So, you’re planning to start an online business this new year. Firstly, congratulations! This is an exciting decision and a new chapter in your life. We want to see you be successful with this, which requires some planning. Rushing into this a plan might work for some, but it’s never good advice for online entrepreneurs.
Before you get started, consider reviewing this list and checking it off as you go along.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it!
The ultimate checklist for starting an online business.
Create a Business That Fills a Need
Your chances of success start with having a market. The trick is to find your group of people who are searching for a solution to a problem- but they’re not finding many results. The internet makes this kind of market research easy for you.
Here’s a few things you can try doing:
- Visit a variety of online forums to see what questions people ask and figure out the problems that they’re trying to solve.
- You should also do keyword research to find keywords that a lot of people are searching for. You’ll want to search for those who don’t have a ton of competition with other sites.
- One good trick is to check out your potential competitors by visiting their sites and taking note of what they’re doing to fill the demand. From there you can use what you’ve learned and create a product for a market that already exists. The beauty of this is that you can do it better than the competition.
Your business may seem like a good idea already and naturally, but actually try stepping back one more time and be as objective as you can about the operation’s viability. Ask yourself: Will people buy what you are selling? Would you actually buy what you are selling? Will customers ultimately want to tell their friends about your products? If you can honestly answer “yes” to all of these questions, then your online business has a good chance of succeeding!
Make Sure You Can Get Through the First Year
Before diving head first into a new venture, take stock of your financial situation. Now is a good time to check your books and make sure there’s enough cash to pay the bills during that first year of operation.
While the overhead of an online business is often lower than operating a brick and mortar establishment, there will still be expenses. Since it will take time for your e-commerce business to become established, always make sure there is money on hand to pay the bills until you begin to make a profit.
That means having enough cash on hand (and possibly income from a 9-to-5 job) to keep you afloat as your online business moves toward profitability. Knowing you can get by eases a lot of stress and makes it easier to focus on growing the business.
Write Compelling Copy That Sells
If you follow us on our social media, you’ll notice that we talk a lot about the importance of writing compelling copy. In fact, when it comes to your business, there’s a proven sales copy formula that takes visitors through the selling process from the moment they arrive to the moment they eventually make a purchase.
Here are just a few pointers for writing compelling copy:
- Create a compelling headline to immediately get attention.
- Clearly explain the problem your product solves.
- Establish your credibility as a person who can solve the problem.
- Add testimonials from people who have used your product or service.
- Talk about the product and how it benefits your customers.
- Make an offer to your potential customers.
- Follow that up with a strong guarantee.
- Create urgency, but don’t be overdramatic with it.
- Ask for the sale, and close the deal.
Throughout your copy, remember to focus on how your product or service is uniquely able to solve people’s problems or make their lives better. Think like a customer and ask “what’s in this for me?”
Review Your List of Domain Names
So, you’ve put a lot of effort into choosing the ideal primary domain name for your online business. Now you should ask yourself, have you put the same kind of care into choosing secondary domain names? These domain names are the ones you’ll use for landing pages, blogs and other online locations to tout your business.
Take a look at the list of domains you’ve chosen. Did you choose them based on relevance? Perhaps you chose them on how easy customers can remember them, or how they catch the eye in the first place? If so, then you have a solid list of awesome domain names to draw upon. If not, don’t panic. There’s still time to come up with new domain names and purchase them way before your site even launches.
Create Your Website
Once you’ve got your market and product down, and you’ve outlined your selling process. You will be ready for the small-business web design process. One of the most important things to remember is to keep it simple. Consider that you have five seconds to grab someone’s attention — and that’s being generous. If you can’t capture their attention in this time span, they’re gone, never to be seen again.
Okay, maybe we’re being over-dramatic. But it is important to try and grab their attention as soon as you can. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Keep it simple. Choose one or two plain fonts on a white background.
- Make your navigation clear and the same on every page.
- Don’t clutter. Only use certain graphics, audio or video if they enhance your message.
- Be sure to include an opt-in offer so you can collect email addresses.
- Make the buying process easy – there should be no more than two clicks between potential customer and checkout.
- Your website is your online storefront, so make sure it is customer-friendly.
Try to Break Your Website
Before your website goes live, do everything in your power to try and break it. We’re not kidding. You need to test the website yourself from the user experience to see what problems (if any) arise. Navigate from page to page. See what happens if you are filling out a form and accidentally leave a field blank. See what happens when you put something to add to the shopping cart, remove it, then put it back in. Try even playing with the quantities of items you place in the cart. In short, try to think of everything that a potential customer might do on the website, and see how it responds.
The goal here is to determine if there are any minor (or major) issues. If so, make sure that you fix them. Anything you take care of now means less inconvenience to visitors when they come to your website.
Plan to Launch Your Advertising Campaign
You may have already started to get the word out by releasing a few teasers to let consumers know your site is coming soon. If you haven’t yet, that’s totally okay- there’s still time to lay out a quick plan. That means getting online ads ready to launch, your organic SEO game tightened. flyers prepped to hand out (yes, printed material still works if your business serves local customers), and posts prepped on social media.
This is also a good time to reach out to friends and family (on social media and beyond) to let them know when the site will be up and running. You can even ask them to test it out and provide some feedback. If they like what they see, they are likely to share it with others who will give you a nice little traffic boost at the start.
Create Your Social Media Presence
Now more than ever it is important to prepare your social media accounts and make sure they are up and active. In the beginning you can pick a minimal number of platforms to start with. Make sure you drop links to the social channels on all of your websites so customers can go directly to them and “like” or “follow” your future posts.
For example, you may want to start with a golden trifecta of Facebook, Instagram Twitter and LinkedIn. This all depends on where your audience spends the most time. Once you have those up and running, think about other platforms that potential customers might use, and grow from there.
Test Your Accounting System
You’ll definitely want to test your accounting system to ensure everything is ready in terms of managing the payables and receivables. It’s okay to make some dummy entries to see how everything is going to work- just make sure to remember to delete them once you finish testing. This way in the event that you receive some orders on the first day of operation, there will be no question about how to keep all your accounting records accurate.
Work on Word-Of-Mouth Advertising
In addition to all of this, word-of-mouth advertising is still crucial. You’ll want to make it easy for people to share information about your new company – this includes sharing opinions on review sites as well as social media. In addition to referrals, you should use email, social media and text messages to reach out to qualified customers. You can even hand out business cards to friends, and post those cards on bulletin boards. You’ll be surprised how all of these methods in total help with building a brand’s reputation.
You can accomplish all of this and more in the months leading up to your e-commerce company’s launch. When you finally do go live, it will be with the utmost confidence that you have everything you need for your online business to be successful.