Over the course of the last decade, the Internet has become a vital part of conducting business. The role of the Internet in everyday life is so large that countless businesses are not only surviving online, but they’re thriving. Below are ten tips for you to consider as you start your new online business.
1. Define Your Focus
While it’s true that every business will have a specific niche that it most appeals to, this doesn’t mean that you need to select a rich audience in the hopes of increasing your sales. Instead, focus on what you want to do, then market that to the group that is most likely to have a consistent and recurring need for that good or service. There’s something called the 80/20 rule, where 80% of your business will come from 20% of your clients. Find the 20% of clients who would fund your business, then focus on how you’ll keep them coming back.
2. Find Your Audience
Just because you know who you want to sell doesn’t mean that potential clients will suddenly know what your business does. To get your name out there, make sure you’re appearing through popular venues like podcasts, blogs, etc. Creating industry-related content is an excellent way to show potential customers that you’re a business they can rely on. When writing blog posts or articles on behalf of your business, it’s wise to use SEO best practices to ensure that your business is easy to find when customers are looking up solutions or industry information. More information on these will be provided below.
3. Understanding SEO Strategies
The most straightforward, and possibly most important, part of SEO is understanding what keywords your audience will be using when they look up information on your industry. For a florist, this might mean incorporating basic words like “flower” or “blossom” into their content. For more specified searches, they may need long-tailed keywords like “how to repot lavender.” To know which keywords are most popular for your specific industry, use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and remember that long-tailed keywords typically have less competition in search engines.
4. Think Strategically
While generating content is crucial to getting your organization’s name out there, it’s important that you release the right content at the right time as well. When timing your content, focus your strategy on developing a sustained, competitive advantage. If you’re going to have a sale on steel-toed boots, for example, it’d be smart to release content that focuses on the benefits of steel-toed boots in industrial settings. This way, you’re informing potential clients while simultaneously marketing your products to them.
5. Learn From Your Mistakes
Even the best-laid plans will sometimes go askew, so don’t be afraid to evaluate what has worked in the past and what needed improvement. You’ll find countless advice sections as you plan out your business and marketing strategies, but nothing can substitute for firsthand experience and seeing what has and hasn’t worked. After completing a marketing campaign, look back and see what content seemed to bring in sales and what efforts needed improvement to be helpful.
6. Research Your Competitors
While learning from your mistakes is an important part of running a business, learning from a competitor’s mistakes can be just as beneficial. Since you and your competitors will be offering similar services or goods, don’t hesitate to look at what has and hasn’t been successful for them in the past, especially if your business is still new. There’s no need to delve into the world of corporate espionage, but check your competitors’ websites to see what seems to work for them and where you can improve upon their failings. This way, you get to learn and grow your business without dedicating resources to failed projects.
7. Try List-Building
The success of your online business will largely depend on repeat customers, so it’s important that you stay in contact with them whenever possible. One common strategy is to offer discounts when customers sign up for your email list. This way, you’re not only encouraging potential customers to purchase your products or use your services, but you’re ensuring that you’ll have a way to encourage them to buy more in the future. Additionally, frequently updating your social media is an excellent way to keep customers interested and watching your page for new content and sales.
8. Control Product Development
This is one of the most tricky areas of running an online business. Some developers find themselves trying to create new products every week, while others struggle with having an imperfect idea and never release anything. The balance, of course, is to introduce new products just as your clients start to get bored with your older material. Think less about what product you would want, and instead focus on what your clients might be searching for. This process is much simpler if you did the proper research of your audience during the first step.
9. Develop Distribution Channels
Assuming you’re providing a physical good to your customers, proper distribution channels are essential. These are how your products will go from your production facility to the homes of your clients, and it’s a highly individualized process. Look at where you’re planning on selling your products, then contact retailers that are already selling similar goods in those areas. If you’re working in a specialized industry, then retailers become especially important as they will likely have good advice for how to distribute to your niche audience.
As you’re planning these steps, make sure to constantly keep the cost in your mind. While you don’t want to skimp on distribution, it’s also important that you continue to make a profit. Consider how much things like warehouses, production, etc. will cost and make sure to price your goods accordingly.
10. Be Ready to Change
Flexibility is good for any business, but it’s especially crucial for an online organization. You may find yourself making a record profit one year, only to find that the next year those same practices are getting you nowhere. The online world and the interests of consumers are in constant flux, so don’t cling to old thought patterns just because they used to be helpful. Instead, try to look at the situation objectively so that you’re planning based on hard data and not simply what is easiest for you. In a world of accelerating disruptive innovation, you want to be the innovator, not the disrupted.
This isn’t entirely negative, though. If your research shows that your target audience wants a new variation on a classic product, then don’t be afraid to dive in and do something new. Comfort zones will only hold back your business, so rely more on the latest quantifiable trends and your team’s creativity.
Nobody ever claimed that starting an online business would be easy, but it’s certainly possible to succeed with your business idea through industry know-how and proper dedication. Once you’ve decided that this is the career path that’s right for you, use the above ten tips to ensure that you’re gathering the proper following, keeping them happy and constantly learning from your successes and failures. By following these steps, there’s no doubt that your online business will soon be thriving.