|Mary Ann Keeling||Follow Mary Ann On twitter: @MaryAnnKeeling|
The evolution of internet-powered human interaction offers a host of options for people aiming to test their entrepreneurial skills out in the digital world. The initial monetary investment for one’s online venture can often be quite small, yet generate potential for rapid exponential growth – if done right. Keep in mind the fact that starting an online business may be relatively easy, but making it successful requires a methodical approach with lots of research and even more action. Here is what you can do to help your online enterprise become a smooth-running machine:
Do your market research
One of the most frequent and dire mistakes that businesspeople make is to just plunge into the market and hope for the best, being unreasonably optimistic that their product or service is exactly what everyone has been waiting for. This is a recipe for disaster. Instead, be smart. The key is to assess the market and then design your position around an unmet market need. Don’t try to compete against an oversaturated marketplace – find a niche and attack it hard.
Be dedicated and driven
Plenty of people can do market research. For instance, two comparable entrepreneurs simultaneously recognize the same market need, but one wins and the other loses. Why? Chances are the winner was more motivated, driven and dedicated to his cause – willing to work more and harder for it. Be passionate about what you sell, because the customers will recognize your constant effort to satisfy their needs and make them happy.
Don’t overthink – do
Once you’ve carefully mapped what you need done and how, try not to be overly analytical about it. You’ve already put hundreds of hours of planning into your business and you’ve explored all the vital parts of your venture – now it’s time to take action. Furthermore, being unable to discern between what is essential for your business and what is a mere cosmetic detail will keep you from making progress, so make sure you prioritize and then execute!
Make yourself visible online
Having a good-looking, intuitive and informative website is a great start, but it definitely doesn’t mean your work stops there. You want people to be aware of what you do and have no trouble finding you online. Leverage social media and dedicate some time to SEO, even build your own community and nurture online debates and customer interaction – it will pay off. You can track your progress with Google Analytics, for example.
Gather customer feedback
Doing business is always a two-way game – you sell goods and services and someone out there buys them. When people become your customers, and even when they are simply starting to take interest in what you’re offering, be sure to constantly listen to their impressions and gather as much feedback as possible. Start local – ask friends and acquaintances. Take constructive criticism and learn from it!
Constantly improve and benchmark
Being a prudent entrepreneur means you will have started thinking about future improvements to your business long before you’ve even hit your break-even point. It also helps to record all important meetings so you can have access to transcripts for future reference. Don’t get lazy and complacent, because the competition is always on the lookout for a chance to beat you. Benchmark yourself against what you want your business to become and work towards it.
Provide good post-sales services
The sales cycle for any product or service doesn’t stop the moment your customer gives you the money. Actually, it never stops – in an ideal scenario, at least. You should ensure your customers get good treatment after they’ve paid you, because this helps develop a more personal connection between you and is likely to result in repeat business, increasing their loyalty to your newly established business and brand. This cost is small compared to all it brings in the long run.
Make no mistake – running an online business can be extremely stressful. Being an entrepreneur will consume your free time, but you get to work for yourself and the end game can be immensely rewarding. If you’re passionate, methodical and analytical, able to understand and effectively cater to your consumers’ needs, willing to listen and evolve with the people you’re trying to reach, you will succeed.