In case you haven't noticed, everyone is in business these days. More and more people are deciding that 9-5 jobs are just not for them. Or, many people are deciding to supplement their income by running their own business. If either of these cases is you, unless you are doing it just for fun making sure that your business is profitable is important. There are many things to consider when starting an online business.
Setting up your business correctly from the start, or revamping your current business to function better can make a huge difference. Businesses need to understand that consumers these days live out a huge part of their lives on the Internet. A huge number of people order goods and services without leaving their homes. Connecting with potential clients can be easy if your online presence is setup correctly.
Deciding to start a business includes several factors.
Before you even consider starting an online business you need to decide what product or service you are going to offer. You might offer physical product like personalized gifts, books, or fashion. If you are offering services, it could be photography, web design, blogging, or cosmetology. In either case, your product should have a unique selling point if possible. It should stand out. Create something that will cause customers to come to you, rather than choosing a competitor. But be careful to not get overwhelmed. Yes, it happens to us all at some point, but with a little work at the start, it can be prevented. For example, if you are offering a service like virtual assistants, you need to have enough people to fulfill the orders that you receive.
Once you've got your initial concept off the ground, then it pays to keep thinking about your business creatively. Even if what you are selling is the highest trending item on social media today, it might not always be so. A month from now people something different might be the hot product of the moment.
If you are running a product based business think about how to make your product better. Over time, materials may change, different techniques may become available, or your skills may improve. Can you build on the strengths of a product, or make a new one that deals with an issue that is being missed?
If you are running a service centered business, think about how you can extend the range of services offered. If you are a cleaning company, can you offer closet organization as well? Or can you expand your target clientele? Can you move into a new location and draw more business?
Money, Pricing & Profits
Put a lot of thought into setting the price of your products. Making sure that your overhead is low is important to making your business succeed. You don't want to spend more money on your business than you make. Create a list of your materials, the time that it takes, and how labor intensive it is. Come up with price. Of course you may be tempted to keep prices low to draw more business in the beginning, and this is ok… just be sure not to dig yourself into a hole.
Think about whether or not you will ship your products yourself. If it's something simple, you may be able to do this. Otherwise you may choose a service like like Red Stag Fulfillment to handle the shipping for you. You send your products to them, and they pick, pack and ship your items to your customers. Some companies even offer same day shipping services. This work well once you have a system in place, as it will practically run itself. You just need to make sure that the cost is a viable one for your business.
Clearly state your shipping and returns policy in the item listing, so the customer is aware of them before they buy. In addition, before you reply to any complaints take a long deep breath. Remember it's not personal, even though it may feel like it. Many of us have been there. We are only humans, we may mistakes. Hopefully we learn from them. Above I mentioned the possibility of getting overwhelmed. This can lead to missing deadlines, or sometimes forgetting a key step. If this happens, own it, fix it asap, and learn from it. Adjust your procedures, decide to limit your product if need be or get help. Stay professional in your response to complaints and do you best to understand where the customer is coming from. Your goal is to resolve the situation to satisfy the client.
Have a Snazzy, Functional Website
Having a successful small business these days, you definitely need to make use of e-commerce. You can reach millions of customers with a click of a button. You can also take their payment and ship the product all from your own home. The backbone of this for your business will be your website. This is your company's front page that is shown to the world. It should be professional, sleek and it should work! Try and avoid flash videos in case they don't load on some devices.
Simple sites are worth their weight in gold for the small business owner. You don't want your customers to need a degree in computer engineering to find what they are looking for on your site. Pages like About, Contact, and ordering are very important.
Consider a live chat box as well, as this can help you turn website hits into real sales. I love sites that have this! Many people have questions but can't be bothered to contact customer services… and I agree! With a real time chat box, their questions can be answered straight away, making it much more likely to close the sale. This can also help you provide excellent customer service.
Make Sure Your Social Media Game is Tight
Your brand is your business. In combination with your website, you should have an active social media presence. Social media should be about showing off your brand, your products, and your services. Try to help people to connect to what you are selling, and see the need for it in their own lives. Instagram and Pinterest are good for this. Make sure that links to your social media accounts are in plain site on your website. And if you have social media accounts, respond to them! There are a few businesses that have active social media accounts and they do very well. There are others that have a social media presence and they never respond to tweets or Facebook messages. This bugs me! Why have a presence at all if you are not going to respond when your customers reach out? There are some companies (names to come in another post) that I have tweeted several times about an issue and I've never gotten a response. Not cool. Not cool at all.
You can also capitalize on the connectivity of social media by encouraging sharing of your content. The more likes and shares you receive the better coverage your product is getting. You can do this by offering competitions, or design content that is shareable, like funny videos and infographics. Have sharing buttons front and center on your site's content!
These are just some of the things that come to mind when starting a new business. You can also think about these things and make adjustments if your business is not quite doing as well as you would like.
What are some of your tips for starting an online business?