There is a proven sequence of steps you can follow to guarantee your success when you’re starting a small business online. I’ve seen thousands of people start and grow successful businesses by doing the following:
Step 1: Business Structure
While many new businesses operate under a sole proprietorship, this might not be the best choice depending on your situation. A sole proprietorship means you’re individually responsible for your company, and there is no formal paperwork. If you find yourself facing a legal situation, you’ll be held personally responsible.
Because of the liability concerns, many new online businesses are created under an LLC, also known as a limited liability company or a corporation. With both of these business structures, your personal assets are protected from company troubles. However, there are startup costs and legal forms. Review these guides to starting a new business to learn what type of formation is right for your situation.
Once you decide which structure is right for you, you’ll need to file the paperwork with your state. It’s best to submit these documents in the state you personally are located. Talk to a lawyer about the best structure for your business to avoid any complications.
Step 2: Name Your Online Business
You’ll need a name when you register your business with the state, and you want this to be something unique are memorable. Before deciding on a name, make sure you do these steps to cover all your bases:
- Is your name easy to spell?
- Are there any businesses with similar names already?
- Does your name fall under state law requirements?
- Are social media usernames and domain names with your business name available?
You should do research online to ensure there are no similarly named businesses already. Most state offices require your name to be unlike anything else registered in your state, so take this step seriously. Run your chosen name through trusted friends, family, and advisors to make sure it doesn’t have any unexpected connotations.
Ask for the sale.
Throughout your copy, you need to focus on how your product or service is uniquely able to solve people’s problems or make their lives better. Think like a customer and ask “What’s in it for me?”
Step 3: Design and build your website.
Once you’ve got your market and product, and you’ve nailed down your selling process, now you’re ready for your small-business web design. Remember to keep it simple. You have fewer than five seconds to grab someone’s attention — otherwise, they’re gone, never to be seen again. Some important tips to keep in mind:
Choose one or two plain fonts on a white background.
Make your navigation clear and simple, and the same on every page.
Only use graphics, audio or video if they enhance your message.
Include an opt-in offer so you can collect e-mail addresses.
Make it easy to buy — no more than two clicks between potential customer and checkout.
Your website is your online storefront, so make it customer-friendly.
Related: Top 10 Best Chatbot Platform Tools to Build Chatbots for Your Business
Now that the legal formalities are out of the way, it’s time to purchase your online real estate. You’ll need both a domain name and a hosting package. Depending on your business needs, you might need more or less hosting. For basic packages, Bluehost and GoDaddy are the most popular and affordable options.
If you suspect you’ll need more hands-on hosting, WP Engine is known to offer the best support and dedicated packages. If you’re new to the world of online businesses altogether, you should let a web designer help you with setting up your newly hosted website.
Step 4: Use search engines to drive targeted buyers to your site.
Pay-per-click advertising is the easiest way to get traffic to a brand-new site. It has two advantages over waiting for the traffic to come to you organically. First, PPC ads show up on the search pages immediately, and second, PPC ads allow you to test different keywords, as well as headlines, prices and selling approaches. Not only do you get immediate traffic, but you can also use PPC ads to discover your best, highest-converting keywords. Then you can distribute the keywords throughout your site in your copy and code, which will help your rankings in the organic search results.
Related Book: Ultimate Guide to Pay-Per-Click Advertising by Richard Stokes
Step 5: Establish an expert reputation for yourself.
People use the internet to find information. Provide that information for free to other sites, and you’ll see more traffic and better search engine rankings. The secret is to always include a link to your site with each tidbit of information.
Give away free, expert content. Create articles, videos or any other content that people will find useful. Distribute that content through online article directories or social media sites.
Include “send to a friend” links on valuable content on your website.
Become an active expert in industry forums and social networking sites where your target market hangs out.
Related: How to Create a Facebook Messenger Chatbot For Free Without Coding
You’ll reach new readers. But even better, every site that posts your content will link back to yours. Search engines love links from relevant sites and will reward you in the rankings.
Related Book: No B.S. Trust-Based Marketing by Dan S. Kennedy and Matt Zagula
Step 6: Use the power of email marketing to turn visitors into buyers.
When you build an opt-in list, you’re creating one of the most valuable assets of your online business. Your customers and subscribers have given you permission to send them an email. That means:
Depending on your business strategy, you might be selling products online. If that’s the case, you’ll most likely be responsible for collecting and paying sales tax for every transaction. These taxes will be based on the state where your business is physically located, but the rules are different from place to place.
You can check with your city to see if you need a business license to pay sales tax. In addition, it’s always a good idea to speak to an accountant and tax attorney prior to accepting tax payments online. That last thing your new business needs is a sales tax audit.
Anyone who visits your site and opts into your list is a very hot lead. And there’s no better tool than email for following up with those leads.
Related Offer: Get a 60-day free trial to email marketing platform Constant Contact.
Step 7: Increase your income through back-end sales and upselling.
One of the most important internet marketing strategies is to develop every customer’s lifetime value. At least 36 percent of people who have purchased from you once will buy from you again if you follow up with them. Closing that first sale is by far the most difficult part — not to mention the most expensive. So use back-end selling and upselling to get them to buy again:
Offer products that complement their original purchase.
Send out electronic loyalty coupons they can redeem on their next visit.
Offer related products on your “Thank You” page after they purchase.
Reward your customers for their loyalty and they’ll become even more loyal.
Anyone, from newbie to seasoned online entrepreneur, can benefit from this process in learning how to start a business online.
It’s a good practice to involve experienced mentors to advise you on relevant industry legislation and the pros and cons of each decision, starting with early software product planning and development. It is especially important for the launch of a software product for highly regulated industries like healthcare and banking. Your advisors can be other companies in the field, individual industry players or professional startup consultancies with domain knowledge and experience of your chosen industry.
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Founder Dinis Guarda
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