The internet has made it easy for just about anyone to sell products or services to a wide audience. What’s more, a growing number of consumers are becoming accustomed to shopping mostly or even solely online as just about everything one needs can be found on the internet. In fact, experts predict there will be about 300 million online shoppers in the United States alone by 2023.
At the same time, setting up an online business isn’t easy. You may be able to cut initial business set-up costs using drop shopping, but you’ll still need to pay for advertising, site design, and hosting services.
More importantly, you’ll be competing with scores of online and offline competitors to attract and keep customers. The start-up failure rate is a whopping 90% as few businesses last longer than a decade. Thankfully, the tips listed below can help you avoid becoming a statistic and increase your odds of long-term success.
5 Initial Steps To Start An Online business
1. It All Starts with a Plan
As the old saying goes, those who fail to plan are planning to fail. There is no way anyone can start a successful business without a plan. Your plan may need to be tweaked and adapted as time goes by, but you must have a sense of direction to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
Your plan can be as long or as short as you’d like. A one-page business plan that sums up your goals, core values, and business structure can make it easy for you to remember important information. On the other hand, you may want to make a long business plan that outlines specific, quantifiable goals and provides detailed information that you can refer to in order to ensure you’re on the right track.
2. Following Your Plan, Decide on a Business Structure
Once you have a plan, it’s time to pick the business structure that will best suit your new company’s needs. Many entrepreneurs opt to create a limited liability company (LLC), and this structure could very well be the best option for your new firm. It offers flexibility, provides some great tax benefits, and protects your personal assets in the event someone takes legal action against your firm. However, it’s not the only option.
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Other common business structures include sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation. A sole proprietorship is the simplest to set up but does not offer limited liability protection. A partnership is an option for anyone who is setting up a business with another person; however, a sole proprietorship, would not protect your assets if someone takes legal action against your company. A corporation offers limited liability protection as well as plenty of flexibility for handling excess profits; however, bear in mind that there are complex and time-consuming requirements involved in setting up and maintaining this business structure.
If you aren’t sure which business structure is right for your new company, consult a lawyer for expert advice pertaining to your situation. Bear in mind you can also change your structure later on if you feel another type would better suit your needs.
3. Understand Your Audience on All Fronts
Learning how to communicate effectively with your target audience can spell the difference between success and failure for any business. You’ll want to start getting to know your target audience even before you launch your business in order to pick the products/services that would appeal to the people you want to reach.
Even so, learning how to communicate effectively with potential customers is an ongoing process. Staying abreast of your website analytics can offer valuable insight into what potential customers want and need from your company, and can also help you identify new niche audiences.
It’s also important to remember the way in which you communicate with your target audience will vary depending on the communications medium used. Emails, for instance, can be customized to meet the needs of each of your niche audiences. They can contain discount coupons, special offers, insight into the inner workings of your company, etc.
Social media posts, on the other hand, should be short and to the point. These posts should also contain images to boost engagements and shares. Recent statistics show that Tweets with photos received a 35% boost in Retweets while Facebook posts with images received over two times more engagement than posts that did not feature images.
4. Start Building Your Selected Platforms
Take some time to consider which platforms would best meet your business needs. You’ll need a website, but the type of site you use will depend on the nature of your online business. If you plan on engaging in affiliate marketing, for instance, you’ll want a blog you can regularly update with current, insightful information. If you plan on starting an e-commerce store, you’ll need a hosting service with a vibrant e-commerce platform. If you plan on starting an e-commerce store, you’ll need a hosting service with a vibrant e-commerce platform and branding that will require finding luxury packaging solutions.
If you sell physical products, consider how you will ship these to your customers. Dropshipping is ideal as it saves you time and money, enables you to test products to see which ones customers like best, and can be scaled as needed. However, this shipping method isn’t without its downsides. You won’t be able to customize orders, add a friendly thank-you note, or personalize your packaging because you won’t have any control over the shipping process.
Once you have your website and shipping method set up, it’s time to pick your social media channels. Don’t choose too many; you have to stay engaged in each platform to attract customers, and you can’t realistically keep up with multiple platforms while providing top-tier content. Rather, pick a few platforms that best meet your needs and are most likely to appeal to your target audience.
Facebook is almost a must as most people still use the platform. YouTube is great if you don’t mind making video content and want to appeal to a general audience; however, TikTok is better if your products/services primarily appeal to young people. LinkedIn is the platform of choice for B2B businesses and freelancers who offer professional services such as copywriting, editing, financial management, legal assistance, consulting, etc.
Pinterest and Instagram are ideal for companies that offer visually appealing products and/or services, and the former platform is particularly ideal for companies targeting women.
5. Invest in Your Initial Marketing
There are some very effective free marketing strategies you’ll want to take full advantage of, including search engine optimization, guest blogging, and social media marketing. However, you can’t rely solely on these marketing methods to jumpstart your new business. You’ll need to select some forms of paid advertising in order to generate immediate publicity about your new business.
There are a number of paid advertising options to pick from. The Google AdWords platform is effective, especially if you do careful research to find keywords that bring in traffic but aren’t overly competitive. Social media ads can be ideal if you pick a platform typically used by your target audience and choose the right keywords. You can also approach select non-competitor blogs that are successfully reaching your target audience to ask if you can pay for advertising.
Investing in influencer marketing is yet another good option. It doesn’t cost much if you choose partners with care. You don’t need a famous person with millions of followers; in fact, it can be even more effective to partner with several micro-influencers who reach potential customers than it would be to hire a celebrity who may or may not connect with your target audience.
Creating a successful online business will take time, research, and plenty of hard work. Even so, the results are well worth it. You’ll be able to set your own standards, make your own rules, and enjoy the flexibility that comes with being your own boss. What’s more, you’ll have the fulfillment of building a business that will stand the tests of time.
If you’re starting a business and wondering how to build your new company on a solid foundation, consider the pointers outlined above. Tweak them to suit your situation, so your business can get started on the right foot. Keep an open mind and allow yourself to learn as you go and continually adapt your marketing, products, services, and content to meet your target audience’s needs.