Starting your own business is always a challenge. While time and capital are the basic ingredients; what it really relies on is passion, determination and the will-power just to fuel the engine for your entrepreneurial journey. This is not only true for offline business but the same applies for doing business online.
In addition to the traditional implications of doing business, web entrepreneurship has its own set of rules. You may be able to start off a business with a trivial investment; and that's the beauty of it which compels many to consider making money online. But the online road has its own bumps; the biggest one being the frustration caused when projects don't show up.
Here are six tips on how you can ensure the success of your online business:
Build a strong website: Just as in a traditional business where your outlet must be welcoming for customers and your staff well-trained and helpful; your website is like a showroom for your clients where they can come, sit (browse), check items and inquire about your products (contact forms). If you don't greet your clients well when they visit, they might never return.
Go for alliances: In a start-up, you can't survive alone. This is especially true for online business where the internet is saturated with online vendors, bloggers and even major multinational brands competing against the new ones. The internet is just one big market and competition is huge; but so are the opportunities. The internet business has no limitations and you can create joint ventures and alliances with other firms in the same industry anywhere in the globe. Working with your competitors instead of against them is one of the key determinants of success in the virtual world. Look for ways on how you can work together with your competitors and come to terms that guarantee a mutual win-win situation for you both. For example, suppose you're a web-designing company but lack the expertise of good copywriting. You can create alliances with a blogger who perhaps wants to expand her business into web designing. Or, you can work on McKinsey Model and give some percentage commission to anyone who brings in projects for you. This would allow you to work even in the foreign market without having to bear any additional costs of actually traveling there.
Brand yourself: Self-branding is as important as branding your company. It's important to have a domain of your own; either in the form of a blog or a website. Be active on social networking sites. They are your contact cards and a great way to bring in profits. For example, 90% of our clients are generated from social media sites.
Retain your customers: Your existing customers are your biggest source for bringing in new ones. Retaining them, therefore, is most important. There are several ways to make your customers come back to you again and again. Identify their pain areas and offer them remedies accordingly. Give them an offer they can't resist. Example: suppose you offer multiple services and a prospect comes to you for only one service; say, web designing. Give them the services of copywriting for free. Or, if they already have opted for this service, tell them you'll do the initial on-page SEO of their website for free. If results are positive, they'll obviously want to come back for more.
Build a portfolio: In an online world where there are millions of websites claiming to be experts in their domains, your customer needs proof in order to trust you. And what better proof is there than a strong portfolio? Start-ups, however, can face problems building a portfolio when projects are few in the beginning. Your aim, as a start-up, should be to get more customers in the beginning to build that portfolio. Take as many projects as you can, even for minimal charges if you have to. If you're a web designing company, build dummy websites or templates that you can display in your portfolio. The chief purpose of portfolios is to prove to potential customers what you're capable of and what you can do.
Have a strong Internet Marketing Strategy: You need to be aggressive in your marketing on the web. Have a strong internet marketing plan. Make sure your website is optimized for search engines, and hire experts to promote your business if you're not sure you can't do it yourself.
These were some of the tips that I've personally tried, learned and found successful during my own web entrepreneurial voyage. Amir Anzur, a guru and a successful entrepreneur himself, offers several ideas on different ways of doing business online that I've found very helpful for people looking for ideas.
Asma Chang is the co-founder and Internet Marketing Specialist at UltraSpectra, an Online Marketing and Corporate PR company. She is an expert in social media marketing, search engine optimization, copywriting, content management, questionnaire design and analysis, business writing and of course, internet marketing. If you love what she wrote, follow her on twitter.com/asmachang