How to Start an Online Business During Coronavirus
It’s no secret that the Coronavirus pandemic has adversely affected nations from one end of the globe to the other. Millions of people have lost their jobs and unemployment is at an all-time high. Many governments are doing their part to reduce the effect of the pandemic but it’s not enough.
Due to a unique combination of factors, now may be the best time to start an online business. While the coronavirus pandemic won’t be permanent, it may be the beginning of a fundamental shift in the way we engage in commerce. Now is the time to catch the beginning of the wave and ride it to success.
This article will show you what you need to start an online business that’s able to generate a consistent flow of customers. Each step is important and, when done properly, will increase your odds of success.
4 Steps to Starting an Online Business
1. Find an underserved niche for your online business
Whether you’re selling clothes or software, there’s a good chance you’ll run into competition. This isn’t a bad thing but it does force you to look at your target market more carefully. Instead of competing with the largest players in your niche head-on, come up with a unique angle.
For example, there are many large weight loss programs and diets in the world. Jenny Craig, P90X, Herbalife, and more are well-established companies with millions of dollars to spend on marketing. It would be almost impossible to outspend them and take their customers if you start an online business. That’s why it’s important to focus on a smaller segment of the market when you start.
In the example of weight loss, you may want to create a business that serves new moms, young professionals, men over forty, etc. Since it’s so targeted, the larger brands won’t consider you a threat in the beginning.
Brainstorm a few niches that you find interesting and add them to a shortlist.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- Are people already spending money there?
- Are customers passionate about the products or consider them a necessity?
- Is it something that will be around in the next 5 – 10 years?
If you can answer yes to the above questions, it may be a good option for your business. Think about the different markets within that niche and how you’d be able to better serve them. For example, Squarespace is a website builder but it has an emphasis on serving creatives who want to set up an eCommerce store.
2. Develop a marketing plan
After you’ve chosen an online business idea you think has potential, the next step is to come up with a marketing plan. This is where most people have issues when they start an online business because there are so many marketing channels to work with.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- Where do your potential customers hang out online?
- What’s the best way to reach them on those platforms?
- Are they prone to impulse purchases?
- What’s the most important aspect of your offer to them?
- How long does it take them, on average, to research and purchase a product?
- What price point is too expensive and what price point is too cheap?
Let’s walk through some of these questions with an example to give you an idea of how it works. The online business is targeting young professionals with a weight loss product.
The target market is between 25 – 34 years old and they frequent social platforms like Facebook and Instagram. The best way to reach them is by using a brand page on Instagram coupled with Facebook and Instagram ads.
They have disposable cash, young families, or no families so they’re more prone to impulse purchases. Though getting results from the program is important, they also care about the brand’s larger mission in the world. Mentioning ethical business practices and sustainable products will get their attention. Highlighting how the products and programs will enrich their lives will help convert them to paying customers.
Since they’re digital natives, they’re able to gather information and research competing for products quickly. The sales cycle from the first touch to purchase can be as little as 48 hours. The target demographic is made up of upwardly mobile middle-class professionals who prioritize their health. If they believe in a product and its mission then they don’t mind paying premium prices over $100.
As you can see, answering all of the questions laid out above will help you decide where to market, how to market, your price points, and everything in between. When you’re in the process of researching for your online business, keep an eye out for reasons why people are currently dissatisfied and address that in your marketing.
3. Create a compelling business website
After you’ve mapped out your marketing plan, it’s time to put the pieces together. One of the most important things to consider when you start an online business is your business website. You can hire someone to do this but if you’re trying to keep costs low, it’s possible to build your own website from scratch.
Unless you’re a software developer, you’ll use a website builder.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Website Builder
- Does it have a large library of templates so your website doesn’t look just like everyone else’s?
- Does it have eCommerce functionality built-in or as a plugin you can easily install?
- Is every element of the website customizable or are you limited to just a few elements?
- Is there a steep learning curve or is it something you can teach yourself?
Website builders such as Wix or Site123 are popular because they’re easy to work with and can be adapted to meet your needs. It has multiple modules, a drag and drop page editor, and many other features perfect for you to start an online business on the right foot.
After choosing a website builder, pay close attention to your branding and the sales copy you use. If things appear out of place or what you say on your website differs from what you mention in your marketing, people will hesitate to buy.
4. Launch and adapt
At this point, you have all the pieces in place. You’ve chosen a niche with massive potential, have developed a marketing plan you’re confident in, and there’s a website you can be proud of. The most important step is to launch.
It doesn’t have to be a massive launch with a lot of fanfare. That’s not necessary. Instead, start at a level you’re comfortable with. Generally speaking, new businesses aren’t prepared for an influx of customers. The product isn’t ready and their infrastructure can’t support it.
At this stage, the most important thing for you to do is improve your product and offers based on feedback from paying customers. You can do all the research in the world but until you have a paying customer, it’s just an educated guess. When you do have those customers, you can ask them what they liked, what they disliked, and how you can improve.
Ask multiple people and you’ll start to see patterns. Those patters are where you can improve and do better than all your competition and accelerate growth. This is arguably the most important part because anyone can do research and launch a website. The ability to find your competitive advantage by gathering feedback from customers will be the difference between you thriving beyond Covid-19 and becoming irrelevant.
Right now is one of the best times to start an online business. With that being said, there are many things to consider. You need to find the right niche, develop an effective marketing plan, build out a website that people can trust, and launch the business.
It does take a lot of effort but the rewards for getting it right are incomparable to a traditional job. Instead of thinking about the problems associated with the coronavirus pandemic, use your time to come up with an online business idea that’ll help you change your situation.
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