Recently I’m getting more friends and relatives asking me how to start an online business. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not easy maths too.
Starting an online business is pretty much the same as starting a brick and mortar business, except that the cost is much lower and so is the risk.
When I say it’s pretty much the same as a brick and mortar business, I also mean that you need to be entrepreneurial, to be able to ‘smell’ the needs in a market and to have a vision. Are entrepreneurs born or breed? I don’t know. What I believe is, if you think you are, you are.
So, if you are entrepreneurial and want to learn how to start an online business, read on……
Step 1: Never reinvent the wheel
Believe me. Almost all the smart and innovative ideas you can think of are already done by someone else online, in one way or another. If you think you’ve a unique online business idea, it just means that you’ve not done enough research.
So, if you have any online business idea, the first thing you need to do is head over to Google and type in some keywords related to your business idea. Thoroughly check out all the top websites that provide similar product or service. This means you may have to try out their products/services and find out their pros and cons.
Next, you have to evaluate those pros and cons and come out with a BETTER idea.
Remember, the job of an entrepreneur is not to invent things. His job is to seek proven business ideas, improve on those ideas and get a piece of the pie out of the market, preferably a bigger piece.
Step 2: Think of the marketing system
Most newbie entrepreneurs have one problem. They spend too much time trying to perfect their products.
Having a good product is important. But what’s more important is the marketing system.
Without a good marketing system, no matter how good your product is, it’s going to be hard for your online business to grow.
Regardless of what you sell, your marketing system should answer 3 important questions:
– How can the system attract and capture a list of potential users and/or customers?
– How can you make the system viral, such that users will refer more users?
– How to convert prospects into customers?
For example, recently I developed a great online tool (I think) that can help me to manage all my stocks (I’m talking about the stock market). I believe if I roll this service out to the market, someone will be willing to pay for it. But before I even think of developing the tool for the multiple users, I first have to think of the 3 questions above.
Here’s my thinking process:
I probably have to develop an online system where stock traders can subscribe for free and manage limited number of stocks. This will answer question #1. If they find the service useful and want to manage more stocks, they will upgrade their account for a monthly fee. That will answer question #3. The tough part is question #2 – how to make it viral. I’m thinking of developing a system where users can allow the public to view their portfolios or their watch list and sign up followers to their watch list. It’s something like the Twitter effect. This will make the website viral.
That’s how I apply my theory in practice.
Step 3: Work
Once the idea is formed and the marketing system is well thought out, the last step to start an online business is to work.
This is the overwhelming part because there are so many things to be done, yet you can only move one step at a time.
First you have to build the website. You can buy a ready script if it’s available, use the free MYOB script that I’ve developed for our members or get a freelancer to develop the website for you, either from scratch or by modifying existing scripts.
When the website is ready, you have to promote it and keep promoting it. And that’s only the beginning……
That’s how to start an online business. After it’s started, to maintain it is another challenge. But if you start off on the right foot, things will be a lot simpler in the future.
By the way, I recently came across a good article on getting clients for your business. It’s worth reading. You may get a few ideas for your business.