipping within the state
- Your refund policy and exchange policy needs to be clearly spelled out.
- Do make sure your shopping cart can handle refunds, etc.
You would also need some form of a Customer Support/Help Desk, where your users can open support tickets or ask questions, etc. There are lots of SaaS options like Home, Web-based collaboration apps for small business, etc. for the purpose. Surf Google for “help desk” or “hosted crm” and you should see quite a number of results.
That’s it. With the above your online store is essentially complete.
We have already mentioned that now you need to draw visitors. The more targeted visitors you have the higher is the probability of a sale.
Most of the online websites fail because they underestimated the importance of post-website construction phase, known as traffic building. No traffic – no sales. Whether you bring in targeted traffic slowly (organically) or via paid clicks, this is an area you cannot ignore.
You can cooperate with a professional (solopreneur or company) to start online campaign for you. The online campaign is not just for marketing purposes, but it is also geared towards your search engine optimization (SEO). You would be looking at things like acquiring back links, having articles written and placed on various ezine sites, listing your website with the necessary online directories, making sure your site is indexed properly by Google and other search engines. Make sure your on-page SEO is done correctly. Your META tags and descriptions are well written, etc.
You can also get started with a small online PPC (Pay-Per-Click) campaign on Google, to buy ads and bring targeted traffic to your website. PPC is one of the fastest ways to bring visitors to your online store.
Every day nearly 50 000 blogs/websites go online. Think about it. What is going to make your website stand out is only how effectively people are able to search for the things they want to buy and how effectively you utilize and conquer the Search Engine Results Page (or SERPs). Don’t ignore the social media either. Today, more and more users can be found spending endless hours on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. Learn to adapt your marketing and communication by using social media.
In the end, it boils down to two things:
- The end price the user will pay to have the product/service delivered to them.
- The user experience.
It is not easy to compete with web giants, like Amazon or Ebay. That’s the truth. You need to give users a reason to come to your website and make a purchase.
Hopefully, this article would give you a clue on how to get started with your online store. We wish you best of luck with your venture!