Starting an online business is equal parts exciting and overwhelming. You have an idea of what you want to do but you’re not even sure where to start. Or maybe you’ve started this business before, and tried a couple of things that didn’t quite work out. So you have to try a different approach this time, but you’re not sure how.
This article will guide you with 7 basic things you need to do, in order to build a solid foundation and map a clearer journey to your profitable online business.
1. Choose a Niche
“The riches are in the niches”. You may have heard that before. If you’re starting an online business, you have higher chances of success when you narrow down what you do to a very specific niche.
So you want to set up a blog, for instance. Rather than blogging about home appliances, you could narrow down your scope to kitchen appliances, or even better, blog about blenders. Now you may be wondering, “Who blogs about just blenders?”. They do. And if I want information about blenders, I’ll be more inclined to visit a blog about blenders than a blog about home appliances. Google knows this too, that’s why niche-specific blogs generally rank higher in search engine results pages.
Think about it. If your child is sick, would you rather visit a general hospital or a pediatric specialist? If you’re trying to lose weight after childbirth, would you rather buy a plan that works for everybody, or plan specifically tailored for nursing moms?
Also, the more specific your business niche is, the less likely you are to be overshadowed by bigger brands. If you try to set up an online store that sells everything, you’d have to compete with the likes of Amazon and Aliexpress. Good luck with that!
2. Identify your ideal customer
This is like niching down, but for your target audience.
When creating content for your online business, you have to have your ideal customer in mind- the one person that your business’s products or services are perfectly suited for.
For example, if you sell baby clothes, your ideal customer avatar (ICA) could be a 30yr old woman with a baby and a 9-5 job. The more detailed and specific your ICA is, the better.
They could also be an already existing customer that you consider the dream client for your business.
When creating content, ads or sending out messages for your online business, imagine that you’re talking to your ICA. It makes your message feel more personal and targets the exact type of people that you want as clients for your business.
3. Validate your business idea
Before investing lots of time and money into starting an online business, you have to be sure that there’s actually a demand for what you’re offering.
You can research your idea by searching for your niche of choice on Google or social media, to see what people are saying about it, or who your competitors are.
Related questions on Google, or comments on social media will give you insights on the pain points of your target audience and also an idea of the language they use, so that you can mirror it when communicating with them.
Your business idea doesn’t have to be something that has never been done before. Don’t be discouraged if you find many others already doing the same thing that you plan to do. It means there’s a market for it.
4. Figure out your unique selling proposition
Your business should have at least one quality that sets you apart from your competitors. This is called your unique selling proposition.
Your USP helps you stand out in a saturated market, and lets your ideal client know that they should choose you, instead of the others.
If you aren’t sure what your USP is, try to figure out something that you do extremely well, or differently from the others. You can:
- ask your current clients why they choose you over others.
- try to find a gap in your industry by reading complaints and poor reviews on your competitors, to see where they could be dropping the ball.
- ask your audience for something that they wish your industry could provide.
These may inspire you to come up with a different and better way of doing things in your industry.
5. Design your brand identity
Your brand image is what people think of you. Your brand identity is what you want people to think of you.
When starting an online business, it is important to create a brand identity, so that you can control your brand image.
Your brand identity consists of your brand colors, logo, fonts and your brand voice. When you decide on these, you have to use them consistently across platforms, so that people learn to associate them with your business.
6. Decide on your monetization channels
Before you start creating content or trying to make sales, you should have a clear idea of how you intend to monetize your online brand.
Setting short and long term goals helps you keep sight of what’s important. Every platform you choose to set up on, and every piece of content that you create should move you towards your goal, one way or another.
Choosing your monetization channels early on will keep you from wasting time on activities that will not be profitable in the long run.
7. Secure your online real estate
When setting up your online business and creating your brand, it is important that you secure your online real estate.
When you have decided on a brand name, buy the domain name for your brand, and also some domain name extensions. Also create accounts for your business on Instagram, Twitter and other platforms you think you might be on in the future.
This helps you to ensure that your brand name is consistent across platforms, and also protects you from copycats and name squatters.
Recap of the 7 critical steps you need to take before starting an online business
- Choose a niche
- Identify your ideal customer
- Validate your business idea
- Figure out your unique selling proposition
- Design your brand identity
- Decide on your monetization channels
- Secure your online real estate
When you’ve taken these seven steps, you’ll have a much clearer picture of what your business is and where you want it go.