Naming our website start-business-online was not a choice made by chance. On the contrary, with years of experience on their backs, all the team here at Netresort strongly believe that in today’s modern world operating online, either exclusively or in complement to a company’s offline, physical presence, is a dire necessity and holds the promise of a lucrative future, provided the online business is set up properly.
When contemplating whether to jump on the great online trading bandwagon or whether you have started already but don’t seem to be nailing the process quite right, remember to bear in mind that the internet is such a dynamic and challenging environment to conquer simply because it changes constantly and at an incredible pace and speed. In fact, changes are so fast that one year online can be equated to five years in the real world! Sounds daunting and puts you off? Well, it shouldn’t because starting a business online, especially on a small scale, can meet with tremendous success simply if you follow a tried and tested, proven sequence of clear steps.
The clear message we want to convey through this post is that if you go back to basics and stick to the linear and logical process that we present below, then you have in your hands a recipe that is difficult to fail, simply because with the basic principles you can’t go wrong, as these remain relevant and valid and have already helped thousands of people to start and successfully grow online businesses.
So, without further ado, here’s the step-by-step, simple to follow process of how to successfully start a business online:
Step 1: Identifying a need and finding a way to fill it
It may sound simple but many newbies in the online business field look first for the product or service they will be selling and then try to find the market for it. To be successful you need to approach this the other way round, in other words you need to first find the market and then the product to serve it.
Identifying such a market with good success prospects entails that you identify a group of people, who have a specific need or are faced with a specific problem for which they cannot find many solutions. Thanks to the internet, you can easily perform this kind of market research and use your findings to guide your decisions.
Thus, visit or even subscribe to various online platforms and forums to detect the kind of questions that people are asking and identify what sorts of problems they are trying to find solutions to. Additionally, do extensive keyword search that will help you match popular keywords, that many people search for, with areas that are not as competitive in terms of the solutions offered by existing market players. The final step for this first part of the process is to actually visit the site of potential competitors and evaluate how they are trying to fill the need that is in demand.
With the knowledge you have acquired, you can then proceed to create a product or service to fill the need of a specific market that you already know exists, instead of just shooting arrows in the dark, and be able to do so better than the already existing competitors are trying to do so, thus having an edge over them from day one.
Step 2: Writing copy that makes the sale
Don’t try to re-invent the wheel, because experience has shown that when it comes to writing copy that sells effectively there is a proven formula to follow that accompanies visitors throughout the process from the moment they enter to the moment they actually make a purchase. Though there is room for slight variations depending on the actual product/service you are promoting and the market you operate in, your selling copy should adhere to the following guidelines:
- Start with a gripping headline that aims to arouse interest and attract attention.
- Give a clear, yet concise, description of the problem that your product or service resolves
- Establish the credibility of your own solution to the problem and of your company as a solver
- Include testimonials from satisfied existing customers who have already purchased/used your product or service
- Further present your offered product or service highlighting how the user stands to benefit from it
- Make prospective customers an offer to make a purchase
- Give a strong guarantee to encourage trust and confidence in the effectiveness and quality of the solution you are offering
- Create urgency for prospective customers to take the purchasing decision, for example though limited time only offers or while stocks last offers
- Directly ask from the customer to make the purchase
Throughout the generation of your sale copy narrative remember to keep looking at it from the customer’s perspective and make sure it provides convincing answers to the client’s questions as to how is your product or service unique and why they should choose your offering over that of others.
You can find useful examples of how to write your copy in our guides for selected industries, such as our guide for cleaning services, or you can seek the assistance of our team of experts to help you effectively write copy for your particular industry.
Step 3: Designing and building a user-friendly website
Having identified your target market and decided on your product or service and the narrative of your selling process, you are ready for the next step in the setting up of an online business, which is the designing and creation of your website, which will house your selling efforts. The basic thing to remember in this process is to keep everything as simple as possible. Unlike in the case of a brick and mortar shop, in the case of your website any visitor will be shaping their first impressions in less than five seconds, so it is important that they like what they see at first glance and that their attention is caught immediately, otherwise they will click away and never return. Some best practice tips to keep in mind during the process of designing and building your online business website, are:
Use a white background that isn’t too busy and helps things stand out better and go for one or two plain fonts that are clearly legible.
Ensure consistency of navigation on all pages and make it as clear and easy to navigate as possible
Try to use relevant graphics, images, audio and video as these are very appealing to users, but make sure they effectively convey and enhance the message you are trying to transmit.
Find a way to include an opt-in offer of some kind as this will enable you to collect data and e-mail addresses from visitors, helping your future marketing and follow up efforts.
Make the actual buying process easy and fast, with no more than a couple of clicks between the potential customer and the checkout and ensure the customer feels safe and confident to complete the transaction.
Throughout this process always remember that your website is your online shop and its landing page your store front, so remember that they need to be enticing to visitors, appealing and customer-friendly, able to capture first impressions and ensure the final purchasing decision and offering an all-around enjoyable experience.
Step 4: Using search engines to drive traffic and buyers to your site
The two options you have before you in terms of traffic generation through search engines for your website pertain to either using SEO to attain high rankings and traffic organically or resort to Pay-per-click advertising. We juxtapose the two and shed light on the conundrum through dedicated blog posts SEO or PPC? Helping a start-up decide and Unravelling the PPC Vs SEO dilemma. However, and although we do believe that SEO tends to bring better quality results that last longer and have a longer-term effect, PPC remains the easiest and fastest method to drive traffic to a newly-established site. Besides immediately showing up at the top of all search engine results’ pages, PPC has the added advantage of allowing you to test not only different keywords, but prices and selling approaches as well and being able to evaluate the results yielded through solid data. By then incorporating the keywords and approaches that prove effective through PPC across your entire website’s code and content, you boost your organic search result rankings and enhance your overall SEO efforts.
Step 5: Establishing a reputation as an expert
The next step in the process of starting an online business, which is bound to bring you more traffic and improved organic search engine rankings, has to do with establishing yourself and/or your business as an expert in your market/industry and being considered as an authoritative source of information. The way to achieve this is again simple. Since people primarily use the internet to obtain information, the best way to establish yourself is providing such useful information to users and to other sites for free, remember to always include a link to your own site and containing some information about you and your offering, thus enticing readers.
Other simple ways to build your image as a trusted authority in your field, include having sharing options on valuable content on your website, enabling your visitors to easily become multipliers of your content and message, as well as distributing content, such as articles or videos through social media platforms and channels as well as in established industry forums and social networking sites frequented by your target client audience. Social media in particular are becoming increasingly important as channels in all your digital marketing efforts and should not be overlooked. To find out more about the effective use of social media for online businesses in Cyprus read our insightful article on the Effective use of social media for online businesses in Cyprus.
By successfully completing this step of the process and managing to establish your expert reputation you will not only keep reaching new readers, but through gathering links back to your site from other authoritative sites, you will also enjoy boosted rankings as well since search engines reward you for having such links.
Step 6: Effectively using email marketing
The penultimate step in the process of starting a business online is managing to build an opt-in list, whose creation is a valuable asset and a powerful marketing tool helping turn mere visitors into actual buyers. Obtaining e-mail addresses and the permission to use them to communicate allows you to effectively follow up with customers and subscribers. It also proves that you are offering them something that they have asked for and this allows to foster and develop lifetime relations with them. Moreover, email marketing has the added advantage allowing the response to it be entirely measurable, while due to its highly targeted nature it is much cheaper and much more effective than other forms of marketing such as print, radio or TV.
For more details on how e-mail marketing is the perfect tool for following hot leads and converting more customers, consult our dedicated service on E-Mail Marketing.
Step 7: Using back-end sales and upselling
The final step in the process of starting a business online successfully, pertains to the potential of increasing your income by developing the lifetime value of every single customer you have already converted. This is a very important digital marketing strategy, because, provided you do the proper follow up, the majority of people who have bought from you once, will buy again. It is important to remember that the most difficult and the most expensive sale to close is always the first one, while the use of back-end selling and upselling ensures repeat customers. Effective ways to achieve this include offering related products on the “thank you” page after each purchase or emailing offers of products that complement each original purchase. Moreover, you can also use your emailing list to email loyalty coupons that customers can redeem during their next visit. In short, rewarding your customers for their loyalty, though various loyalty and referral schemes, is a guaranteed method to ensure that their loyalty is deepened and enhanced.
Sticking to the sequence of steps overviewed above is almost certain to bring you success for your online business. Whether you are new to the world of online business or a more seasoned online entrepreneur you stand from gaining a lot by adhering to the overarching principles and persist in their implementation. Even you have had an online business for a while, but feel that it is underperforming use the list of steps presented here to check whether it includes steps that you have neglected or have never addressed in the first place and make the necessary amendments to your approach to maximize your chances for success. Good luck and remember that expert help is also always available should you wish to seek it!