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How to start a small business online – 10 steps to success

As humans, it’s inevitable that we are also dreamers. We dream of winning, we dream of success, we dream of freedom. In the business landscape, dreams have been the founding ideas for great and successful ventures. From Richard Branson to Jeff Bezos and many others, it all started out with a small seed of an idea that grew to become some of the world’s greatest known brands.

Many online businesses started out small and grew into large corporations. So, if you are someone with a big dream or a big idea, and you’re wondering how to start a small online business, you’ve come to the right place.

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through some of the main stages involved. And they’re also quite doable and don’t have to cost you a lot of money, either. 

So, here’s how to start a small business online in 10 steps:

1. Fill a need or find a special niche for your online business

Research is going to be your first step. You may already have an idea for a product or service you’d like to offer, but is there a demand for it?

One way you can find out is by searching online forums for questions people ask and common problems they may have in your field of expertise. Once you’ve identified ways to help solve such pain points, you are on the way to finding your special niche. 

Another thing you can do in the research phase is to do keyword research. There are multiple online free tools to help you determine the main keywords people are looking for to help you scope out the demand.

Also, don’t forget to check out your competitors and what they’re doing – for example, what types of products are they marketing? How are they marketing them? What specific words are they using? And who are they actually marketing to? 

The answers to these questions will help you figure out what’s needed on the market and how you can go about fulfilling that need. 

2. Sort out the legal questions

Great! You’ve identified a niche with a strong demand for your products or services. But what’s the next step? Now, it’s time for the legalities to be taken care of.

Depending on your jurisdiction, you will need to register your online business’s name and entity type – whether a sole proprietor, an incorporated company, or another.

This will depend on your ultimate business goals and personal preferences, which may include the consideration of whether you want to be held personally liable for your business’s debts and liabilities or not. 

There are other things you need to keep in mind, too. These include trademarking your company’s logo with the relevant intellectual property authorities; getting a tax certificate from the right revenue agency; as well as applying for and maintaining the necessary certificates and licenses for keeping your web business operational. This process could be a bit time-consuming and sometimes cost you some money.

3. Do a market research

Doing a market research when starting an online business

You’re ready to move on to the next step – market research.

You might wonder why this step is important, especially if you’ve already found and identified your niche in step one above. However, market research takes it a notch deeper and yields much better insights. 

Some questions you should ask yourself at this point are:

  • Who is your buyer?
  • How much are they willing to spend on your product or service?
  • Where can you find your ideal buyer?

Why are these questions important?

Because they help you gauge the market and its fluctuations. You also get a greater insight into your customers, which will ultimately influence your marketing copy and the determination of your brand identity in the steps that are outlined below. 

In this step, it’s important to study your competitors – what prices are they charging for their products and services? Where do they ship to and is the shipping cost included in the ultimate price? 

What about VAT? What type of communication do your competitors use when targeting clients? Could you borrow from them or will you be entirely original? The latter is the more preferable option. 

4. Define your ideal buyer

Ever heard of a buyer persona? If you answered “no”, then you need to take a closer look at this step. 

Your buyer persona or even avatar is the combination of the ideal buyer for your online business, considering various characteristics such as gender, education, interests, socio-economic status, and more.

But why should you work on creating a buyer persona? 

The answer is quite simple. Because you’ll need an ideal buyer persona to market to.

This is the imaginary person around whom you focus and base your entire business. All other “deviations” from the norm are exceptions, but if you consistently target your ideal buyer, you’re likely to have better results.

So, to find out who your ideal buyer is, consider doing surveys of your existing clients, aggregating the results into the buyer persona. If you don’t have clients yet, consider doing research based on your existing competitors’ ideal buyers. Either way, this step is big and you should not skip it. 

5. Define your brand identity

Brand identity? What does this mean? I know of personal identity, but what’s this? 

Don’t worry if this pops up in your mind when you hear of a brand identity.

It’s something that’s been gaining a lot of traction over the last few years in the business world. And yes, it’s something like personal identity, but just for businesses.

Businesses have a certain tone of voice and “personality” that’s used to speak to the public and especially to their customers.

Therefore, you need to pre-define your brand identity at the outset so that you know what tone of voice you’ll be using for the duration of your web business and remain consistent with your brand values. 

Speaking of brand values, have you identified those yet?

Once you do so, you need to make sure your business consistently sticks to them so that you establish a reputation for yourself as a quality and reliable product or service provider.

6. Determine your marketing strategies

Plan your online business's marketing strategy

As an online business that’s starting out small, you can take advantage of the benefits this offers you by automating your digital marketing activities from the get-go so that when you grow and scale-up, you will better manage the increased workflow. 

Up-sells and cross-sells

Marketing strategies refer to the means by which you’ll be communicating with your customers in order to attract more sales. One of the best ways for you to do this is via email marketing, which either up-sells, cross-sells, or even both. 

Up-selling is the sale of an even better item at a higher price, while cross-selling is the sale of a product that’s closely related to the primary product being sold.

For example, a cross-sell could be when you sell a pair of socks alongside a pair of shoes. Meanwhile, an upsell is when a person buys a cheeseburger and then opts for an entire menu instead.

Social media

Apart from email, use social platforms to hype up your business. Social media channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, can and should be used for professional purposes.

Whether you’re about to launch your online business and you’d like to get your friends and family involved, or your company already has a clientele, you can use social media – either for free to get organic results or paid for traffic – to reach your online shop

7. Source your products

Now for the next step in how to set up a small online business – sourcing your products

This is the step where you have a lot of options. You might, for example, have your own handmade products you’d like to showcase; purchase a bunch of stock that you’d like to sell; about to launch a service business, or you’d like to get into dropshipping.

Dropshipping is essentially getting demand for a sale, contacting your supplier, and having the product shipped to your customer without you actually having to keep any stock in supply yourself. 

When you source your products, ensure that they are of high quality because that’s the first thing your customers will complain about if their parcel disintegrates as soon as they open it.

There are many quality suppliers that offer good prices for their wares. You just need to be selective when picking one. 

After all, you’re going to be promoting your product, or service, online in every way and you’ll want to be sure that what you’re offering is of high quality and not something that will see your customers turn away from you for, or worse, leave bad reviews about your brand. 

8. Design and build your website

It’s time to build your website. There are many website builders online which can help you set up your online store to sell on the Internet.

First, though, you need to reserve a web name for your store and a web address at which your customers can find you. This is essentially the “home” for your online business.

As a next step, you’ll need to get into the nitty-gritty of design – there are many templates for you to choose from, depending on the style you’d like to use. In addition, you’ll need to set up your settings for VAT, pricing, shipping, taxes, payment gateway, and more.

Luckily, myPOS Online is your one-stop-shop for all your e-commerce site needs.

You don’t need developers, coding, design skills, or anything else to get started – simply choose your store’s name, theme, upload your products and get going! 

To take advantage of this option, you simply have to create a myPOS merchant account and the best part of this is that it’s absolutely free! You simply pay a small and attractive transaction fee for each transaction made. And there are so many other benefits that come with this, too!

But don’t think it’s over and you can rest on your laurels yet.

There are other steps you need to take to ensure that your shop operates optimally and that you drive more traffic to it in order to boost sales. Let’s look at some other things you need to take care of continuously. 

9. Drive traffic to your site

Your online business is ready, and you’re making sales. But you need to continue driving traffic to your site in order to remain profitable.

There are two fundamental ways to do so – organic traffic and paid for traffic.

  • Organic traffic – This can be brought to your site if you use effective search engine optimisation (SEO) strategies such as proper keyword targeting, a blog that answers your audience’s questions, or pages where you can add value and not be too pushy about it. 
  • Paid advertising – or paying for ads on various websites. As the name implies, it involves payment and you need to set aside a budget for your online shop’s traffic. 
  • Social media advertising – Finally, there are social media that can be used to either drive organic traffic or paid traffic to your store. 

Either way, you’ll need to ensure that you’re committed to managing your marketing and advertising channels on a consistent and continuous basis. 

Measure your success

Here’s where you’ll need to get into reports and analytics to help you determine where your process could be streamlined further and where you can make more sales.

As a starting point, check out your email marketing. Is the open rate high? Is there a high click-through rate? How well are your email marketing campaigns performing? How about managing your conversions?

The same is true for your advertising efforts. How many people did your store attract after exposing them to an ad? How many people actually bought something?

Consistently monitoring your performance by digging deep into the numbers will help you stay on track and help you monitor your business in order to help it grow. 

10. Establish your reputation

Your brand persona or personality will continue to grow and develop with each sale you make. In addition, what we mentioned earlier about stocking and selling quality products applies here, too. 

You will need to establish and manage your reputation by the provision of quality products or services, an easy-to-navigate website, smooth and seamless payments acceptance, and more.

Since reviews play a major role in a customer’s purchasing decision, make sure that you constantly monitor your online reputation by addressing questions, negative reviews, or even positive ones.

Otherwise, negative talk spreads like wildfire on the internet and can also affect your rankings in Google, popping up at the top for everyone to see.

Conclusion

Now you know how to start up a small business online efficiently. While these steps may seem somewhat difficult or long, they’re actually a normal part of most business journeys – whether online or in a brick-and-mortar store. 

As you build on your dream of running your own online business, consider these 10 steps as a guiding point to help you get started.

Although they’re not an exhaustive list of steps and each step will depend on your business type, they’re a great way to kick start your project and turn your big idea into a reality

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the contents of this article and the myPOS Blog, in general, should not be interpreted as legal, monetary, tax, or any other kind of professional advice. You should always seek to consult with a professional before taking action, since the particulars of your situation may materially differ from other cases.

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