Four Steps to Starting an Online Business

Starting your own business has never been quicker or easier than it is today; the internet offers a global market for your products and services, and the set-up costs of starting an online business are significantly lower than those for starting a traditional business. The downside to having limitless business opportunities available to you at the click of a button is that those same opportunities are also available to everybody else. To avoid getting lost in the crowded mass of failing e-commerce websites, you need to be ahead of the game. Give yourself the best chance of success by following these four steps to starting an online business:

  1. Do your research!
    Market research is essential to the success of any business venture. Research the competition: find out everything there is to know about your closest competitors. What are they doing right, or wrong, and how can you learn from them? Customer research: know who your target customers are. What will draw them to your business, and away from your competitors?
  2. Build a customer-friendly website
    Your website is the 'store-front' of your business; it conveys important messages to customers about who you are, what you do, how you can help them, what level of quality and service they can expect from you, and so on. Poorly-designed websites that are difficult to navigate will drive away potential customers. Consider using a professional web designer to create your website; if your finances are limited, some freelance web designers will work for reduced rates if you agree to provide a link to their portfolio on your site.
  3. Set up a secure payment system
    Customers tend to be wary of giving out their credit card details online, especially when purchasing from a new business they haven't used before. Universally trusted payment systems such as Paypal and Google Checkout allow customers to feel more secure about purchasing from you. They also offer a level of protection for all concerned, and will provide you with invoices and tools to track your income.
  4. Launch a marketing campaign
    Marketing online is completely different to using traditional marketing techniques; it can be cheaper than traditional methods, but also much more time-consuming. Social networking, regular newsletters, affiliate marketing, company blogs, pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, press releases, forum posting etc, are just some of the tools used for online marketing. You may be wise to hire a professional marketing company or freelancer to do the work for you.



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