Online business is not so different from any other sort of start-up venture; the same principles apply. Think about what makes an “offline” business successful, and then analyze your Web business in the same way. To get you started, I’ve outlined some of the essential steps you’ll need to take.
This Online Business site is organized along the same lines, so you can get additional information on any of these steps when you need it.
Determine your Business Model
Just as in an offline business, you’ll have to figure out how to make money. It will help if you create a business plan, and consider what other successful online businesses are doing. Some options include:
extend your existing “brick-and-mortar” business online
become a reseller
Consider your competitive advantage.
Review and choose from over 10,000 business opps and work at home jobs
Will you emphasize price, quality, service, or some other unique selling point? Read more about business models.
Find a Good Name
Offline, a good name is usually short, easy to remember, and reflects your business in some way. It’s the same in the online world. Your domain name is how you’ll be known on the Web. Customers will have to remember it, spell it correctly, and type it into their Web browsers. Good domain names are memorable, short and easy to spell, and usually reflect your business purpose. (There are a lot of exceptions to the latter rule: think eBay and Yahoo!). Read more about domain names.
Build an Effective Store
Think of an effective offline store: it is attractive, projects the right image, and is easy for customers to find what they want. Make sure your online store has the same qualities. It should be easy to navigate, with a good search function. The design should reflect the image you’re trying to project: professional, hip, up-scale, etc. Good offline stores also offer easy check-out, accept credit cards, and have a good return policy. Read more about online storefronts.
Rent from a Reliable Landlord
You wouldn’t want your offline store to lose sales because it was frequently closed for repairs, would you? Choosing the right Web host for your site is like renting from a reputable landlord. A good Web host offers uptime guarantees (always open), can handle a lot of traffic (customers), responds to your questions quickly, and offers the services you need. Read more about Web hosting.
Spread the Word
A store on Main Street is guaranteed at least a little foot traffic. An online venture might get a few walk-ins as well. But to guarantee traffic, you have to do some marketing. Online, you can spread the word in a variety of ways:
Submit to Search engines
Pay for Search-Engine placement
Exchange links with other sites
Use e-mail (don’t SPAM!)
Develop a PR strategy
Read more about online marketing.
Just like a real store has “back-end” systems in place, an online store needs mechanisms to accept credit cards and process orders.
To automate even more, you can also integrate your online store with accounting, inventory, and fulfillment systems.Read more about Payment Processing.
Make Your Customers Happy
Successful shops have great customer service. An online store can keep its customers happy by offering lots of online information, answering inquiries promptly, shipping quickly, and providing for easy returns. Read more about online customer service.
Refine and Improve
Good offline stores are constantly evaluating their performance and trying new approaches. They rearrange merchandise, design new window displays, calculate profit per square foot, and count foot traffic. Make sure you do the same for your online venture. Use statistics programs to find out where your customers come from and what they do on your site. If you advertise, make sure you test ads and measure their effectiveness. Read more about Site Statistics.