“See a need, fill a need.” This brilliant quote comes from Mel Brooks’ character Bigweld, from the 2005 animated movie Robots. Essentially, this means that the products or services you plan to make available online will provide a viable solution for your customer’s needs. But finding your own niche is just the beginning, you’ll need to enhance your chances of succeeding by following these 5 steps to start your small business online:
#1 Establish a Business Plan
Online entrepreneurs do not necessarily need a formal business plan to get started. If you plan to launch a new venture without outside investment (that likely requires a formal plan), you simply need to know the answers to these 3 questions:
- Who are your customers?
- What value does your product or service offer?
- What are people willing to spend?
Your answers will pinpoint your ideal target audience, the basis for a marketing strategy and a financial range for pricing and ultimately your earnings potential.
#2 Build a Great Website
Your website will be the basis that a potential customer will use to form his or her opinion of you, so you need to make it count! To make a good first impression, your site needs to represent you and what you do in a clear and concise manner and be user-friendly. Aside from aesthetics, the site must also have the capacity to adjust and adapt to remain relevant to your business structure, customer’s needs, and ever-changing online regulations and requirements.
There are many do’s and don’ts when building a great website to establish your small business online. There is a lot to do to actually get online users to visit your site and once they’re there you only have about 5 seconds to grab their attention before they click out – never to return again.
Small business owners with an established, independent website (NOT Wix or Squarespace) will have a limitless selection of marketing tools available to optimize and enhance their website’s performance. Full control of your website is crucial to maintain support and supplement evolving trends and requirements without the notorious restrictions, costs, and headaches associated with not actually owning your website or domain name.
PRO TIP: not all websites are equal – beware of companies who offer build-it-yourself promos!
Keep in mind that a great, professionally developed, custom website does not have to be expensive. In fact, a higher price does not necessarily mean better products or services. Small website design firms, like 469 Design, can offer the same incredible services, tools, and support without costly overhead.
#3 Launch Your New Business Online
You need to start putting roots down to establish your business and connect with potential customers online. While you know you have a great product or service to offer, the key is to utilize multiple online formats to spread your roots to reach those who are searching for what you have to offer and find you instead of your competition.
We recommend WIMS, a three-pronged approach to avoid costly mistakes and connect directly with your ideal target audience. Implementing all three steps, simultaneously, from the beginning will set you up for online success through easy-to-implement marketing and provide a clear path for seamless growth and expansion. Each of the following avenues are independently important to establish your brand, yet masterfully intersect with each other for the most effective (and affordable) way to launch your small business online.
Website presence will be the base of your online business to introduce you and your brand to the masses and prove your legitimacy to online users and Google. Keep in mind that a website should not be one size fits all. The design and development of your website should be customized to suit your individual business needs and the needs of your customers.
Internet Marketing includes everything from content creation to search engine optimization (SEO). Complimentary onsite and offsite marketing is vital to build a successful, recognizable brand. Professional support with a reputable company will ensure you’re on the right trajectory to utilize the most effective online tools like blog posts, event calendars and affiliate relationships to help build your business online.
Social media is such an important way to connect with past, present and future customers. This is especially true for local service-only industries and businesses with a brick and mortar location. But beware; relying too heavily on social media can backfire. Predictability with the same advertising content posted over and over can easily become annoying and earns no credit with the search engines. Interaction through a wide range of interesting, original content along with offsite marketing like print promotions and events is the most effective way to grab the consumer’s attention.
#4 Become the Answer
Cultivating authority proves to your customers and Google that you know what you’re doing. To establish valuable online authority, you need to become the answer. An effective way to accomplish this is by building partnerships with other local or small businesses that align with your industry or share your company’s values to offer knowledgeable answers and even broader solutions.
While it can be tricky to find an ideal question/answer opportunity to prove your knowledge, you can use the tools you already have in place with the WIMS method to identify or point out the consumer’s situation and offer your products or services as the solution they’ve been looking for. These tools include blog articles, social media posts and online customer interactions through reviews and direct customer contact.
Consider that at least 36% of people who use your services or make a purchase will buy from you again, but only if you follow up. The first sale is always going to be the most difficult, but following up is essential for customer retention, return customers and referrals – which adds up to the lifetime value of each customer. To turn a one-time sale into a valuable lifetime customer, use follow-up techniques like reaching out with special offers like a discount on future purchases, an upsell promotion or rewards for referrals.
While the core principles of starting a small business remain the same, the internet has made national and global commerce incredibly easy and given rise to new service or local-only businesses. This is, in part, due to the instant accessibility of information and the trusted opinions of others through reviews and social media that help the consumer make informed purchasing decisions. There is no better time to start your small business online!