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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

How to start your own online business & common mistakes to avoid

Starting an online business is the dream of many. This is understandable given the many benefits an online business offers. However attractive the prospects may seem, owning an online business is not so simple a process. What steps should you take should you want to venture into this global playing field? Here is a guide by Business Consultant, Mr. Oluwaseyi Adepoju (@oluseyi_adepoju) on setting up your online business.
Oluwaseyi Adepoju

Inception & Research

This stage is very important. This is where you get to decide what type of online business to run.

Most people who are just starting out make the mistake of looking for a product first, and a market second.

To boost your chances of success, start with a market. The idea is to find a group of people who are searching for a solution to a problem, but not finding forth coming solutions.

The internet makes this kind of market research easy or you could look at your immediate society & identify societal problems:

You can also use Google search to find keywords that people are searching for, but for which there is little or no solution yet.

Take a look at websites in your chosen niche. Observe what they are doing to fill the need.

Then you can use what you've learned and create a product for a market that already exists--and do it better than the competition.

You could choose to operate one of the following models:

Selling your own goods or services.

You could decide to sell goods that you produce or services that you offer.

Reselling /Retailing

This involves purchasing goods (mostly through importation) and reselling on your website or blog. The drawback to this method is the initial startup cost. You would first need to register on a foreign e-commerce website, purchase goods - albeit at a low price, import them and once they are delivered, sell on your website.

Selling Adverts on your website /blog

This method is quite popular. In this method, you create a website or a blog. Then through quality content creation, you build consistent traffic. Then when the traffic is big enough, you sell advert spaces to clients who want to reach their customers.

Affiliate business

This is one online business that is easy to setup. Basically, what the business owner does is to place affiliate links of e-commerce websites on his website or blog. When his blog visitors click through his affiliate link to the e-commerce website to purchase products, he receives a commission.

Selling on an e-commerce website

You could also decide to setup a store in an e-commerce website. This model is inexpensive and gives you more exposure as you ride on the popularity already created by the e-commerce website.

If you decide to create your own website, the next step would be to decide on a domain name, and choose a web host. Your business concept should be expressed in the domain name you choose. For instance, if you decide to sell legal services, you might decide on "Legalaffairs.com" as your domain name. When choosing a host, choose according to what your business needs. For example, if your business will sell physical goods online, it is best to choose web hosts that have e-commerce solution packages. This will enable you setup a shopping cart and an online payment process.

Note: Your online brand name is as important as your business itself “Use a house hold name” name that relates to your market niche, except you have a big budget for brand awareness and heavy online informative marketing.

Develop a business plan

Based on your research, develop a business plan. Your business plan should include:

  • Company description
  • Business summary 
  • Management structure
  • Market research
  • Financing plan, and
  • Marketing and sales plans. 

Obtain Necessary Funds

Financing needs differ. It depends on the business model you choose to operate with. Some online business models need you to only register a domain name and pay for hosting. Other models need additional funding to purchase to purchase goods to sell or to setup services to render. It all depends on the model chosen. Funds could be obtained from personal savings, bank loans or family and friends.

Make your business a legal entity

If you are serious about making your online business a business in every sense, then get it registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). Your business could be registered as a Sole Proprietorship, a Limited Liability Company, a partnership or Cooperation. If your business model involves selling of physical goods, you need an additional license known as Reseller's License.

Plan and Design Your Website

You could contact a web developer to create a website for you or you might opt to use a blogging tool such as WordPress at a minimal cost. It largely depends on the needs of your business. Whichever choice you make, try to keep your website simple but attractive. Follow these guidelines in designing your website:

  • Use plain fonts on white background.
  • Make navigation simple and easy to use.
  • Use only necessary images and videos.
  • Make purchasing and checkout seamless.
  • Provide opt-in for newsletters subscribers.

Write your sales pitch

This is the next step for online businesses that sell goods or services. The way you present your services to the prospect will either make or break a sale. So, carefully craft your sales pitch in a smooth transition from your introduction to asking for a sale. Follow these guidelines in writing your sales pitch:

  • Use a catchy headline to stimulate interest.
  • Build credibility as an authority in solving this problem.
  • You can include testimonials from previous clients and customers.
  • Describe how the prospect will benefit from the product.
  • Give a guarantee. May online businesses give the assurance "Money back guarantee" if the user is not satisfied.
  • It also important to induce a sense of urgency.
  • Finally, ask for a sale.

When writing a sales pitch, make sure you emphasize how your product or service is able to provide an unparalleled solution to the customers. “Always put yourself in the customers shoes”

Promote the Website

This process is used by all models. You can popularize your website through search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, and newsletters or by blogging consistently. You may also choose to advertise on popular blogs or newspapers, or by commenting on popular forums and leaving a link to your website.

Build a reputation

  • People surf the Web for different reasons. Prominent among these reasons is the need for information. Provide free information on your website. Create and give away useful content. However, make sure to add a link to your website or blog with information you provide elsewhere. This way, you'll grow faithful website visitors. 

  • Become an active expert in industry forums and social networking sites where your target market hangs out.

Use email marketing to convert prospects.

Providing an opt-in enables you to get access to the email of potential customers. When they signed up, they gave you the permission to provide them with relevant news and information in your business. Utilize this opportunity. Offer relevant information and build relationships. At the right time and with the right marketing strategies, you will convert a number of prospects to buyers.

Common mistakes to avoid in starting up an online business

- Waiting too long to launch your product or service, it’s easy to get lost for months or years without ever offering something for sale, When you start blogging or podcasting to build an audience. Because you are waiting for some magic audience size or some people simply talk themselves out of creating a product because they’re afraid no one will buy it. They don’t want to fail after putting in so much time creating content.

- If the problem your business solves is important enough, you won’t even have to look for customers. Imagine if you had a cure for cancer, for example. Don’t get trapped into solving an unimportant problem.

- Don’t just listen to the customers who provide validation. Listen to the ones who ask for refunds or buy your product but don’t use it. Listen to the people who tell you they won’t buy, and find out why.

- Don’t copy, stand out! You can’t expect to grow an audience by being an inferior version of some other better known site. Even if your site or product is arguably better than the competition, “better” is subjective.

- Choose a cause you care about: Whatever you choose to focus your business on, you’re going to need deep subject knowledge, fresh creativity, and unwavering stamina to stand the test of time.

- Don’t expect too much, but only expect result equal to your input: building the business could be harder and more stressful than your current job?

- Say less & Act more "Action calls the shot in business"

- Don’t stand alone; the more connected you become with other entrepreneurs, the more normal your quest becomes. You’ll no longer feel crazy or alone, and you’ll realize that we all face obstacles just like you’re facing.

- Don’t confuse your blog for business "Even though we have Nigerians making money of blogging like linda ikeji & co" publishing free content isn’t a business. It’s a tool for building influence.

These processes are a blueprint to venturing into online business. Follow them, and sail effortlessly into the world of online business & if you are lost at any stage contact me @oluseyi_adepoju and we could paddle the sea together.

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