Launching an online business seems like such a simple idea. A brilliant idea plus a website should start the money rolling, right? Well, it could, but just because it’s easier to start a business online than in a physical location, does not mean it should be approached with any less care and strategy.
The first place to start is with a well thought-out business plan. You need to identify your target market and competition, find funding and other resources, and develop your brand. Finding your market is a key aspect of this step. Make sure your idea isn’t already out there, or, if it is, make sure it’s a market with room for competition. There’s no point in starting up a business in a heavily saturated market if you aren’t offering something uniquely different to drive consumers away from the current market leaders.
Now that you have a strategy laid out, you need to find the money to get your business off the ground. A common way to do this is through bank financing – either as a loan or overdraft from the bank. Another option is to sell equity in your company. Bank financing tends to be cheaper and simpler, but for a young company that does not want to increase its level of borrowing, equity investment is a good option. The two leading options for equity investments are “Angels” and Venture Capitalists. Angels’ main tasks are to make a seed investment of around $20,000-$100,000 and offer contacts and advice to a company they’re intrigued by and want to see grow. VC’s, on the other hand, will invest more – generally a minimum of $5 million – but expect to see a quick turn around on their investments – usually within three years.
With your startup money and business plan in hand, it’s time to invest in a quality website. It is ideal to do this yourself, or with a trusted web-designer so as to allow maximum customization. The site should be clean and simple, with a user-friendly interface and the ability to be regularly updated. Transactions should be simple and secure. Also, spend the time and resources to make your website SEO-friendly.
Optimizing your search engine results is a way to drive traffic to your site free of charge!
Once your site is up and running, you need to market it! Consumers aren’t just going to find you and your product because it’s a good idea – you need to tell them it’s there. As a startup without a lot of extra cash, a good option to look into is “pay per click” advertising, offered by Google AdWords and others. For these online ads, you’re only paying once someone actually clicks on your ad to go through to your website. You can also try to promote your site through free classifieds, and don’t neglect word-of-mouth marketing. Enter the social media arena, allowing you to interact with potential customers and build your brand awareness.
The final thing to remember in building an online business is to have patience!
Maintain your energy and enthusiasm for your idea, but remember it takes lots of hard work and determination to build a successful business.