Business Case Studies

Starting a Small Business Online

Introduction

Starting a small business online can be quite simple, as long as you are organized and take the steps one at a time. From day one you should be planning and working, towards the long term development of your business. Each step you take should bring you one step further towards your goal.

The first thing you should do is research and find a need that is currently unfilled or only partially fulfilled. This may be in an area that you have no prior knowledge, in which case you will need to do some extensive reading and learn all you need to know about the business.

Some businesses have developed their own jargon which can confuse the subject even more. If, for example, you were starting an online vaping store, you might come across terms like:

>>> Analog Cigarette (traditional tobacco cigarette),

>>> Alien Coil (a coil, like a Clapton coil but modified by a wire)

>>> Wax Pen ( A small vaporizer, the size of a pen)

Every business in time will develop its own vocabulary or jargon, and unless you understand it, you will be at a huge disadvantage to your rivals.

Finding a need and filling it

When doing your research look carefully at the product (or service) area and try to establish if the market is being adequately serviced by existing businesses. this is where you need to be creative and think outside of the box.

Let’s say that in a moment of madness you decided that the book business online was not serviced well enough and that books were a real opportunity. You have come to the conclusion that you can do it better than Amazon.

Well, after I had told you to lye down and put a cold compress to your head, and to think it through a bit more clearly; I would ask you how with limited resources you planned to take on a market megalith and win. I would suggest that you wrote down your answer to this, as one day you will enjoy taking another look at what you did during your time of madness. You will have a good laugh.

But if you were insistent on going ahead with this madness I would suggest that maybe, a better tactic would be to find a highly specialized subject area and concentrate only on books connected with it, and intersperse your sales items with lots of interesting and informative articles about the subject. Even then you would be doomed to failure as the book market is totally over-fulfilled.

Hopefully, you would think again and find a better area for your business to concentrate on.

Write Copy that Sells

The copy on your website is your sales force. You are not going to be there to greet every visitor to your website, like in a bricks and mortar store. Instead, Your copy has to be welcoming and informative, answering all the questions that your potential customers could have developed.

Writing good copy is very important. If it does not keep your visitors interest or prove to be useful then the visitor will be gone to the next store all too rapidly. If English is not your native language and you are not 100% in your ability to write fluently, then don’t! I was at a website this morning that was trying to promote its ambulance service in Bangladesh to foreign visitors. Clearly the business owner had used auto-translate and it had churned out total gibberish. I was so amused that I totally forgot why I had gone there in the first place.

If you cannot write then get someone to do it for you.

Design and Build an easy to use website

It is not so much of a problem now as the industry has settled down a bit, but when I first started teaching E-Commerce at a college in the UK, I would have business owners approach me and ask why their website was not producing any business for them.

They would assure me it was a top of the range site that their son/nephew/cousin had produced for them. What I invariably would see was a site that was completely up to the minute with every flashing headline and whistle that technology could add. The “bright young man” who had created the site was so intoxicated by his own brilliance at having mastered so much, he wanted to show every single skill he had on the website.

People came to the site looking for a new car but were so distracted at trying to figure out the clever new navigation system that flew out when the mouse went near that corner of the screen, that they forgot all about buying a car, or got so frustrated at how complex the website was, that they went elsewhere.

At the time a young man called Jakob Nielsen was becoming very famous as the leading expert in web design. You would imagine that this guy would have the most brilliant website ever. But in those days when you went to it, it was just basic text, with very clear menus, no images, and fast loading. In short, a website that worked.

This young man has now grown older (as have I) and is regarded as the global expert on UX (user experience). Yes, his website has changed somewhat as his business corporation grew but it is still a very simple site that includes no extras, just information clearly organized for the user.

Use search engines to grow your traffic

Your website matters very little if nobody ever visits it. If you look on the Internet you will find hundreds of different systems for generating traffic with eager young businessmen willing to take your money in exchange for this secret method. Save your money. Internet traffic really comes down to a customer putting in a search query unto Google (or any other search engine), and being lead to your site.

The technique for ensuring this happens is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and is achieved by writing copy that Google believes is both unique and interesting/informative. You do this, and you get higher rankings. Of course, I have no objection to you sending me your $49 for that “valuable information”. Well, these bright young businessmen spew out advice that is worth far less than that and charges a fortune.

Become an Expert (or let them think you are)

Put facts and articles on your website. Give this information away for free. In addition to you getting higher Google rankings, you will also convince your readers that “You are the man” that can answer their questions. This helps you build a relationship with them. When they later want to buy, where are they going to go?

Conclusion

I could really carry on talking about this for hours but I will close there I have covered the key issues that you will face in the early years of your business. As your business become more mature it will have new challenges to face.

Written by: hotctry