When you are running an online business, you want it to be as successful as possible. Success will rarely just happen by chance. It will require planning and preparation – especially if you want success to be sustained. Running an online business will require you to take a focused and targeted approach. It will also require you to collaborate with others, as you must remember that you cannot do everything by yourself.
Create a Fluid Business Plan
A fluid business plan is going to outline what you will do with your online business, where, when, and why. It will cover what you aim to achieve within your business and what products or services you are going to offer. If you are not working alongside a business plan, your online business may lose its way or direction. A business plan will outline who the competitors are, allowing you to start looking at what marketing methods (and channels) to use.
Understand Your Marketplace and Target Customer
Do you know who your target customer is, and do you understand the marketplace you will be entering? It is important to conduct target market research to understand your market – even though you are probably selling to a larger market online. When you can understand your market, you can see what makes them tick, and you can see what influences them. Carrying out primary research and making use of secondary research will help you understand what your target customer looks like. If you do not know what type of customer (or market you are selling to) then how can you start a business, let alone build a business?
Be Aware of Competitors
All businesses have some form of competition. This may be direct, or it may well be indirect. Understanding who the competition is will help shape your online business (and its offering). Being aware of what the competitors are offering, and how they are marketing or promoting will give you a good idea as to what you can do. If you do not understand your competitors, then you will find you are starting off in business on the back foot.
Utilize Third Party Providers to Manage Inventory
Keeping track of inventory can be difficult – even if you are not stocking many lines or product ranges. Inventory management can be time-consuming, and often more stressful than you anticipate. Where possible, you need to utilize a 3PL as this will allow you to focus on other aspects of your online business. A third-party provider or a software provider can reduce your workload each day, and they can even help you streamline some of the business operations or processes that you have in place.
Focus on Building Networks
You do not want to feel alone or isolated when you are running an online business, and there is no need to. Creating your own networks or joining existing networks will give you the opportunity to bounce ideas off others. It will also allow you to get the support you need – both when starting an online business, and when running one too. You may find that networks allow you to access suppliers and wholesalers. Or you may find that networking allows you to make valuable connections and links with other businesses and business owners. To successfully build networks you must try and think about what you want to get from each connection. For example, will you want to meet similar business owners, will you want to learn about advertising or marketing? What are your aims and targets for networking?
Offer Something Unique – Think about a USP
You are going to have to stand out from the crowd when running an online business. To make this happen you are going to need to have a USP (unique selling proposition). With online businesses, you will find that you cannot compete on price alone. You will have to find something that is going to make you stand out above the noisy crowd. This may mean that you have to tweak your product offering to make it more appealing, and more unique. Or it may mean that you have to offer an additional service or add-on to what you are currently offering.
Invest in a Marketing Plan
After you have launched your business what do you do next? Do you sit and wait around for customers to use your website? The answer is of course NO. You take charge, and you take action. You start creating a marketing plan. One that will allow you to reach your target audience, and one that will help your online business become well-known and memorable (for all the right reasons). Without a marketing plan, you may try and produce adverts or marketing campaigns (even social media ones) on an ad-hoc basis. This approach may not be wise, and it may see you losing money. A marketing plan will set out what you want to achieve, and what method or methods you will use to fulfill your goals.
Build Connections with Other Businesses
If you can it would be wise to start building connections (and making partnerships) with other businesses. Businesses that offer similar, yet non-competing products and services will provide you with a good platform to build on. Connections and partnerships with businesses that have a positive reputation will elevate your business and everything that you want to do. If you can partner up with an established business that has a positive reputation, then this will prove beneficial.
Monitor and Evaluate Regularly
Always make sure you are giving your customers enough. Even when you just start out in business it is crucial that you monitor and evaluate your efforts. Make sure you are investing funds and money wisely. Aim to monitor and evaluate your online business at regular intervals. When you can commit to this you can ensure you have consistency within your monitoring. Ideally, monitor and evaluate every 3 months. When you do it this often you can make alterations and improvements to what you are doing.