Starting an online business is a lot easier than one thinks, especially nowadays when the barrier to entry is far lower than what it was 5 to 10 years ago.
There is no need to overcomplicate the process. The 9 steps listed below is our simplified, tried and tested process to helping many new business owners get online and into the market as soon as possible.
- Decide on your type of business
- Know your budget
- Develop a plan
- Branding – think name, domain, hosting, logo, audience, website
- Decide on your platforms
Decide on your type of business
Opportunity is everywhere, if you look for it, you will find it. People and businesses everywhere need products and services. What experience, skills and passions do you have and are you able to capitalise on them and turn it into a business?
Once you have a business idea, evaluate it by looking at the demand for the business, its complexity to set up, enter the market and run it; are you happy with the profitability margins and growth opportunities?
Continue to refine your business idea until you are confident to move forward with it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help where needed. Many experienced business people within your field of interest, business coaches and professionals would offer support to see others succeed.
Know your budget
Starting a business requires capital. You don’t need a lot of capital, but the more you have for the start-up and early growth phase the better. Identify what your business start-up costs may be including what it will cost to operate your business for at least 6 months after launching your business.
Start-up costs vary from business to business. At the very least, you may need to make provision for company registration costs; equipment, material, marketing costs and operational costs.
Develop a plan
An empire business doesn’t happen overnight, but to get there you have to start with a vision and a realistic plan.
Determine what your short-term to long-term goals will be and write them down. Then determine what activities you need to put in place on a daily, weekly and monthly basis that will help you reach your ultimate goal. A plan covers activities and answers questions such as what, how, by when do you need to achieve your goals. A few examples of goals may include registering your business with the company’s office; developing the processes for your business; developing a website to showcase your brand and business; to how you will market your business and the network partners that you need to establish to help the business grow.
What is a brand? A brand is the identity of your business. It’s the name, the character, the look and feel, the personality, the tone of voice.
Start developing your brand by finding a suitable name for your online business. A brand name should be unique and memorable. Check that the domain name (the website address) is also available and matches your brand name so that you can build your business and brand with a recognisable name.
You can do it yourself, but having a professional logo and business card designed by one of many reputable graphic design companies in Cape Town goes a long way to establishing a professional look and feel for your business. Your website is also part of your branding exercise and should maintain a consistent look and feel which should come across all your branding elements, i.e. your logo, business cards and other marketing channels and marketing material.
Decide on your platforms
You can build your own website using WordPress, WIX, Woocommerce, Shopify or SquareSpace. Do your homework to identify the costing, opportunities and limitations of each platform to identify what will work for your business. If the budget allows we recommend that you ask an experienced web development company to build your website for you. This often gets you online quicker.
Your website will need a domain (website address) and hosting account, along with images of your products and/or services, website copy to communicate what you are offering your potential customer. These tips will help guide you when developing your website.
Decide on which social media platforms you will utilize to market your business and engage with your potential customers. Consider your preferred audience demographics and the social media platforms that they find themselves on as your presence on these platforms will increase your chances of connecting with your desired audience. If budget allows and/or you have the time invest in the upkeep of these platforms, however if not, we recommend starting with one social media platform and build from there as resources become available.
Every business needs processes in order to survive and thrive. Processes consider all the essential activities needed within your business, i.e. the people, systems, tools and the workflow that is required that will allow your business to operate smoothly and work towards achieving your business goals. Brainstorm the different activities that will take place within your business and develop action plans for each activity. Brainstorming will help you identify any critical gaps that may exist where an action plan is needed. An example – if a sales enquiry comes into your business via phone call, email or website – what will happen next, by when and how? If an online sale is made, what processes follow after that, i.e. Step 1. Order is placed and payment received; Step 2. Packaging of products; Step 3: Quality Checks; Step 4: Shipping Step 5: Closing the sale on the system. Document the processes and implement the necessary tools, systems and share it with your staff
Marketing in simple terms is the sum of activities that make your target market aware of your business and helping them see and understand the value and benefit that your business offers them. There are so many ways to market your small and new online business. Consider both traditional methods of marketing such as informing your networks; attending networking events; using word-of-mouth marketing through to digital marketing which includes Google Ads; social media marketing, blogging and using SEO services (search engine marketing). Marketing your business via digital marketing can also be done by yourself or you can find a reputable digital marketing agency for assistance with identifying most cost-effective and/or advanced strategy that will achieve results for your business.
Another way of marketing your business is to deliver quality products; excellent and high standards of work for service-based businesses that leaves your customer happy that their word of mouth becomes another marketing channel for your business.
Every business needs sales to survive. The most important aspect of sales is to engage the potential customer in a way that demonstrates a clear understanding of your customer’s needs. A good salesperson will have an in-depth knowledge of your products and services and will help your customers buy into your business through the value and benefits that they present that connect and demonstrate how your business meets and fulfils their needs. Develop on-going sales strategies that can be implemented within your marketing efforts across your website and throughout your marketing channels to draw in new customers and to encourage repeat sales from existing customers.
Many systems and processes can be put in place that will help you manage your business more efficiently and effectively. An e-commerce website has built-in invoicing and payment transaction functionality such as EFT and credit card that allows for easy payment processing; to reporting systems that allow you to monitor stock control, product sales trends making this area of management that much easier.
No doubt that as a new business owner, there are other aspects of your business that requires management and this may be the most challenging part of this role for you if you do not have a support team. You are effectively every role within the business from marketing, sales, customer service and doing product or service delivery. Proper time management, perseverance and with a focus on the key areas of the business will ensure that you manage and direct your business to greater heights.
Starting a business is one of the most daunting, challenging and thrilling experiences you will ever embark upon; it is a give-it-your-all-or-nothing type of adventure. The rewards aren’t monetary only, but personal growth and development too. Ignite Media is an agency for digital marketing. With our entrepreneurial spirit and having experienced the growth and benefits that this incredible journey offers are able to assist many new business owners and established brands position themselves within the market. Feel free to contact us should this be the type of support you need.