Starting an internet business is easy, but that doesn’t mean no costs or challenges are involved. While coming up with an idea can be easy, planning how to start an online business and turn it into a sustainable source of income can be hectic. Not to mention the mistakes you get to do along the way. But that won’t be the case if you follow the ten steps and tips discussed herein.
Research shows that 90% of e-commerce businesses fail within the first 120 days. And there are many reasons behind this high failure rate. For instance, some online entrepreneurs fail to understand how the business works and their target audience and rarely use digital marketing strategies. Then others chose unfavorable niches or ignore the importance of SEO.
For the 10% that succeed, success doesn’t come by chance. They go a step further to understand how marketing works and research what their target audience wants, including the problems they face and their preference. This article will teach you how (what you need) to start a profitable online business. Including why, how, where, and when to market it online.
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10 Steps to Start an Online Business
Bringing your business online will help target a larger audience, lower operation costs, and enjoy higher sales. But you need to plan right. Before starting your business, you need to understand basics like idea generation, marketing, and lead generation. Here’s what to do:
Step 1: Come up with a Great Idea
Regardless of how much capital you have to start your business or the experience you or your team have, your idea must be well thought out for your online business to succeed. This stage largely depends on you – the products or services you can offer online and your interests.
What are your strengths and weaknesses? What skills can you turn into a business? Check these 21 profitable skills, select one to learn through courses or guides, and offer services online. I even compiled a list of 49 online business ideas you can turn into sustainable businesses. Pick ones like an SEO agency, online tutoring, dropshipping, content writing, blogging, and the like.
The bottom line: a business idea should be interesting to you and has the potential to earn you income. Finding the idea isn’t enough. You still need to follow the next 9 steps to evaluate the idea and plan how you’ll actualize it. And even plan on your sources of income and timelines.
Step 2: Define your Market and Niche
Now that you have a business idea, it’s time to research and establish its suitability. Precisely, you need to evaluate your ideas, explore the barriers to entry into your target industry, analyze competition and profile your potential customers, including their needs and age.
The best way is to find a problem you or your potential customers face. Then tune your business to solve that problem (s). For instance, as a freelancer with digital marketing skills, you can offer SEO services if you find it’s the area most website owners struggle with. You can focus on seeking local clients first, build a reputable brand, and expand your reach over time.
Don’t be scared by the competition. You need to narrow down your niche as much as possible, answer your audience’s questions, advance your pitching skills, and increase your organic reach. With time, your business will become one of the leaders in the industry.
Step 3: Select Products (Services) to Offer
What you’ll realize after extensive market research is that your target audience may be facing different unrelated problems. And you can’t meet all of them, especially when you’re getting started. Hence, carefully select the most suitable products and services to offer online.
The choice of your products or services will depend on various factors, including;
- The problem you intend to solve
- Your technical know-how and interests
- Availability of market
- Your financial strength or capital
- Growth potential
- The current trends in the market
Choosing the right products and services for your business is crucial whether you’re an online retailer or service provider. In addition to having high sales potential and a high-profit margin, a good product or service can act as a lead magnet, attracting customers to your business.
Therefore, take time to pick the right packages for your audience and establish how much your competitors are charging for the same. And how much your customers are willing to pay.
Step 4: Know your Competitors
Whether you want to start a small, medium, or large online business, you must conduct a competitive analysis. It helps you estimate whether your potential customers will find your business appealing based on the performance of other similar products in the marketplace.
You need to learn who your competitors are, their competitive advantage, and how they attract and retain customers. Then use this information to make informed decisions regarding product packaging, promotion, and internet marketing.
Take time to assess your competitors, know their reach, financial capacity, strengths, and weaknesses, and establish a strategy to gain a competitive advantage. The key here is to create a competitive advantage, which BDC defines as “anything that gives a company an edge over its competitors, helping it attract more customers and grow its market share.”
Step 5: Plan to Start your Online Business
Benjamin Franklin said that failing to plan is planning to fail. And this seems true because one of the reasons 90% of small businesses fail online is poor planning. Some do not plan their internet marketing the right way, while others offer products with little to no market.
Luckily, you can avoid such mistakes by preparing a business plan, outlining key goals and objectives, financial forecasts and feasibility, human resource needs, and other factors. Not to mention that you need to create a budget for your business and make a growth plan.
Most importantly, you should have a plan of what you want to be done by when to make the right decision. It assists you in accomplishing goals in an organized manner, meaning you can focus on the most important ones first and avoid procrastination that can kill your idea.
You can also make realizable goals based on the availability of resources like time and capital. For instance, you can dedicate 5 hours daily to preparing your business content. Or even find a temporary freelance writing job to find the capital needed to start an online business.
Step 6: Name & Register your Business
Your business name should be unique yet simple to remember. And you can settle for a personal brand name, like Neil Patel, or a business brand name, like Edifid Digital. You can also come up with a name by using foreign words, mixing up things, and partnering with another brand.
Check if your proposed name is already taken, and confirm the domain and social media username availability. That way, you can manage to match your names across all social platforms like YouTube, and your website, a step towards creating a memorable brand. You can search and buy domains on hosting companies like Bluehost and get ready for the next steps.
Then, you can find a country and city your business will operate from and register it. Some legal issues you’ll need to deal with include business permits or licenses, product quality assistance provisions, and health and safety provisions.
Step 7: Build your Online Store
Now it’s time to build a website for your online business, the most important venue to reach your audience online. I highly recommend you build your website or hire a freelance web developer. That way, you can build a great online business and start promoting it. And integrate different payment gateways to allow your clients to pay as conveniently as possible.
However, you can still sign up on global commerce websites like Amazon or Esty, create your shop, and start selling your products. Or even create a shop on Facebook and Instagram, display your products and services, and use social media content or paid ads to reach potential clients.
Either way, optimize your online store for SEO (search engine optimization). And you can do so by conducting keyword research, understanding your target audience’s search intents, and including the right terms in the product or service page titles, description, and URLs.
Step 8: Display your Products
You already know the products your target customers needs, but have you created them yet? And if you’re starting an e-commerce platform, have you sourced your suppliers? Or are you ready to offer your digital services? If not, now is the time to do so. If yes, showcase them.
For digital products like ebooks and checklists, you can include the cover page and share the table of content and summary. Just to make sure your audience understands the context. And if you’re offering products that can only be displayed but not transmitted digitally, like clothes, then you need to take a clear picture of them and display them on your online store.
Then categorize your items to make the store more user-friendly. Make sure to include all details that will help your store visitors understand the item you’re selling. You can include information on prices and discounts, available colors (if applicable), and after-sale services.
Step 9. Promote it and Generate Leads
Creating an online store is not enough. You’ll hardly get clients if you don’t market it online. The most basic thing to do is adopt these E-commerce SEO practices:
- Have an understanding of how Google algorithm works
- Put the right keywords on the product pages
- Optimize your page titles, meta description, and images for SEO
- Make your website mobile-friendly
- Build juicy backlinks to increase your organic traffic
- Make your Copywriting Unique
In addition to taking advantage of SEO to drive the right traffic to your store, you should as well use other digital marketing strategies. You can market your product or service pages on social media using ads and influencers and on search engines using PPC marketing.
Then after receiving potential customers, you need to use lead magnets like ebooks and checklists to collect contact details from your website visitors. Then you can send them bulk emails using Sender or any of these 10 free email marketing tools with automation features.
Sales lead generation helps you convert your store users into customers to whom you can send updates about your products and services. And then see your store sales grow with time.
Step 10: Learn from Experts and Improve
Learning is a continuous process, whether in personal or business life. So, after you start your online business and market it, you must study your industry to find new opportunities. Or at least make your products as suitable as possible for meeting your customers’ needs.
You can find some products that are doing well in your industry and learn what they do differently that makes them outstanding. Or follow marketing experts to learn new trends and marketing opportunities for your online store. Still, not everything will work in your favor.
For this reason, you should be ready to experiment and collect data and tips from your store users. Then advance your skills in creating or marketing your products and services.
FAQs on How to Start an Online Business
To build a profitable online business, you need to find an idea that interests you and assess its suitability and demand through market research. Then choose a business name, register it, build a website, display your products and services, and market it online.
You can start many online businesses, including a blog, SEO or digital marketing agency, online shop or store, and freelance writing website.
Definitely, YES. Building an online business without money or at least with little investment is possible. With hard work and consistency, you can build an online store or blog and then learn how to market it. Follow the 10 steps explained in this article.
The highest-paying online businesses include training (like creating and selling online courses), selling digital products like ebooks, blogging, and freelancing.
It s possible to start an online business with no investment by promoting your skills or products on e-commerce websites like Amazon or Etsy or offering services at Fiver. Then you can practice e-commerce SEO practices to increase visibility and sales.
The best e-commerce SEO practices involve making your store mobile and user-friendly, including the right keywords in the description, service title, and images. SEO helps rank your products or service pages on Google, driving traffic to your business.
You can use platforms like Weebly and Amazon to create an online store for free. But if you have a slightly higher budget, from $50/month, you can host your website, integrate e-commerce tools like WooCommerce and Magento, and market your store online.
Conclusion: What Next?
While starting an online business, you need to conduct relevant research and plan how to market your products and services, or you risk failing. If you want to start your online business as clearly as today, here’re the 10 basic steps you should (must) follow:
- Come up with a Great Idea
- Define your Market and Niche
- Select Products (Services) to Offer
- Know your Competitors
- Plan to Start your Online Business
- Name & Register your Business
- Build your Online Store
- Display your Products
- Promote it and Generate Leads
- Learn from Experts and Improve
So, find an interesting idea, and follow these ten steps to build a sustainable business. And make a solid and realizable plan of what you want to accomplish, when, and how. You should constantly study your target audience to understand their brand perception and loyalty.
Are you ready to start an online business? Contact me for any questions or if you need help creating a content plan for your business and SEO and content writing services.