So you've decided to have an online business. Before you start having those big cash flow dreams, stop and get some tips for having an online business. There are many internet information resources for doing this sort of thing. However, the basic tips for an online business are very close to those of a traditional business. Here are some basics:
• Write a business plan and revise that plan periodically. Your business plan should be thought of as a living document. As with any business, you will initially find out what works and what does not work and will have to change your plan accordingly.
• Be very careful about buying webspace and pre-packaged website templates for your business (the “we will build your website” people). You'll find that down the road it will be difficult to change the site plus get source code to it. You are better off outsourcing the web design with a freelancer and purchasing your own domain and installing the site yourself.
• Make sure you follow all security measures when running a site that accepts credit cards for purchases.
• If you expect to receive a lot of phone calls, you may want to consider hiring an answering service.
• Run your online business like a business. You will need to discipline yourself with working hours to take care of all offsite matters because you will have them. A lot of people make the mistake of treating their internet business merely as a website, which can be very detrimental because running an online business requires an approach that you would have with an offline business.
• Your marketing plan needs to include search engine optimization (SEO). This is important because you want your site to rank in the top 10 of search engine query results. You would be wise to study SEO techniques or hire the services of a SEO consultant.
• Some other marketing ideas include posting your web address on the back windshield of your vehicle or coordinating with other websites to include a backlink to your site. Word of mouth is always one of the best tools for advertising your site. With the advent of Google Adword, Overture and other similar advertising, it is possible to drive targeted traffic to your site by finding keywords that have very low bids. You will be able to measure your conversion ratio of such traffic with sales in realtime.
Customer service is even more critical as customers do not “see” you and building trust with them is a little harder. Performance builds trust.
Andrew Smith is a co-owner of How-To-All, a site providing how-to instructions on a numerous topics. http://www.howtoall.com