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Starting an Online Business

Are You Ready to Start an Online Business?

Online business can be very successful. You need to do things right though.

  1. Find your niche. Find a need, clearly understand that need, then develop or acquire a product or service that fills it
  2. Create a point of difference
  3. Develop a web site that is easy to use for the customer or client
  4. Develop content (words and images) that sells
  5. Optimise the site so search engines will drive traffic to you
  6. Harness Social Media to raise your profile and drive more traffic to your site
  7. Grow your reputation by increasing your visibility -get noticed more!
  8. Capture details of anyone who contacts you; particularly anyone who buys, then follow up with emails
  9. Increase income by add on selling.

Stage 1: Discover Your Niche

Don’t make the mistake of choosing your product first and your market second. Decide on your market first. If you are considering an affiliation with ACS, you have lots of product possibilities, from 100 hour and 20 hour short courses, to ebooks, certificates and diplomas - and any number of combinations of these elements. There are also lots of different disciplines, from pets and gardening to writing and psychology. No one can give their best to selling it all to the whole world straight away.

  • Consider what discipline and type(s) of product you want to focus on.
  • Conduct market research by visiting online social media, forums or anything else to see what topics are 'hot'.
  • Conduct keyword searches to see what lots of people are searching for, but where there isn’t a lot of competition.
  • Look at potential competitors, and how they are servicing demand. No matter what any of them do, no business can ever be everything to everyone. People are individuals, and the sort of service that suits some will always be unsuitable to others.

Stage 2:  Create a Point of Difference

You may well sell the same or similar products or services to others; but there are always ways that you can be different, for example:

  • You may charge in a different way (e.g. A discount if the full fee is paid up front, a different configuration in payment plans, and so on)
  • You may package services differently (e.g. The way different courses are combined to create a certificate or diploma; the way groups of ebooks can be purchased as a mini library at a lower price and so on)
  • You may offer services or incentives that others do not (e.g.  guarantees, a refund policy, or bonus benefits that competitors don’t offer).

Stage 3:   Develop a web site that is easy to use for the customer or client

Anyone can create a web site today, with relative ease, using free systems on the internet; but if you want a new business to flourish, you will need something beyond the same “cheap” option that everyone who doesn’t really understand the internet is using. An effective web site needs to be:

  • Easy to use for the customer. Whatever you are selling should be easy and fast to find and understand; and the way they buy and receive what they buy should be obvious and easy to understand.
  • It should be “responsive”. This means the way the site displays should automatically adjust to look different be become easy to read, on a big screen or a small screen. This means it can do business just as easily on a mobile phone as on a lap top or a desk top computer

Stage 4:  Develop content that Sells

The words and photos you put on the web site and the way they are organised and interlinked will need to do two things:

  • Attract attention from search engines, directories and potential customers so you get lots of visits.
  • Maintain and build interest from visitors so they stay long enough to register what you are offering, and then become motivated to take action and either contact you or buy.

Attracting attention is affected by both the quantity and quality of what you write; but unless the reader engages with you, there isn’t a lot of point. Many sites will attract tens of thousands of people without achieving one sale, while others attract a fraction of that number and achieve a lot of sales.

Stage 5:  Optimise the site so search engines

Search engines, directories and other web sites will keep changing the criteria they use to rank web sites. To maintain a high profile, you need to know what is changing and keep changing your web site accordingly. If you want sustainable business on the internet, it is impossible to achieve something that works then just sit back and reap the benefits. Internet marketing must be a continuous and ongoing job.

Stage 6:  Harness Social Media

Social media can be a significant way of increasing your profile, and a tool for connecting directly with individual customers.

Stage 7:  Grow your reputation by increasing your visibility

Web sites and social media are obvious and prime options for being seen by potential online buyers; but there are other ways people may become aware of your services and products. Do not discount the value of any option. Internet marketing is dynamic and the best way to be seen keeps changing. Often things that don’t work today might work tomorrow; and things that work today may become a waste of time and money tomorrow. (e.g. Print media advertising may have worked in the 90’s, died in the early 21st century, but for the right product in the right place, perhaps it may work again now).

Stage 8:  Capture details of anyone who contacts you

For online marketing, mail lists are gold. People who spend time on your web site have a heightened awareness of who you are, and the seeds of a relationship have been sown. If you don’t lose contact, you have an opportunity to develop that relationship, and even if nothing was bought on first contact, it may be bought in the future.

Stage 9: Increase income by add on selling.

Once one sale has been made, further sales become so much easier, if the customer is satisfied. If someone buys an ebook, you can follow up with sales of additional ebooks. If they enroll in a short course; and you track their progress, they may be a hot prospect for further course or book sales when the first course has been completed.

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