Determine what to sell
Before you can understand how to start an online business, you will first need to determine what it is that you intend to sell or what type of services and/or content you plan to offer to your online visitors. Ask yourself the following questions when you are getting started with an online business for the first time:
- What industries and/or markets am I interested in reaching?
- What product(s) or services will I be promoting and selling?
- Who is my current competition, both online and off?
- How will I be reaching the audience I intend to appeal to?
- Is there a need or a demand for the type of products and services I am interested in offering?
Conduct market research
Conducting market research is the next step in building an online business, especially if you are new to any industry or the market you are planning to enter is already saturated and highly competitive. Research specific markets you are interested in targeting, the demographics you intend to reach, as well as the current demand for the products, content, or services you are offering.
Study popular keywords, hashtags, and commonly searched phrases that are relevant to your own business offerings to determine what type of content to create to attract prospective customers and clients of your own.
Create a website
Once you have a basic idea of the online business you intend to create, you will then need to buy a domain and choose a web hosting service provider that is right for you. Building an official website is key to success online, even if you are not selling products or offering services from your company directly online.
A website is a place that visitors can use to learn more about your business and discover new ways of purchasing products from you or supporting your venture, both online and off.
You can also use your website to build an online blog or community, allowing you to garner a following of individuals who have a genuine interest in your products, services, or content. Having a website opens plenty of new doors and opportunities when it comes to promotion and maximizing your reach online.
Set up an online store
When you create an online store for your business, you allow just about anyone the opportunity to purchase directly from you, regardless of where they may be located. Setting up an e-commerce storefront is a great way to streamline online sales efforts while providing you with more opportunities to reach a much wider audience, especially if you are willing to ship products to customers internationally.
Launching an online store is highly advisable for just about any business that sells products today, as it may otherwise be next to impossible to generate sales from those across state lines or even out of the country.
Market your business
Marketing is one of the most fundamental aspects involved in running any type of business today, including online businesses. From traditional digital marketing using banners and text ads to video and social media marketing, marketing your business should always remain a top priority, regardless of where you are at on your journey to success.
Before you can begin crafting a winning marketing strategy, consider the following:
- What demographics (age, gender, location, and interests) do I intend to target with my marketing campaigns?
- Which platforms are best to market to my intended audience based on the users I want for each?
- How can I appeal to my audience without sounding too pushy, corporate, or disconnected?
- Is there a particular voice I should use when promoting and advertising my business to prospective customers or clients?
- Which metrics are most important to me when it comes to launching an ad campaign? Am I focused on CTR (clickthrough rates) or am I interested in long-term sales funnels and, ultimately, revenue generated?
Advertising can make or break any type of business, whether you are operating a local furniture shop and boutique or a massive international online marketplace. Knowing how to effectively connect with your target audience can go a long way in terms of sales as well as the trust, loyalty, and relationship you have with your customers. Once you are familiar with various marketing platforms, social media networks, and methods of reaching an online audience, you can begin crafting a digital marketing strategy that results in the biggest returns.
Streamline your online presence
Create social media pages and accounts for your business using the same username, logo, and colors (where applicable) while setting up your online presence. Streamlining your online presence is one of the fastest ways to boost your online credibility while also ensuring your business appears professional and legitimate, especially if you are new to any industry.
Wherever possible, choose a username that is the same as your business organization's official name. If you are in the process of selecting a name for a new online business, be sure to conduct adequate research online to determine if the name has already been used in your industry or if it may cause confusion due to existing competition already on the market with a similar name or tagline.
Quality imagery matters
First impressions matter, especially when it comes to browsing and shopping online. With thousands of ads and promotions being viewed by individuals on a daily basis, launching high-quality ad campaigns is a must. Whether you are creating a banner ad for an upcoming promotion or uploading logos and images to your company's social media platforms, you should always verify that the images, graphics, and vectors you are using are of high quality.
Get involved with online communities
If you are new to launching an online business and you want to become more comfortable with the prospect, immersing yourself in existing online communities that are relevant to your own company is highly recommended. Joining online groups, communities, and message boards that involve users you intend to target and reach with your own business can provide valuable insight into the wants and needs of your audience.
The more actively engaged you become with relevant online communities, the easier it will become to effectively communicate with those who have a genuine need for the products or services you offer.