7 Steps to Start an Online Business

The internet is changing so fast that one year online is equivalent to about five years in the real world. But the principles for starting and growing a successful online business haven't changed at all.

Stephan Moerman
Stephan Moerman

There is a proven set of steps you can follow to ensure your success when you want to start an online business. We've seen thousands of people start and grow successful businesses by doing the following:

  1. Find and fill a need.

  2. Write texts that sell your product or service.

  3. Develop and design a user-friendly website.

  4. Use search engines to drive traffic to your site.

  5. Build your reputation and show your expertise.

  6. Continue to follow up with customers and subscribers via email.

  7. Increase your income with back-end sales and upselling techniques.

Anyone from the novice to the seasoned online entrepreneur can take advantage of this process to learn how to start an online business.

Step 1: Start your online business and choose a need that you will fulfil.

Most people who are just starting out make the mistake of looking for a product first and then a market.

To increase your chances of success, start with a market. The trick is to find a group of people who are looking for a solution to a problem, but don't find many results. These are the people who (can) become your customers if you provide a solution. The internet makes this kind of market research easy:

  • Visit online forums to see what questions people are asking and what problems they are trying to solve.

  • Do keyword research to find keywords that many people search for, but that don't have much competition from other sites.

  • Check out your potential competitors by visiting their sites and note what they are doing to meet the demand. You can then use that information to create a product for a market that already exists - and outperform the competition.

Are you going to work in a B2B market? Avoid these common B2B marketing mistakes.

Step 2: Write texts that sell your product or service.

There is a proven sales formula that guides visitors through the sales process from the moment they arrive at your website to the moment they make a purchase:

  1. Create interest with a compelling title.

  2. Describe the problem your product solves.

  3. Establish your credibility as the solver of this problem.

  4. Add reviews from people who have already used the product.

  5. Talk about the product and how it benefits the user.

  6. Create an offer.

  7. Make a strong guarantee.

  8. Create urgency.

  9. "Ask" about the sale.

In your texts, you should focus on how your product or service is uniquely capable of solving visitors' problems or improving their lives. Think like a customer and ask "What's in it for me?" or "What's the use of this product (or service)?".

Step 3: Design and build your website.

Let this just be something we are good at. πŸ˜‰ Once you have your market and product and have gone through and set up your sales funnel, you are ready to have a website made. Remember to keep it simple. You have less than five seconds to get someone's attention - otherwise they'll be gone, and they'll probably never come back. Some important tips to keep in mind:

  • Choose one or two regular fonts on a white background.

  • Make your navigation clear and simple, and the same on every page.

  • Only use images, audio or video if they reinforce your message.

  • Add a signup offer so you can collect email addresses.

  • Make it easy to buy - no more than two clicks between your prospect and the checkout (checkout).

  • Your website is your online "shop window", so make it customer friendly.

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Step 4: Use search engines to drive customers to your site.

Pay-per-click ads are the easiest way to drive visitors to a brand new website. It has two advantages over waiting for traffic to come to you organically.

First, PPC ads appear immediately on search pages, and second, PPC ads allow you to test different keywords, as well as titles, prices, and sales funnels. Not only will you get instant traffic, but you can also use PPC ads to discover your best, most converting keywords. Then you can spread the keywords all over your site in your texts, which will help your ranking in the organic search results.

Step 5: Build your reputation and show your expertise.

People use the internet to find information. Providing that information to other sites for free will get you more traffic and better rankings on major search engines like Google. The secret is to always include a link to your site with every tidbit of information.

  • Give away expert content for free. Create blog posts, videos or other content that people will find useful. Distribute that content via online article directories or social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn.

  • Add a "forward to a friend" link on valuable content on your website. Make sharing as easy as possible.

  • Become an active expert in industry forums and social networking sites where your target audience hangs out.

You reach new readers. Better yet, every site that posts your content will link back to your website. Search engines love backlinks from relevant sites and will reward you in the ranking.

Step 6: Use the power of email marketing to turn visitors into buyers.

When you create an opt-in list, you create one of the most valuable assets of your online business. Your customers and subscribers have given you permission to send them an email. So that means that:

  • You give them something they asked for.

  • Develop your (life) long relationships with them.

  • The response is 100% measurable.

  • Email marketing is cheaper and more effective than print, TV or radio because it is highly targeted.

Anyone who visits your website and signs up for your newsletter is a very warm lead. And there's no better tool than email for following up on those leads.

Step 7: Increase your income with back-end sales and upselling.

One of the most important internet marketing strategies is developing each customer's lifetime value, the LTV (Lifetime Value). At least 36 percent of people who have bought from you once will buy from you again if you follow through. Closing that first sale is by far the hardest β€” not to mention the most expensive. So use back-end selling and upselling to get them to buy again:

  • Offer products that complement their original purchase.

  • Send electronic loyalty coupons to redeem on their next visit.

  • Offer related products on your "Thank you" page after purchase.

Reward your customers for their loyalty and they will become even more loyal.

The internet is changing so fast that one year online is equivalent to about five years in the real world. But the principles for starting and growing a successful online business haven't changed at all. If you are just starting an online business, we recommend that you apply these 7 steps. If you've been online for a while, do a quick review and see if there's a step you're ignoring, or were never able to do in the first place. You can't go wrong with the basics.