Want to Start an Online Business? Do These 5 Things NOW
Planning to launch a business next year? Congratulations! Entrepreneurship is one of the most exciting and rewarding journeys one can embark on. While there's (unfortunately) no GPS for the fast-paced and sometimes bumpy road ahead, there are steps you can take now to set yourself up for success along the way.
Start with these five things and you'll be ready to roll.
1. Define Your Target Market
Who is the most likely customer for your product or service? If your answer is "everyone," you've either got a billion-dollar idea or you need to spend more time narrowing your focus (and it's likely the latter). Very few products appeal to every demographic, and if you don't know who your target customer is—where they live and shop, what they like and dislike, what their interests and beliefs are—it's going to be expensive and difficult to reach them with your marketing.
Now is the time to hone in on who can benefit most from what you have to offer. Once you know the who, the rest of the pieces of the puzzle (where and when to spend your marketing dollars, what kind of messaging to use, why your customers should choose your product or service) will fall into place.
2. Make Sure There's A Real Need For Your Product Or Service
According to the SBA, more than 20% of businesses fail within the first year. Half don't make it to the five-year mark. One big reason for failure is a lack of need in the marketplace for the product or service being offered.
Be sure people need (or at the very least want) to spend money on what you're selling. Take time in the next few weeks to ask a lot of people in your target market what they think about your idea, your pricing, etc. You could create a simple survey using a service like Typeform or SurveyMonkey to post on related message boards or Facebook groups, or grab some friends who are in your target audience for a fun afternoon of user testing.
3. Lock Down Your Brand
Marketing guru Seth Godin defines a brand this way: A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another. How will you set your brand apart from others offering similar products or services, so that yours is the company people want to build a relationship with? Your company's name, logo, color design, website, and social media accounts are all important parts of this brand, and you should spend time making them shine.
4. Secure Your Online Assets
Speaking of brand, an important step to take before launching your company is to secure the online assets associated with it. If you come up with a great name but a Google search reveals five other businesses have the same or a similar one already, you may want to keep thinking. Once you've settled on a name, immediately secure handles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. Even if you don't end up using all of them for your business, it's better to have them than to risk someone else taking them. You should also obtain URLs for your company and yourself.
Consider top-level domains that will stand out and be memorable. For example, if you're opening a new restaurant or food-delivery service, you might want to go with .organic or .green instead of .com. For your personal website, .PRO is a great TLD for entrepreneurs to consider. Depending on your product or service, you may also want to begin the trademark process.
5. Start Spreading The News
Don't be shy about sharing your impending good news with friends and family over the holidays. They will likely be your biggest cheerleaders during the challenging months ahead.
Beyond friends and family, begin to think about who else can help you out. Your LinkedIn and Facebook connections are a great place to start. So is your college alumni association. Throw in community groups or the parents of your kids' friends, and you've already identified thousands of potential customers or supporters to email when you officially launch. Be sure to think of the small-business owners whose establishments you frequent. Entrepreneurs love helping other entrepreneurs, so even if they're in a different field, people like your dentist, dry cleaner, or butcher can be wonderful resources as you kickstart your entrepreneurial journey.