The basics of building a business online

Let’s face it; thousands of business ideas can make money. These days, many entrepreneurs are turning to the Internet to make their fortunes. Online stores offer so many advantages over traditional retail ones. For example, overheads are lower than their bricks and mortar counterparts.

It’s also easier to target an international audience when you sell over the Internet. And let’s not forget that websites are ready to serve customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week!

Are you setting up an online business soon? If so, it’s crucial that you know the basics before you begin. Otherwise, your efforts to build the business could prove fruitless. Here is what you need to know:

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Identify your target audience

The first thing you need to do is think about who you want to buy your products and services. All businesses have a target market, regardless of what they sell. If you target the wrong audience, you could end up wasting money and become broke in the process!

Let’s say that you want to sell smartphones, tablets and accessories online. Your target audience may be younger generations and professionals.

One easy way to identify your target audience is to look at what your competitors are doing. Who do they target and how do they do it?

Set up a decent website

If you’re starting an online business, you need a website. Anyone can set one up, it’s not a difficult task. But, what can sometimes prove challenging is doing so the right way. It’s important you don’t cut corners or make mistakes when setting up a website.

Your online home needs to look professional and be attractive to your target market. I recommend hiring a web designer to come up with a responsive, well-structured site. It needs to be one that is accessible to all audiences and easy to use.

A copywriter can produce some marketing and sales content for your pages that packs a punch. You may also wish to consider providing downloadable product datasheets for your items too.

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Meanwhile, you should consider using an SEO expert to make the site visible in search engines. There are also some optimization tips you can do yourself; here are some free SEO resources for you to try out. Be sure to find out what SEO companies can offer before you hire them, so that you know what to expect for your money.

Work with a mentor

If you’re new to online selling, you should seek guidance from a seasoned pro. Mistakes cost time and money, and they are worth avoiding – especially as a new startup.

A mentor can help you to achieve your long-term goals by helping to steer you in the right direction. Business coaches get used by some of the world’s leading brands, including online ones.

Engage with your audience

Last, but not least, it’s important that you listen to the feedback your customers give you. They are the people that help you to grow your business. You can use their feedback to tailor your products and services.

Feedback is also useful for identifying common problems so that you can resolve them. Good luck!

 

I started a business with kids: Lisa Roberts of Babyblooms

Babyblooms - Lisa Roberts PhotographTell us a little about your business

Babyblooms was the first company in the UK to offer bouquets of Baby Clothes as an alternative to fresh flowers, offering next day delivery within the UK and a worldwide delivery service. The website www.babyblooms.co.uk now includes Babyblooms own range of natural skincare for Mum and Baby as well as a wide selection of baby hampers and personalised gifts.

What was your job before starting your business?

I studied Business and Finance at university and initially worked as a financial advisor for a couple of years before switching to account management with a Telecoms Company. When my sons were born I worked for a while, part-time selling educational software before childcare costs became prohibitive and I worked a couple of evenings a week waitressing in a local Italian restaurant, leaving my days free for the boys and leaving the boys with my husband in the evenings. Whilst quite poorly paid, I had no childcare costs so had more money in pocket and essentially had two nights out a week!

How did you go from your old career to your new business?  Continue reading “I started a business with kids: Lisa Roberts of Babyblooms”

Advice for online business start ups

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According to Theo Paphitis, writing in The Guardian, 50% of all UK start-ups fail in their first few years. The reasons behind this statistic are numerous, but the entrepreneur believes that most new startups collapse because they don’t ‘carry out their homework.’ Here, then are a few useful pointers for online business start ups to bear in mind.

Form international alliances

Online start-ups will be dealing with a global rather than local community. In order to maximize efficiency and source valuable local knowledge, many UK based online start-ups have forged partnerships with other companies in different parts of the world. UK based firms – for example, Vanner Perez Notaries – will be able to help with registration with overseas commercial bodies and any of the other complexities often encountered when forming a partnership with a foreign company.
This knowledge will be invaluable for any start-up.

Carry out your research

Just because your business is online, it doesn’t mean that life is going to be any easier than if you were to set up a conventional business. All start-ups can encounter very similar problems. The UK Government has a useful website that talks about how your brilliant business idea can lead to a successful opportunity. The government echoes Paphitis in that it talks about the necessity of good research into your chosen market, and how to engage with potential customers to evaluate the possibility of future success. Finding partners and suppliers is just one part of the jigsaw.

Evaluate your software

After discovering that there is a real need for your product you must ensure that your software and payment systems are robust. The customer must feel secure and also reassured that their personal banking details aren’t going to fall into the hands of scammers and fraudsters. You will need to be confident that your website will be always be operational and that any possible technical glitches can be ironed out quickly.

The website Start up Donut has evaluated that by 2020, 90% of all transactions will be carried out online. In order to make sure that your business stands out from this crowded global market place try to ensure that your website looks attractive and is always kept up to date. You will have to include your trading address, contact details and information about the quality of your goods and your returns policy. This information will help a customer assess whether they trust your website, and is a legal requirement.

Link your website to social media accounts

Encourage your customers to review your services and products on your Twitter or Facebook page. Companies that respond to negative and positive comments from their customers are more respected than those that don’t. Just because your business is online isn’t an excuse for poor customer service.

An agile business is a successful business

Your suppliers may go out of business or produce a shoddy batch of goods. You should always be prepared for any potential problems, and if necessary, have a back-up plan. Very often years of hard work can be undone by complacency, but if your research is up to date and you let your customers know what’s going on there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a successful online business.

How to make money from your blog: My Britmums Live presentation

Last weekend I took part in a panel discussion on how to make money from blogging at the the BritMums Live conference in London.

Luckily for us, Julie Hall of Women Unlimited recorded the whole session.

Quite a few people now have asked me for a recording of the session so….ta da!…here it is:

It’s thirty-five minutes long, but full of incredibly useful and honest info from people who are making money from blogs.

The panel members are (left to right in the video):

– Kirstie Pelling from The Family Adventure Project

– Helen Wills from Actually Mummy

– Me!

– Julie Hall from Women Unlimited

Julie has written a concise and very helpful summary of the video here if you don’t have time to watch the video.

I have a few more BritMums videos up my sleeve, so keep watching over the next few days for more.

Enjoy!

Don’t miss a thing here at Business Plus Baby   Click here to get my newsletter and  I’ll also send you a copy of  my e-book Running a business around a family: 9 steps to success.

Online business basics: Why you MUST have a mailing list

(This is the third article in my Online business basics series. You can find links to the other posts in the series on this page: Online business basics)

A mailing list is an essential tool in business, yet many new online business owners don’t have one. So why is a mailing list so important and how can you start your own?

Why a mailing list is so important

A mailing list is crucial because most people aren’t willing to get out their credit card the first time they hear about you. Instead, they prefer to get to know you and your content bit by bit over time. As they get to know you, realise you’re good at what you do and that you can help them, they’ll be willing to dig out their credit cards and make a purchase.

A mailing list allows you to stay in touch with people after they’ve left your website, to show them you’re an expert and to keep them updated with what you have to offer.

Setting up your mailing list Continue reading “Online business basics: Why you MUST have a mailing list”