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Once upon a time, in the pre-Amazon days, starting your own business was riddled with questions surrounding issues such as where your business would operate and how you would reach your customers. Now, thanks to the technology boom, things that once fell into the 'in-person only' category can now be fully remote. Everything from banking to education to employment no longer requires your physical presence to complete. The business world falls into this demographic as well. Technology and the internet have forever changed the landscape of how and where people do business.
Turning your entrepreneurial aspirations into a profit-driven entity may look best for you as an online-only business. Regardless of the reasoning, the approach and organization leading up to and after your launch should be methodical and well-thought out. If you have a business idea, and you're ready to take it to the main stage of the internet, here are some tips on how to start.
Know your odds
I like to mention this at the onset because to me, it is vital. Most Americans prefer to shop online. Not convinced? 2 out of 3 retail sales occur online. Did you know that 46% of small businesses do not even have a website? By my estimation, you are already ahead of the curve with an online-only business. For some of us, we know the product(s) or service we would offer but are unsure of where to begin. There are many well-known ecommerce platforms that can help you get your business established, set up your website, and manage your shipping and inventory. There are even marketplaces where you can buy an existing ecommerce business outright!
Find your niche
Let's say you were to decide that you wanted to sell watches- think about how broad that is. Why should prospective customers buy your watches over the thousands of other options on the market? You must differentiate yourself somehow and find a smaller market that you can corner. As your business grows, so can your inventory- but the base must solidly be there.
Have a plan
When they hear the phrase 'business plan' people cringe, thinking they’ll have to write a thesis paper on the ins and outs of their business. It doesn’t have to be that painful! You do not need to have a multi-page document outlining every detail of your online business, but you do need a plan. Before you jump to create a website and launch your business, you should know who your customers are, what you’re selling, and what price are people willing to pay for it.
Don’t micromanage yourself
The single most important thing you should be focusing on in the early stages is getting your business off the ground, period. You should not be spending hours agonizing over the font on your business cards, or if your logo is better than your competitors. While important, things like that take time and energy this will take away from running your business. Remember, your business cards and logo will mean squat if you have zero customers.
Know your numbers
Profitability does not typically happen overnight. In some instances, you may even lose a few bucks in the beginning. Knowing this up front is not a bad thing- what is a bad thing is waiting until you are so far into the red, you can't get out. If you are considering trying to raise funds for your business, do not wait until you are past due on your bills. Have a clear understanding of what you have in the bank and how long it will last.
Undervaluing your product will haunt you
I get it; you want to attract customers and build your clientele list. You're a consumer and know how good it feels to score a fantastic deal on something. But now you are not a consumer; you are a business owner. Your products and services need a price point that covers all costs to make or prepare as well as generate a profit. Sure, a component of this is knowing what the market can bear; the good news is the market will tell you reasonably soon how it feels about your price point. But a lot of this comes from you believing that what you offer is worth the price tag. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of pricing items or services, seek out a mentor!
Give a little, but don’t get carried away
One of the most valuable things you can acquire from people in the early stages will be a piece of information. Ideally, their email address. People are skeptical in the beginning while they develop a feel for you, so sweeten the deal for them. In exchange for their email address consider offering them a free ebook, a recipe, a percentage off a service or a free 15-minute consultation. While this will vary depending on your business, you do not want to get in the habit of always giving away items. These add up over time and people will get “trained” to not buy from you unless there is a deal or sale.
Test & spread
You do not have to spend thousands of dollars on social media marketing. Much like the way the market will let you know how your pricing is, social media will let you know where your audience is. Do research into competitors and find where their most active and engaged social audiences are. Start your presence with one or two social media platforms at first- see how they respond to what your business is offering before expanding into additional networks or investing money in advertising.
Research but don’t emulate
Is it a good idea to visit websites and online shops who have achieved success? Yes. Is it a good idea to exactly copy what they have done? No. Remember, this is YOUR business- your vision, your talent, your product, you! I think mentorship and seeing how successful online business owners have done it has value. What you don't want to do is forget your vision because you are trying to figure out how to do what someone else has already done without seeming like that is your intention. Much like anything else in life, business is about being surefooted in your vision and your direction.
In a word, drive
Self-motivation is single-handedly the most critical skill set for the success of not only business but life in general. Know before you start that building and running an online business is not spending an hour a day on Instagram and calling it good. It takes the same amount of drive, time, and tenacity of any other business owner- maybe even a bit more since you are competing with algorithms and technology.
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This communication is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be an advertisement, a solicitation, or constitute professional advice, including legal, financial, or tax advice, nor is StreetShares providing advice on any particular situation.