You’ve developed and honed an idea for a new online business that you’re passionate about. It’s time to make the dream a reality and build your business in a world primed for online. Knowing how to get started and avoid those all-important early pitfalls will be critical to your overall success. Worryingly, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of U.S. start-ups fail to make it past the 12-month mark. There’s no need to be part of that cohort – with some simple know-how and input around how to build a successful online business, you’ll be trading with confidence for years to come.
In this article, Will Cotter, owner of HappyCleans, a professional cleaning company in Oklahoma shares insight on the top 5 tips for building your new business online.
1. Know Your Why
Being clear about what you offer is a starting point for any online business. However, take things to a higher level by drilling down and communicating why your business and your brand exist. This provides the all-important raison d’etre that can help keep you motivated and engage customers with the story behind your product or service. Knowing your “why” is what makes you distinctive in a crowded marketplace. Perhaps you’ve seen the TED Talk by best-selling author, Simon Sineck, who makes a strong case for starting with “why?”. If not, it’s worth a watch.
In terms of knowing your “why”, consider what it is that excites you about your business. Where’s your passion? What is it that keeps you motivated? Increasing your awareness around these questions will help you clarify your why and the values and principles behind your business. Recognizing what makes your business unique is critical for any successful entrepreneurial online start-up.
Perhaps there is a personal story that lies behind your business idea? Let yourself find and tell this story to help create a narrative that makes your business unique.
2. Be Visible
Traditional businesses were visible by having high-street physical premises that customers walked past. Word-of-mouth referrals included satisfied customers pointing out businesses they’d recommend to others as they drove past the premises.
What online businesses lack in physical premises they can more than make up for in other ways. Staying visible in an online world is critical for success with new online business ventures. There are loads of smart ideas to market your business. The internet is a huge place, and you need to be proactive about standing out online.
Your website is, ultimately, your storefront and a key element in your business marketing. It needs to be fully optimized to ensure potential customers find you. You can employ a web designer and delegate the task of creating a fully search engine-optimized (SEO) website. As a result, potential customers searching for what your business offers are more likely to find your website in their search results. Even better, do your own homework to understand how to optimize your own websites to ensure it is within the top listings when customers search online. That way, you’re in control of what you need to do to keep your website visible over time. Even if you do outsource your web design, you can be confident you know what you want from their services to ensure your website is an effective marketing tool for your online business.
Visibility is, of course, not a one-time event. It’s no use being fully visible at the beginning of your business, and then neglecting to check if people can still see and find you online. Visibility needs to be at the forefront of your ongoing marketing strategy. Blogging is one way you can keep your website fresh and through relevant and contemporary content that keeps your business up-to-date with what potential customers are interested in. You also want to keep other online listings, such as Google Business Profile, up to date. Refresh content such as photos and opening times regularly as needed to ensure you remain visible.
3. Communication is King
Communication is critical to your success as an online business. Potential customers want to understand what to expect and what you offer. Customers that place an order want to know when and how they will receive the goods or services. Employees or B2B contacts need to know what’s happening. And you want to know how customers feel and think about your business. A successful business relies on effective communication and business skills, so it makes sense to build communication systems and processes from the start of your venture.
For internal business communication, make the most of streamlined and tailored channels. Slack or MS Teams both allow you to communicate and build a searchable databank of knowledge. As your business grows, having these systems firmly established will help with the onboarding of new employees.
Networking can be helpful in any business, and there are plenty of ways you can establish and foster helpful B2B contacts that will support your emerging business. Find ways to include communication with other online businesses as part of your overall communication strategy.
Technology also allows you to automate and streamline communication with potential and existing customers to ensure prompt and relevant communication. Set up automated communication at the point a potential customer makes an inquiry or places an order. Always follow up with the option for customers to communicate feedback. Positive, as well as constructive feedback, is invaluable in knowing what customers like and want and how you can continuously improve your offering, as well as promptly rectifying any mistakes that will occur along the way.
Ensure you set up forwarding of communication to appropriate people and devices as needed so that customer queries do not go unnoticed. You are aiming for prompt and responsive communication.
4. Be Realistic
It’s important to be realistic when establishing your online business. Any start-up takes time to establish, and there will be a transition period for your new and emerging business. yes, you are looking for business growth if your business is to be viable. Be realistic about the pace of growth you can expect within the first couple of years and ensure you have a contingency plan. Also resist the urge to push too hard for growth if the systems aren’t in place to handle it. That might mean initially getting the balance between taking on new business and saying no to jobs if you don’t have the capacity to follow through with a quality product or service yet. In time, you’ll build this capacity. Walk before you run is, as ever, a helpful maxim when it comes to long-term online business success.
5. Keep Your Eyes Firmly Fixed on Data Analysis
Knowing exactly where your business is up to at any given time is essential for any new and emerging online business. With advances in automation, you can easily streamline data collection for efficient and tight analysis that then impacts decision-making. Gather feedback data from clients using automated online forms, for example. Know the source and referral route of new enquires and collect information about the most effective ways clients find you online. Be clear about record keeping and invoicing, so you have, at any given time, accurate data on profit and loss.
If data collection and analysis seem to be out of your current comfort zone, it’s helpful to up-skill with some training in this area to ensure you start with systems that support your ongoing business as you grow. There are also available opportunities to take business courses online that can greatly help in your success.
Will Cotter is the owner of HappyCleans. His passions include small business, startups, and tech.