The online marketplace is flourishing with successful business ventures, and as the current economic crisis and societal changes have forced many industries to adapt to a digital environment, 2020 is definitely an innovative and unprecedentedly curious year to start an online business.
Whether your idea is a small one or something that could positively impact many peoples’ lives, the process of starting an online business – and succeeding – hasn’t changed. Although you may have your own way of connecting to your own particular audience, here are some crucial steps you shouldn’t skip over when starting an online business in 2020:
#1. Select Your Niche or Unique Selling Point
Before even beginning to “sell” to the public online, you need to determine what it is you have that makes you unique. Your USP determines what position your business will take in the marketplace.
If you’re selling socks, for example, what is the particular benefit that you provide that the competition doesn’t? Perhaps your socks are made from 100% organic fibers or maybe they have a specific design on them that others don’t. If you can pinpoint your USP or unique niche, then your business will be better prepared to establish itself as a leader in your selected market/industry.
If you’re having difficulty determining what your unique selling point is, there are steps you can take to help guide you in the direction. First, list the benefits your brand provides to its customers. Next, determine whether these benefits solve a need or gap in the community. If a potential customer asks you “why should I choose your product over another?” how will you respond?
#2. Choose a Business Name That Stands Out
Potentially one of the most difficult steps of starting an online business is solidifying a business name that is creative, unique, and accurately portrays your specific model. That last one can have a little bit more leeway so you don’t necessarily need to be “safe” in this regard. Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and many other brand names are recognizable for their originality more so than for how much the title describes their service.
Remember, though, that your business name will be one of the first things potential customers see of your business, therefore, it is essential to have something that will resonate with them and that you see yourself keeping as your business evolves.
It’s also important to take into account the legal implications of the name you choose. Choose something that isn’t under trademark, etc. or has characters or words that are misleading or illegal (for example, putting ‘ltd.’ in your business name when your business is not a limited partnership).
#3. Work on a Simple Logo Design
Your logo is the first visual representation of your business – and it speaks more than a thousand words. It can be what makes and breaks the interest of your potential customers. As discussed above, design a logo that is unique and isn’t trademarked or even close to another trademarked business’ logo. Don’t go too crazy about designing something that is intricate and overly details as it will be difficult for you to make various consistent versions for it across your branding material.
If you’re not a designer yourself, you can find a freelancer on websites such as Fiverr or others that allow hundreds of designers to bid their ideas to you – this option can be difficult, however, even if it is cheaper as you cannot always be 100% positive that your design is unique and unplagiarized. It’s also viable to have a complete brand package created that can serve as a source of logos, styles, and brand identity for your business.
#4. Develop a Brand Identity
Your brand identity isn’t just your business name and logo; it’s not even your business’ identity or image. How do you want your customers to visually recognize your brand apart from your competition? There are many key elements of your brand identity that you need to develop before attempting to build relationships with your audience. These include your logo, typography, images, font colors, packaging, label design, and everything that goes into your digital marketing and social media plans.
It’s not necessarily enough to choose colors to stick with; determining your brand’s purpose as to why you’ve developed your identity this way (such as the emotions you hope to invoke in your customers) will guide you to better position yourself to reach your purpose’s goals. It’s also important to choose colors and fonts that represent your brand properly. For example, if your product itself is black, choosing a label or website design that contrasts with it will likely be more successful and appealing to potential customers than having everything within the same color scheme.
#5. Choose The Right Online eCommerce Platform
There are many options when it comes to choosing a web platform to host your brand’s business and it can be difficult to decipher which one is best and will provide the right features and resources to support your USP. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to automatically take the free web hosting platform your domain provider offers you. These are typically basic and don’t allow for eCommerce integration.
Although your budget and web design experience will probably become your biggest contributing factors, it is essential that you weigh your options. They’re not all the same.
WordPress is the world’s most popular online website platform (over 60 million websites are built via WordPress) that offers thousands of layouts and plug-ins you can use (usually for a fee) to custom build your eCommerce site. The initial website is free, however, you will pay for every feature you use as well as your domain separately. The best part of WordPress is their built-in SEO abilities; their biggest con is the sometimes confusing learning curve.
Shopify is an increasingly popular platform for online eCommerce brands. Due to their ease of use and store building features, you can build a simple site dedicated to converting customers within a matter of hours. The cost is a monthly subscription, however, the platform provides you with management capabilities, sales trackers, social media integration, as well as excellent customer service representatives.
#6. Analyze Your Target Audience
The greatest asset your brand has isn’t the product you’re trying to sell – it’s your customers. In order to find the right customers that will grow your business to where you want to be, you need to be sure you’re targetting the right audience and that you know where to find them.
Your focus can often be geared toward more than one audience initially, however, you need to discover and collect data on those your business is most likely to serve (if you’ve developed a mobile app for food delivery, will it be young adults who you should target?).
If you’re having difficulty determining who your target audience is their buying habits, etc., it may be advantageous to develop buyer personas. These personas are fictional yet accurate descriptions of a member of a target audience, including their location, age, interests, and income. Creating these personas will push you to think strategically about your potential customers and will aid you in aligning your brand to their lifestyle.
#7. Create Consistent Content
Once you’ve analyzed your target audience and begun to build relationships with them via social media and email, it’s important that you maintain and continue to grow these new connections through consistent content that provides values and insight.
Developing a social media schedule of predictable posts (posting sales on Mondays, behind the scenes information on Tuesdays, for example) will provide accountability and legitimacy to your brand. The same applies to email content and newsletters.
Remember also that content is great to share for SEO and customer engagement purposes, but too much content without value or reasoning can have the opposite of your desired effect. Don’t share too many posts in a day, don’t be too “salesy,” and ask yourself what your content’s purpose is before posting. Make sure every piece of content you send to leads and your target audience aligns with your brand identity — the more audiences can recognize who you are and what sets you apart from the competition, the more likely they will continue interacting with you.
Are You Ready to Launch Your Online Business?
There are many steps all businesses will follow when starting an online business but it doesn’t necessarily result in success. Learning from each failure and using each experience as an opportunity to continue growing, showing determination, perseverance, and passion for your brand are all essential factors — but these steps will help guide you into building a solid foundation.
Interested in learning more about how you can maximize the growth of your new business? Reach out for a conversation with me and tell me about your brand!