How To Start An Online Business - The 5 Essentials
No apologies made for spoiling any romantic notions of becoming an overnight internet sensation, on the back of a nice idea and some good luck. If you want to make money online, you need a serious budget to begin with - there is no way around this. Everything (everything) in web development and digital marketing costs money. And if you think you can get around having no budget by hiring someone to work cheaply for you well, that will cost you twice as much - you’ll soon learn that there is a reason this person comes cheap and after you end up paying him or her a lot more than you expected due to all the reworks, you’ll soon have to pay someone else to do it properly the next time round. Not to mention the opportunity cost of what could have been done with that time and money. If you are serious about making a go of what the online business world has to offer, do yourself a huge favour and wait until you have saved enough that you can afford to hire people whose ability you are 100% confident in to deliver on your expectations.
2. A website which works
Maybe this seems obvious, but do you have any idea how many parts there are to making a website which performs exceptionally well? And what does ‘perform exceptionally well’ even mean? Well, it needs to perform a multitude of functions, and do each and all of them to a high enough standard that it is effective in achieving your business’ goals. It needs be intuitive and easy to use (usability), it should be pleasant to use and provide the end user with a sense of happiness when using it (user experience / UX), the layout of information should be friendly to search engines (information architecture / SEO), the copywriting should be both engaging and effective but also optimised for search engines (SEO) which in turn will make your search engine marketing efforts via the likes of Google Adwords more effective and cheaper to maintain. It needs to be persuasively encouraging people to perform certain acts while on the site like making a purchase or leaving contact details. And yes, the website needs to look pretty great too.
3. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
Touched on above but so important it needs its own separate point. Businesses and people are often in such a rush to get from design to launch that the rather critical component of attracting new visitors to the website post-launch is overlooked. If your business is like the majority of other businesses in that it needs a fairly regular supply of new customers in order to survive and grow, then visibility on the major search engines like Google seriously will be make or break for your business. If you think ‘nah I’ll just use social media to promote my business’ then think again because A/ social media is terrific at playing a support role to organic search but it certainly doesn’t come near to replacing it and B/ have you any idea how much it costs to advertise on Facebook these days? You’d be better off just investing in SEO..
4. An effective digital marketing and social media strategy
Google Adwords, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Houzz, Pinterest.. and so on. The aim of the game is to reach people - and not just make them aware of your presence (which can be really annoying in the case of a poorly designed display ad for example) - but rather, reach them in such a way that your message is strong enough to make a lasting impression on your target person’s mind. Read through that list above one more time - SEO, Google Adwords, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Houzz, Pinterest. What does each of these have in common? Well, each of them is a medium for distributing information. And what is the most recognisable form of information distribution? A newspaper. And each of these social media platforms essentially enables individual businesses to become their own little newspaper or publishing house. And the businesses which thrive in these environments are adept at producing content which makes an indelible impression on people in their audience who go on to share that content with their peers and engage with the business behind the content. Adwords is a little different from the rest in that it is search engine marketing which is one-way marketing and doesn’t entertain engagement, though the performance of an Adwords campaign very much relies on engagement metrics.
Huge. Again, effectively sucking any remaining romantic idea out of the whole ‘get rich quick on the web’ notion, if you aren’t determined to make it happen and prepared to put in the hours, you’re better off waiting until you are. It is hard work. It might be different work - it generally doesn’t involve going in to an office at 9am every day and clocking out at 5, but it is work. Anyone can have an idea, only a few will go on to make their idea actually happen.