[UPDATED: JUL 2021]
So, you’re interested in starting an online business but not sure where to start. I get it and have been in your shoes before but worry not, you’ve reached the right place. In the step-by-step guide, I’ll share the essential steps for starting an online business in 2021.
Below, you’ll find some useful ideas for developing your business niche, building a strong web presence, automating your workflows, and creating a great customer experience.
Let’s jump straight in, shall we …
1. Decide on your niche service/offer
The first step will be choosing a niche to operate in, along with products or services you will be offering. If you have developed your own product or service, then this step has already been completed.
If not, you will need to consider a variety of different niches and potential offers. This can be quite challenging given the sheer number of possibilities. The simplest way to find a suitable niche is to follow this classic 5-stage process:
Step 1: Identify your interests
It is much easier to succeed in business if you are working in a field you actually enjoy. You will be more likely to commit to the business and give it the time, energy, and resources it needs.
Start by writing down a list of your top 10 interests, hobbies, and passion areas. Sports cars, dogs, tennis balls, lolly pops, WWII memorabilia, skiing — whatever you love talking about or doing.
Step 2: Look for problems you can solve
Take a look at your list and think about the “problems” that people who are interested in the niche experience. If you are looking at the dog niche, consider the kinds of problems that dog owners face. If they are like most people, they probably need help with obedience training. Another problem might be finding cool toys and dog food at an affordable price.
When looking for problems, research relevant web forums, social media, Q&A websites (like Quora), and search keywords using Google trends. You will quickly find thousands of consumers who have problems they can’t solve.
Step 3: Research competition
Once you have found a problem which needs to be solved, check how well other websites are already handling it. Is the niche/problem dominated by businesses with low quality content, a lack of transparency, or poor customer service? If so, you will be able to dominate the niche.
Don’t be afraid of some competition, but if a problem is so common that several high profile businesses are already providing a solution, it may be difficult to succeed.
Step 4: Determine profitability
It’s easy to compete in a very narrow niche with a unique offer. After all, there can’t be many websites selling organic vegetarian dog treats in the shape of politician’s faces. However, you need to consider how many consumers participate in that niche and want that particular product — as that will determine profitability.
Step 5: Niche/offer testing
Finally, get some feedback from your friends and family. You could even test your idea on real-world customers with a single landing page and some cost per click advertising (this will tell you straight away if people are willing to click an “I’m interested” button for your offer).
2. Narrow down your ideal client persona
Once you have an idea of the niche you will be working in, take a closer look at your audience. Analyzing their persona will guide you when creating an online presence and marketing campaign.
Are they busy teenagers? They might respond well to a fun and entertaining approach in your marketing efforts. Are they well-informed professionals looking for high-quality information on a specific topic? You can focus on building an authoritative content base that provides value.
The major components of a customer persona to consider include:
- Demographics (age, gender, income, marital status, etc)
- Psychographics (beliefs, attitudes, interests, hobbies, personality, values, fears, etc)
- Behavior (how do they make decisions on what to buy, when to buy, and how to buy?)
- Background story (How did they get to where they are now? What challenges did they face?)
- Destination (Where do they want to do now? How can you help?)
- Objections (What could stop them buying your offer?)
3. Create your online presence
Now that you have defined what you are offering and understand your audience, you can build a suitable web presence. This should include:
- Social Media Accounts
- Email Newsletters
- Presence in Search Results
Although this process seems daunting at first glance, it is made much easier thanks to modern software platforms like WordPress. If you are interested in learning more, take a look at my online course, Website in Week.
4. Setup & automate your workflow
One of the great advantages of working online is that there are many opportunities for creating a well-optimized workflow — in other words, working smart not hard. There are many excellent software tools and outsourcing platforms available including:
- Zapier (automated workflows for apps)
- HubSpot (automated lead tracking and nurturing)
- Google Workspace (email, calendar, chat, storage, etc.)
- ConvertKit (email marketing automation)
- Dubsado (client management system)
- Hootsuite (social media automation)
- Wave Apps (accounting and banking)
- WooCommerce (automating eCommerce tasks)
- Canva Pro (graphic design tool)
- Zendesk (customer service automation)
And if you want to copy the exact workflow I have implemented in my online business download the Tools of Trade cheatsheet.
5. Promote your offers on social media & with ads
Marketing remains an essential part of running an online business in 2020. There are many tools at your disposal including social media marketing campaigns, cost per click ads (Google Adwords), and Facebook ads. This excellent article shares some of the best social media promotion ideas for 2020.
6. Deliver outstanding customer experience
The most successful online businesses always treat the customer with respect and appreciation. They make it easy to obtain support and are always friendly and responsive in a timely manner. It’s also important to make the purchasing experience simple and understandable. Guide clients through the sales process and make it easy to find any information they need. Treat them like respected friends instead of faceless customers.
7. Gather feedback & adjust your offers as needed
Your job isn’t over once your online business is up-and-running. You must constantly gather feedback from customers and make adjustments to improve your offer. There are several ways to gather feedback, including:
- Analytics tools (Google Analytics)
- Voice of the Customer tools (InMoment, Clarabridge)
- Survey tools (Typeform, Survicate, SurveyMonkey)
- User testing tools (Hotjar, Mouseflow)
- Online review tools (Trustpilot, Feefo)
- Visual feedback tools (Usersnap, DeBugMe)
- Community feedback tools (UserReport, IdeaScale, GetSatisfaction)
IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE BUT YOU HAVE TO GET STARTED
As you can see from the article above, it’s not too hard to start your own online business. But, it’s important that you take the first step to get going … I know you have been “thinking about it” and “planning for ages”. Stop right now – and Get Started TODAY!
If there is one thing we should have all learned from the recent crisis, don’t delay because tomorrow is not promised. Roll up your sleeves, put all your fears aside, and take it one step at a time. Because those small steps will get you to the top and bring you independence, freedom, and the joy of being your own boss.
And if you still need an extra push to get going, you can always join the Biz Starter Program where you’ll have not only experts to guide you along the way but also a strong community of peers who will cheer you on while you climb to the top.