Starting an online business is tricky. Before beginning, you have to make critical choices on what to sell and whom you should sell those things to. Additionally, you will have to think about how to reach your target audience. Apart from these challenges, numerous external forces such as changing market trends, recent innovations, and new competitors have left entrepreneurs scratching their heads! It is tough to decide which market trend to adopt and how to do it.
If you are a budding entrepreneur and need help with your new online business, we have got you covered with some easy but essential tips on managing your online business efficiently.
1. Determine the type of online business you want to launch
Before everything else, decide the type of online business you will be launching. There are varied online businesses types, and you must choose from them based on your preference, passion, budget, and available resources. Considering these factors, figure out the right online business for you.
Here are some common online businesses that you may consider.
- E-commerce business- Similar to Amazon and eBay, you can also sell physical products online. If you have got products ranging from household items to clothing, you may launch your e-commerce business.
- Freelancing/Consulting- If you are a lawyer, architect, or have any other in-demand skills, you can run a consultancy. You will get a great client base online.
- Affiliate Marketing- Affiliate marketing is a way to sell other people’s products and drive a commission from the revenue gathered every time the seller successfully sells a product.
- Digital products- Apart from physical products, you can also sell digital products online such as e-books, educational courses like Udemy, and design software like Canva.
- Social-media-based business- If you have thousands or millions of followers on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube, you can be a social media influencer and collaborate with different brands to promote their products, and in turn, earn a handsome cheque!
2. Manage your business by making employees work from home
Working from home saves you the costs of renting an office space. Since you run an online business, you can easily operate from home if you have the necessary equipment. Ensure that you hire cooperative professionals and delegate tasks to them according to their area of expertise. Connect with your team via Skype or Slack to conduct daily meetings, share links, videos, images, and documents. Create and edit documents through cloud-based apps like Google Docs. Share complex and large files via Dropbox. Make sure your team informs you every day about the daily tasks completed before logging out.
3. Offer flexible scheduling and payment solutions to clients and customers
The first step towards providing value to your customers is complying with their demands like appointments and ease of payments. Empower your customers and clients to self-book appointments at their convenience through a free online appointment scheduler like Picktime. Picktime does not require installation and is accessible via any web-based device. You just need to sign up on Picktime and create an admin account. Thereafter, you can use its free calendar service to show your available slots for booking and to monitor your staff schedule 24/7 at all your office locations.
You can also create a customized online booking page with a booking button and link it to your website and social media profiles to directly accept bookings from clients/customers. Also, create an online booking form with personalized files for your customers/clients to fill in their requirements, requests, and queries. Send automated email and SMS appointment reminders to customers to reduce no-shows. Use the Zoom/Google Meet integration to conduct virtual meetings for remote clients and customers. Accept advanced online payments via PayPal, Stripe, or credit card, and immediately raise invoices and send a feedback form to your customers via email. You will also get downloadable business reports from your Picktime dashboard that facilitates performance evaluation.
4. Mandatorily carry out market research once a while
Before every product/service launch, you need to do market research to get insights into what people think about your existing products/services and what more they expect from you. You can design a quick online questionnaire for sharing with customers or look it up on sites like Quora to understand people’s concerns and complaints. See what complaints your customers have about your products and services. Work on improving those areas.
5. Focus on your website design
Your website is the most crucial indicator of the brand identity of your online business. Since you operate virtually, your customers will reach out to you through your website and explore your products and services online. While building your website, ensure that you feature the name and logo of your company on every web page of your website. Choose your brand color and keep it soothing and professional. Make sure that your website is easily viewable via multiple devices like mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. Test the look on numerous devices to ensure that the design is perfect before going live with your website.
Also, since your website will be the point of sale for your products/services, focus on providing a great user experience and make purchasing your products/services simple. Organize products based on categories to simplify the purchase process.
6. Use email marketing as a promotional tool
Since almost all people check their emails daily, email marketing has become a hot favorite promotional tool for businesses, especially startups. It costs way less than a print or TV advertisement and can be customized with designs, colors, images, logos, fonts, etc. Use MailChimp, the market leader in email marketing apps, to regularly design and launch email campaigns. Choose from numerous templates, stock images, fonts, and colors, or include your personalized images and videos. You can also add links to your website, social media profiles, and YouTube videos. Send the latest information on discounts and vouchers, product/service launches, and much more through email campaigns. The free MailChimp plan lets you add up to 2,000 contacts to your email list.
7. Market your content
Apart from email marketing, you can also target your customers through content like articles, blogs, e-books, or e-brochures that can be viewed and downloaded from your website. While writing content, make sure you follow SEO-based rules to increase visibility. Include essential keywords, images, and videos. Write catchy headlines that include the main keywords. Do not write long articles or blogs.
8. Conduct competitor research to determine a differentiator
Ensure that your idea aligns with the need in the market. Otherwise, you will just be an option for customers. You must conduct competitor research to understand strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Look at your competitor’s products and services, analyze their marketing efforts and the way they communicate with their customers, and examine their unique selling points. You must have a great team of researchers and provide them with the necessary tools for conducting competitor research. Once you find out the gaps in your competitor’s offerings and efforts, work on making those your strengths.
9. Take care of logistics
Operating a business needs taking care of logistics, especially manufacturing, packaging, and shipping. For example, if you run an e-commerce business that sells physical products like clothing and electronics, you need to contact manufacturers to get such products in large quantities. Then again, you have to make sure the products are packed securely before shipping the products to your customers. Connect with agencies that ship products at affordable rates.
10. Try social media marketing
Social media will provide you with an unthinkable amount of customers that traditional media channels fail to offer. You can run an online business in the U.S. and get customers from India. Hence, you must present your business in the best light in front of your customers on social media. You can run Facebook and Instagram ads to promote your products, use the Twitter hashtag culture to raise awareness about your products/services, and upload interesting and informative videos on your official YouTube channel. Also, use apps like Creator Studio and Hootsuite to schedule your social media posts and see how people react to your posts. You can also run competitions on social media for your customers or design programs with special incentives like discount coupons and exclusive offers for people who like and follow your posts.
Compared to the physical business environment, the virtual world expands and changes rapidly. It almost feels like an online business will transform five times more than physical business ventures in a year. However, the mantra of establishing and operating business ventures remains the same across all mediums year after year. If you are thinking about launching your online business soon, follow these ten suggestions given above. Remember to review your online business and team performance at least once every month to know where you stand and might head in the future. Always stick to the basics but support experimentation.