How to set up an online business – 11 steps to success

Understanding how to set up an online business correctly can be daunting, so here we look at 10 steps to make it a success.

1. Find your niche

OK, so where do you start? I would sincerely suggest that you follow your passion. This has some amazing benefits, and the primary one is that it will not feel like work when you are working! If you do something you love, your passion will come through in everything you do – and your customers will pick up on this. Expanding on a popular phrase – people normally buy from people who are passionate about what they do!

If you do not have a clear place to start, there are 3 big areas for online business:

  • Internet Marketing
  • Health and Fitness
  • Motivation and personal growth

Choose one of these! Then find your niche within one!

2. Research

The next step is research. You need to research your ideal customer – to truly understand their needs and motivations. You also need to understand your market and competition. I cover this on Facebook – along with other business tips – so follow me there too if you want to keep connected. And if you are looking to do it smarter and better than anyone else, please check out this other blog post here.

Essentially, you need to understand what works best in your market, and model that for your business. Finally, in terms of research, you should undertake keyword research. This is to find where the volume of searches are – but also, and this is crucial to your success when you first start – the level of competition for the keywords. For example, if you go after a keyword with tens of thousands of searches each month, you might think great! Loads of traffic! However, if the competition for that keyword is high – you are not going to get any free traffic from that keyword when you are starting! The competition is too great. You need to discover the untapped keywords with low competition, but good or reasonable volume.

3. Start small

Avoid the temptation to shoot for the top of the mountain on your first go. Baby steps work, not get-rich-quick schemes! I recommend you focus on 1 customer, or at least behave as if you are speaking to an individual. Try and make a personal connection with customers – as this connection will help people trust you and ultimately buy from you. We all know how we hate dealing with ‘big faceless corporations’, so start small and be personal. Even put your face at the front of your business – if that’s appropriate. (As inappropriate for your niche, not whether your face is ‘appropriate’!)

4. Write a business plan

So many people fail to do this when thinking about how to set up an online business correctly. As the saying goes, “Failing to plan, is planning to fail.” If you do not know where you are going, how will you know if you get there?

Creating an online business does not happen overnight; so you need to map out the steps you are going to take to achieve your goals. You will also need to understand what investments you are going to have to make, what risks you will need to try and mitigate, and how you will deliver your products to market.

If you are planning an online shop, which platform will you use? What are the different benefits of each? How will you drive traffic to your offers? Where online are your ideal customers hanging out?

Who will help you along the way? How will you know if what you are planning is good enough to succeed?

With so many questions to answer, you need to build a plan and work out how you are going to navigate the online space to achieve the success you desire.

5. Build a professional website

Ok, so this is a must! If you are looking to set up an online business, you will have to have a website! But it is at #5 for a reason! Lots of people start with a website, but I hope you agree by now that without the previous steps, what you create on your website will have no clear direction or purpose. Having a website that is not fit for purpose is WORSE than not having a website at all! It will put any people who land on your site off for good and spoil any reputation you are developing.

You require clear navigation on your site, and to make it easy for customers to buy from you. I am not going into which website builder or host you should use in this post. However, your website should build your credibility – you must provide evidence that you are to be respected and believed. And you must give your customers a reason to buy!

Professional websites are something I offer my clients if you want to see what I think makes a professional website.

6. Write compelling copy

Now your site needs to be compelling. I would recommend you consider hiring a professional copywriter if you are not confident in this area. And possibly hire one even if you are! They can make the difference between engaging your audience and you achieving a sale, or getting them to close your site immediately. Some of the key things you need to deliver are:

  • An attention-grabbing headline
  • Identify the problem your customers have
  • Provide the solution – your product or services
  • Show benefits
  • Give proof
  • Create urgency
  • Ask for the sale!

7. How to set up an online business: Give massive value!

One of the most effective ways to create online business success is to give incredible value. If you can give something amazing away for free, you will immediately have ‘credit’ with your audience. This should be based on your expertise, as this will then also build credibility and your reputation further.

Within your niche, lots of people will be competing. That is fine. That is good because it usually signals high demand for what you are offering. So to stand out, you need to be unique in some way and give more than anyone else. If you can truly give value to your customers, massive value, then they will become loyal to you.

8. Get a mentor

If you can learn and be guided by someone who has ‘been there, done it, got the T-shirt’, then you have a system or method to follow. I am a coach myself, but even I have a mentor too! (To find out more, please click the image above, as he wrote it). The benefit is huge. Just think of any superstar sportsperson – the best in the world – and I guarantee you they ALL have a coach or mentor – often more than one!

9. Drive traffic to your site

In the online business world traffic is key. There are lots of ways to get it, PPC, SEO, Social Media, etc. It can be free or organic, and you can pay for it. Which is best and what to use will depend on your niche! Again here, it pays to start small and do your research. You need to understand where your ideal customer hangs out online? Are they on Instagram or TikTok? Are they most likely to search in Google? Is LinkedIn your best way of connecting with them, or Facebook Ads? Do your research, and then start small and test things out. Only once you have found out where and how is working best should you scale up. This goes for free as well as paid traffic.

If you are using a free traffic method – remember one thing – consistency! No free traffic method produces results overnight. Sure you may get lucky to start with, but for a free traffic method to work, you need consistency. You need to show up regularly, give value and you will build your traffic.

10. Build a list to create an online business that keeps on giving

You may have heard the phrase, “The profit is in the list”, and this remains as true today as ever. You should focus the majority of your marketing efforts on building an email list of your customers and prospects. The reasons for this are many, but the two I want to highlight are:

  1. Not all people buy first time, so having them on a list builds up trust and credibility. You can build up a relationship, and when they are ready to buy, you will hopefully be top of mind. And
  2. Follow-up sales. If someone has already bought from you, then they are your ideal customer! Therefore, rather than try (or spend money) and find more new customers, you should be looking to offer your existing customers more value and more great products and services.

They trust you, so why not develop that relationship further. You might even be able to turn them from customers into advocates for your new online business!

11. Know you numbers

This comes back to the plan. Every successful online business knows its numbers inside out. Not just sales and profit, but customer data, marketing performance, which services make the highest profit, which products need re-engineering to perform better, etc, etc.

If you know your numbers, you will know how to set up an online business for the long-term! I wish you success!

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