If you have a tech-savvy entrepreneurial spirit paired with an old-fashioned hard work ethic, starting a web-based business might be a great option for you. By managing web-based businesses, innovative entrepreneurs can work from home, set their own schedules and take charge of how much they earn each week. But what does it take to start, and then manage, a web-based business that’s profitable?
1. Choose a product or service in a profitable niche.
The first step to starting and running a successful web-based business is determining the products or services you should sell. As with traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, you’ll have to do a great deal of market research before you even think about starting an online business. If you want to make a profit for the long-term, you need to choose a market in which people consistently spend money. Then you need to find a niche audience within that market to specifically target online.
For example, my boss was interested in starting an online insurance company. He soon realized how difficult it would be to build one from scratch when so many national brands had already claimed substantial ownership of the market. So, he zeroed in on a very specific segment of the industry: bond insurance (http://www.suretybonds.com). This allowed him to market his company to a specific online audience that insurance providers had largely been ignoring.
You can determine whether a niche is profitable by researching keywords related to that market. A variety of free and paid SEO research tools can help you determine what your potential clients are looking for online. These tools can also give you an idea of what the competition looks like within the industry as a whole or one of its specific niches. Once you’ve gathered a comprehensive understanding of how your market works and what it’s missing, you’ll be able to develop a brand.
2. Launch a professional website.<.h3>
Once you’ve selected a niche that has the potential to turn a profit, you’ll need to launch a website that features your products or services. Although you could hire a professional web developer to create a fully customized website for your company, you might not want to invest a significant amount of your start-up capital on web design right away. If you want to keep start-up costs down, consider using a template for your website.
Free templates usually don’t offer many ways to customize the look, feel and navigation of a website; however, you can usually purchase a $100 template that offers a great deal of customization. These templates are simple for beginners to install, and many provide user dashboards that will simplify the way you manage your site’s layout, colors and other features.
3. Implement a commanding online marketing strategy.
Simply setting up a website doesn’t guarantee that customers will find your online business (http://www.sba.gov/content/setting-online-business); you’ll have to heavily market your company to garner traffic that generates sales. Paid placement advertising can drive traffic to your site immediately; however, doing so requires a substantial investment upfront. If you choose to use paid placement ads, start with a small budget and test your options before spending a ton of money.
Setting up free profiles on social media sites such as Google+, Facebook and Twitter is one cost-effective way for you to build interest in your business and attract potential customers. When you work with these sites, though, keep in mind that most of your interactions should build trusting relationships rather than promote products or services. You should focus on promoting your company though on-site content development and other SEO marketing strategies.
As a professional who works with entrepreneurs every day, I’m aware that many more factors go into managing a successful web-based business. However, I firmly believe that developing strategies to achieve these three goals from the beginning will give any new business owner a solid starting point.
Thank you, Danielle, for getting us started!!
–ME “Liz” Strauss