With consumers spending trillions of dollars every year on online goods and services, the past 20 years has resulted in the high-profile successes of many internet-related businesses. The internet has certainly revolutionised the way we live our lives, and offers a place where individuals can compete with global organisations. But just how do you do business on the internet?
- Create a business plan – The starting point for any new venture is to create a business plan. You need to know your target market, know your competition, attract funding, secure good resources, build consumer loyalty and forge alliances with strategic partners. Preparation and research are key.
- Find your market – One of the most important elements of setting up an online business is finding out if there is a market for your idea. Finding a niche may require some research and Ben & Sam offer a free Competitor Analysis, valued at $165, with each website to help you aim for a niche that doesn’t already have a market leader, or attempt to become even more niche – by offering something different or doing something better than your competitors.
- Get your finances in check – Building a website is a relatively cheap process. Making that website work for you and become a viable business, however, will take some time and money. A basic business site can cost as little as $3,200, while a site that dominates the market may cost up to $20,000 – still much more affordable than bricks and mortar businesses and traditional advertising.
Do your research on a design house that suits you – comparing benefits and not just features – and have an idea of what you’d like to invest before you start. A continuous effort to build momentum is much more effective than a start-stop method so been prepared financially is a smart move.
- Don’t overlook marketing – One area where internet businesses often fail is marketing. With no ‘shop window’ through which to promote yourself, how are potential customers going to find you?
Google AdWords is a cost-effective way of advertising, so too is joining chat rooms and discussion forums, networking with others and getting referrals. Ben & Sam can help you with all your online and social media marketing as well as working with you to improve search engine optimization (SEO) results and ensuring you catch any potential customers searching for your type of product. Marketing does need a concerted effort, but with the right guidance, it’s not as scary as it sounds!
- Customer relations – Make it fast and easy for customers to contact you or place an order, as a site with a difficult sales process is likely to lose customers. Websites should be easy to navigate and secure, not just pretty, and customer service should be your highest priority. Communicating often with your customers helps them build confidence in you and the services you provide. Ask them what they want from you and react to what they tell you. There could easily be a whole newsletter dedicated to the importance of looking after and leveraging your customers.
- Start small and have patience – As an online entrepreneur, you’ll need lots of energy, enthusiasm, determination, and passion; but you also need to be realistic. While many businesses are launched, few make a profit, and those who don’t commit will never see a return on investment. That said, while starting up an internet business can be one of the toughest things you ever do, it can also be the most rewarding.