Something interesting is happening in the world. According to an infographic by eFinesse, AirBnb (founded in 2008) is now the world’s largest provider of accommodations – but it doesn’t own any real estate. Alibaba (founded in 1999) is one of the world’s most valuable internet companies, (they sell everything from cool popsockets to furniture) but Jack Ma had to fight for internet usage to start this up in China. Facebook, the world’s most popular social media platform, was created by an anti-social Harvard student and it now earns US$55 billion dollars in revenue. UBER, the world’s largest taxi company, didn’t own any cars when they started. And finally, Bitcoin, the world’s biggest bank, has no actual cash, and bitcoins now cost US$10,000 (and is still going up).
What do these big companies have in common? You guessed it; all of these businesses started and are sustained online. The popsocket website in Australia is another example of a successful business started with just a website. Whether it’s possible to attain what they have or not, it would be smart to follow their lead, by knowing how to start a business using only a website. In this article I’ll take you through the best ways to start an online business.
- Solve a need or a problem with your business idea
Steve Jobs did when he created the iPhone (smartphone). No one could have guessed that we’d be needing a phone almost 24/7. That said, his business didn’t start only through a website. But because of his vision, he made way for websites to grow exponentially worldwide.
- Know how to write copy that will sell
There’s an actual formula for it. Simply put:
- You need to have a hook in your content. Make your website engaging enough through an appealing headline and embrace originality.
- Briefly describe the problem your product solves. It helps to let your customers know about how it benefits them.
- Be reliable and credible.
- Use the power of user-generated content by allowing your customers to review your product.
- Price it accordingly and reasonably.
- Stir up the urgency.
- Ask for a sale.
Alternatively, you can hire a professional copywriter that focuses on salescopy to write this for you.
- Build the website
Okay, the solution to the problem has been established. You have the target audience in mind and you know the selling process. It’s time to get your business up and running by designing your website. Here are some basic points to remember:
- Keep it simple but make it substantial. Keep page endorsements and product descriptions between one and three lines. And make the call-to-action button stand out.
- People online easily get distracted by pop-ups, ads, and notifications from other websites. Make the most out of the user’s attention, which according to studies now lasts only about 8 seconds.
- Create a user-friendly interface. Don’t add clutter like unnecessary links, images or videos unless it enhances your site. Don’t put too much content in one paragraph, because a wordy page can often be perceived as intimidating. Most importantly, make purchasing easy; not more than 3 steps.
- Link with search engines
Let the bots do the work by putting you on top of the search engines’ list through links. The most common way to do this is through ads, particularly, the pay-per-click ads or PPC.
PPC is an online advertising model used to pave traffic to a certain website, where the advertiser pays a publisher as the ads get clicked. PPC ads show up at the beginning of the list of “search pages “ where you could be as long as you’re linked together.
- Establish your brand and your reputation
The step-by-step guide to becoming a successful businessman isn’t complete without “Step Zero”; to share relevant content.
Ever hear of ‘thought leadership’? Well this is it. For example, let’s say you would like to solve the problem with plastic waste. So, all of the content that you provide on your website should be centred around that one topic.
In addition to sourcing replacements for plastic utensils, you might want to sell reusable ones on your website. Or maybe you could publish content about your research into plastic waste, such as informative videos. Write a blog regarding the topic. Create a campaign. Commit to connecting with other companies who have the same passion for creating a plastic-free world. This creates common ground and creates a community around your business idea. The secret is to share links on online forums and social networking platforms that can help drive people into your website.
- Empower your website with email marketing
This is following up on what we mentioned in Step No. 5. And, as you can see in the last statement in Step No. 2, email marketing means sales. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but most websites you visit today ask for your subscription the moment you try to close the site. Usually with a prompt like “Leaving so soon?” pop-ups, “Free e-books if you subscribe…” and “Would you want us to send you a notification in case you don’t want to miss anything?”. These work kind of like a hook – to get their hands on your email address. Think about it. The brands are asking your permission to send you emails! Emails are a great way to apply Step No. 2 (above).
In Gary Vaynerchuck’s book, Jab Jab Jab Right Hook, you’ve got to learn how to set the pace where you give three times or more of what they didn’t realize they needed. And then at the last chance of completing their whim, you drop the sale.
Sending emails cost (almost) nothing. It does with time, but the power of it is that you can send marketing emails to a multitude of people at once.
- Sustain relationships
According to the book by Kennedy and Buck about having referrals and customer retention, at least 36 percent of your previous customers will come back to buy again.
You can make it happen by offering them great deals, such as half-priced products at the second purchase. Give out discount codes that they could use for future transactions. Impose an amount that could accumulate as points to reach a VIP status, then come up with a rewards bundle to keep them loyal to you. They will talk about it to their friends, expanding your network even more.
These steps are the basic ones you could always go back to as you formulate your business idea into something tangible. The internet has limitless capacity concerning business ventures. And researching the traditional principles of starting and growing a business is a smart move. Combine it with the internet’s technical advancement and you might just end up at eFinesse’s list of big companies.