Billions of people around the world have access to the internet today. This creates an incredible market, where the barrier to entry is relatively low. With a marketable product and business plan, you could tap into this geographically distributed yet closely connected audience and create boundless opportunities.
If building an online business is on your mind, here’s a checklist that will help you achieve your goal.
Determine what you want to sell
Any business needs a product to sell. Of course, you don’t always need something tangible; you could even sell services. Content writing or social media consultancy, for instance. Intellectual property-based businesses are gaining popularity and work very well as a business format because you can sell worldwide. The same wouldn’t necessarily be true for a cupcake!
Your product or service should solve a particular, real-world problem; that is what makes your offering valuable to customers. If you have artistic or culinary skills, that could be your starting point. If not, you could curate products from manufacturers and sell them on your website. There’s also a market for pre-loved, upscaled products. Don’t brush off ideas till you test them out. You’d be surprised at what eventually clicks! In fact, many entrepreneurs get feedback from experts who have helped build businesses. You could get experts to test your business idea’s feasibility at Rigstone Capital and pick up funding and growth support if your idea has potential.
Do your customers want your product?
If you’ve decided what you’re going to sell, do a quick test to see if your target audience would pay for your product. In other words, determine whether there is adequate demand for your offering. You can do this by conducting online surveys, Google search keyword analysis, starting a Kickstarter campaign, or inviting pre-orders. You can also see if there are competitors in your product space – it usually is a sign of a healthy market and scope for you to learn from an existing knowledge base.
Deep dive into market research
If your preliminary exploration indicates that your audience is likely to buy your product, conduct in-depth market research. Find out everything there is to know about what you intend to sell, who you want to sell to, the market, its cultural and financial context, your vendors, suppliers, logistics partners, competitors, etc. Every entity that is in any way related to your business should be the subject of your research. The more information you have the better prepared you will be to handle real-world business conditions. This research will also help you understand how best to communicate your offering’s value to your audience.
When you’re just starting out, your competitors’ actions are your most useful guideposts. See what their exact offering is, and how it differs from yours; do a thorough competitor analysis. Find out their strengths and weaknesses. Use this information to target their unhappy customers and convert them. The most important insight from your competitors will be about pricing your product. This way, you won’t set unrealistic price points and lose customer interest before they have a chance to try your product.
Zero in on your target audience
Having understood your target market and the businesses you are competing against, focus on your target audience. This research will help you advertise your product using the right channels – channels that your audience uses. Most online businesses use the user persona method, where they draw up a semi-fictional character to personify the ideal customer. This includes details like their age, gender, education, motivations, challenges, likes, dislikes, etc. This information is then mapped to the new product to see overlaps and target the audience at the point of intersection. This is where the persona is most likely to buy your product. This method is extremely popular because it gives exceptional insights into customers’ minds, allowing marketers to sell effectively.
Market your brand
After product development, a significant operations-related chunk of business is marketing. All your marketing initiatives should educate your audience about your product and pique their interest enough to make them try. The more customers you acquire, the higher your sales. So, if you have a good product, marketing can help your business grow significantly. Growth marketing tactics include digital marketing and pay per click advertising, to name a few. But the best revenue result always comes from organic search, so invest in search engine optimized content on blogs and other platforms.
Marketing will also help you position your brand and give it a unique identity and personality. You could use this personality when connecting and engaging with your customers on social media or creating a user-friendly website. These channels are also great when it comes to getting customer feedback. Your customers should feel valued, listened to, and appreciated. Marketing is a great way to make this happen and satisfy customer needs, even when they evolve.
Make buying easy
If a customer has come as far as clicking the “buy now” button, nothing should stop their journey. Test your websites and payment gateways to ensure that customers can complete purchases without any issues. Include a quick survey at the end of a sale, asking them about their experience. Pay attention to what they say, and make every necessary change to reduce friction that can put your customers off buying your product.
Keep your customers coming back
In theory, customers are easy to retain. Give them a great product, reasonable pricing, and capable after-sales support; that’s all. But in practice, this is a rather complicated maneuver. Tried and tested methods that have seen some degree of success are all marketing-based, which rely on creating a strong emotional connection between your brand or product and your audience over time. You could try keeping them informed about new products or discounts via email communication, offer unique loyalty benefits and surprises, send offers for birthdays and anniversaries, etc. Anything you would do for a special friend, do for your customer. This way, they are emotionally invested in your brand, or your product, making it harder for them to switch to your competitors.