Sawaram Suthar is the founder of TheNextScoop and Jagat Media. A digital marketing consultant, he has experience in branding, promotions, page optimization, research, and strategy. He has an MBA from the University of Pune. Anyone can find him on Twitter @sawarams.
There are plenty of ways to start an online business. Take advantage of many free advice, resources and tools to help you start and manage your online marketing strategies. Know here
The Internet is not only a huge reservoir of information accessible from a smartphone but also a huge marketplace. The global marketplace has been so easily accessible to individuals and businesses worldwide via websites and social media platforms. The Internet has forever changed the way we do business. And it has changed how a traditional internet marketer responds to the everchanging online demands.
These days, eCommerce has become as commonplace as watching TV. It's something that many people do every single day. Many have launched small local businesses and used eCommerce to increase sales and generate a significant portion of their income.
Owning and operating an online business allows entrepreneurs to make money from anywhere in the world. The idea is enticing and more possible than ever.
It used to be that only a select few could start a business. Of course, that has changed in 2021
Today, anyone, regardless of their professional background or past entrepreneurial experience, can start and scale an online business. However, many entrepreneurs simply don't know where to start.
You still need a viable product idea, determine your sourcing or manufacturing strategy and your sales model. But all of that shouldn't discourage you from starting an online business!
Whether looking to become a full-time entrepreneur or just start a part-time business for passive income, your product or service must meet specific consumer needs. This is where digital marketing service comes into the picture.
Let's see how you can start your online marketing business in 2024 with that out of the way.
1. Define Your Niche and Business Idea
A business niche means your "focus area," i.e. the market segment and target audience (TA) you primarily appeal to. This can be anyone from sports enthusiasts to stamp collectors or software developers.
Avoid niches that don't need your products, can't afford them, or aren't interested - otherwise, you'll make your life harder.
2. Do Product Research
You can sell three basic types of eCommerce products online. Each has its pros and cons.
As the name implies, these are tangible items that must be manufactured, stocked, and shipped to customers. Selling physical goods can be profitable, but profitability can be low if you don't manage your operating costs well. Plus, you will need to rent a warehouse and find a reliable delivery service.
You can also sell digital products- anything a customer can download to their devices, e.g., online courses, ebooks, podcasts, webinars, etc. As compared to physical products, digital products have higher profit margins.
However, price setting can be tricky because such products are often seen as lower in value than physical products.
Almost any service available remotely can be sold online. Selling services is the fastest way to start an online business and make a profit. This is a business model in which you sell your time. This means that your earning potential is limited because you have a certain number of hours per day. That's if you don't scale your agency. That's if you don't scale your online advertising agency.
3. Learn About Online Business Laws
Since they run an online business, small business owners often assume that traditional business laws don't apply to them. That's not true. Although an online business requires fewer licenses and permits than a regular business, you still need to understand a few important legal details. Namely:
- What business license (if any) do you need to get started?
- What legal structure makes the most sense (sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), etc.)? By the way, if you plan to form an LLC, here's a list of great LLC formation services to help you with that.
- Are there any permits you need to get?
- Are there any audits/inspections you need to pass?
- Do you need a tax license for your business?
- Are there any special rules that apply only to online businesses?
- What are the laws regarding hiring contractors and employees?
4. Do Market Research
Find out what your TA needs, what they are interested in, and what they really want.
Market research is an important step on the road to starting your own online business. It helps you determine your chosen business vertical's depth, competitiveness, and profitability. Because the last thing you want to come up with is an offer that no one really cares about. The market research also helps confirm your product idea, pricing, and demand.
Here's how you can start your market research:
Check your search engine results. Find your product/service keyword variants and analyze their search engine results pages (SERPs).
- What type of content is currently ranking on the first page?
- Which companies are paying to advertise on top of the regular search results?
The answers will help you assess your competitors in advance. Also, get information for a preliminary SEO and digital marketing strategy based on content that your TA prefers.
Research your competitors. You can use various digital marketing tools to closely examine your major competitors (beyond search engine rankings). What are the biggest businesses in your niche? How much money do they make? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do they attract their TAs? You'll be able to gather information from your competitors on how to retain, expand, and make your TA happier.
By putting the other players "under the microscope," you will understand what might give you a competitive advantage over them.
Don't get it wrong; you shouldn't steal from your competitors. On the contrary, you should occasionally compete with them and analyze their customer acquisition strategies to tweak them to fit your business.
Track high-impact keywords. Analyze how demand changes for different products in your niche. Find out which content ranks best by tracking keywords relevant to your niche.
Here are a few good software tools to help you do that:
- Google Trends (free);
- Google Ads (paid);
- Ahrefs (paid);
- Semrush (paid);
- ActOn (paid);
- SE Ranking (paid).
5. Identify Your Target Audience
To make sales and then scale your business, you need to understand who your target audience is clear. You should research demographics and psychographics to learn about their needs and preferences.
- Demographics. Demographics include basic socioeconomic characteristics such as age, gender, ethnicity, income, position, etc.;
- Psychographics. Psychographics include various psychological characteristics such as values, beliefs, interests, opinions, etc.
These insights help you understand your customers' "perfect" needs, preferences, and factors that influence their purchases.
6. Evaluate Product Viability
You want to comprehensively assess the viability of your product before you buy or make a large order. To do this, ask the following questions:
- Is there already a successful online business selling similar products?
- Is the demand for this product sustainable, or is it temporary?
- Does the math behind this product make sense? Can you make a profit selling it?
Remember, it doesn't matter how cool the product seems - what matters is that it's viable from a business standpoint.
7. Define Your Brand and Image
The brand is the overall "feel" of your business. You want everything from your company name to your web design and text to convey a consistent visual image and ideas. The same goes for your external presence - on social media, email newsletters, and packaging.
As you work on your brand identity, pay attention to the following:
- Your brand logo;
- Color scheme;
- Web page layouts;
- Graphics and photos.
Your brand image should be the result of all these elements working together.
8. Build a Website
The website should serve as an information portal for your TA. When visiting your online resource, it should be easy for a person to find the information they need.
For that, your website should be convenient and easy to use, and, most importantly, it should contain useful and attractive content.
The Internet has several convenient website builders, helping to keep visitors on the site.
One of them is the world-famous Wix. Shopify is another great example. This is where you can find many pre-made website templates and modify them as you want so that the site corresponds to your brand's image.
Both platforms are solid options, but an essential difference between Wix vs Shopify is that the latter offers more payment gateways, applications, and themes.
Do not forget that it's crucial to constantly increase the loyalty of your potential and existing customers while staying in touch (i.e. providing recommendations by phone, email, chat, etc.).
In fact, when it comes to a company website, digging just a little bit deeper will require following each of these next steps:
- Choose the right eCommerce platform;
- Make sure your online store is mobile-optimized;
- Make sure your site makes a terrific first impression;
- Use high-quality content (especially product photos);
- Improve your site navigation and make sure it's user-friendly;
- Create a solid unique selling proposition (USP);
- Create a blog within site;
- Create a mind-blowing "About Us" page;
- Develop a successful SEO strategy;
- Target the right visitor with the right product;
- Use a live chat to provide your leads with due support;
- Decide on offering coupons to your customers;
- Simplify the shopping cart for a better user experience;
- Develop an eCommerce delivery strategy;
- Collect and analyze customer feedback about your site/product;
- Implement email marketing campaigns;
- Show people that your site is safe and trustworthy;
- Use social media opportunities to promote your site;
- Implement affiliate marketing. Create an environment where all parties are interested in participating: those who invite and those who accept invitations. The most common practice is monetary rewards - a portion of transactions made by involved participants.
- Use web marketing services to get a good graph over your website marketing services.
- Utilize internet marketing consulting to promote internet marketing services on your website.
9. Promote Your Website
Of course, simply having a website is not enough - you need to work hard to make people aware of your existence. This is where website marketing comes into the picture.
Promote your site in search engines. Provide a title, description, and keywords, set your 404 pages, create a sitemap, add a custom search (if the number of pages exceeds 1,000), etc.
Use social media. Create an account/community on social networks e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, etc. This will make communicating with your existing customers easier. Monitor your posts; post only what will interest your TA to convert your regular followers into customers.
Ensure your website name is posted on all sorts of company promotional materials: business cards, flyers, brochures, etc.
10. Manage Your Online Reputation
Keep an eye on what people say about you online.
A huge number of customers trust the information they find on the Internet. When it comes to choosing a product/service, customer feedback plays a huge role. After all, people always want to get advice and learn the truth about this product/service, company/person.
However, there's no guarantee that they will write only the truth about you; there can always be an unsatisfied competitor who will try to damage your reputation via a negative review. Don't leave them unanswered! Respond to negativity. Monitor and manage your reputation. This is the best way to do marketing on the web.
11. Develop your Business
Once everything is set up, it's time to start attracting traffic to your online business. Make the following channels a priority:
- Paid advertising. Allocate advertising budget for PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising in social networks and search results. This is the fastest way to build brand awareness for a new business;
- Influencer marketing. Collaborate with influencers on social media to promote your products. This is another quick way to get the attention of your TA;
- Social Media Marketing (SMM). Supplement paid campaigns with organic traffic by building audiences on Instagram and Facebook.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Make sure all pages of your site are optimized for SEO. The bottom line is that you use it to get people already searching online for your products or services. This is called "inbound marketing." While "outbound" marketing appeals to a wider audience, most of which may not even need your help, inbound marketing only connects you with people looking for you themselves. This is why SEO marketing creates an inbound flow of visitors who will likely turn into loyal customers.
The key to inbound marketing is powerful SEO campaigns allowing customers to find you before competitors. First and foremost, this requires quality, original, human-friendly content optimized for search engines. It should be noted that with all the value of SEO promotion, the work results appear only after a few weeks.
- Create an active marketing strategy for your blog. Running an online business does not require promoting your own blog from scratch. Promoting your product or service is enough to address reputable bloggers (influencers) with thousands of followers. Even celebrities use this way of promotion;
- Promoting newsletters. Email marketing is often perceived as "spam." You can avoid this by sending emails only to customers who themselves have signed up for your newsletters and emails from your company. Create a contact database by saving the email addresses of people who visit your online store. The easiest way to do this is to put a subscription form on your website. If you explain how often your customers will receive emails and what kind of content they will get, they can decide whether they need it. Thus, you will get a list of people genuinely interested in what you want to share. You can then promote your products via emails, as well.
5 Types of Online Business You Can Start With No Seed Capital
There are five of the most common types of businesses you can start with almost no money in your pocket:
- Affiliate marketing;
- Online videos;
- Informational products.
This business approach is based on the idea that you, as a business owner, don't need to invest money and maintain a large inventory of goods (or you can work without inventory at all), as well as deal with the delivery of goods to customers. This immediately eliminates significant financial losses and risks of having goods you may not sell. After all, you sell goods from someone else's warehouse in dropshipping. On commission.
You focus your efforts only on marketing and advertising. Your only goal is to find a customer and make him/her buy. Everything that happens next is the concern of other people. You only bear the cost of attracting a customer.
Here's what the basic scheme of dropshipping looks like:
- You place partners' products, which you want to sell, on your (or someone else's) online resource (website or social network). However, they need to be promoted and have a stable traffic flow. The main thing is to get an order with minimum costs;
- After getting an order, you pass it on to your partner (as a rule, this can be a manufacturing company or wholesaler with a large inventory).
- Your partner delivers the product to the customer.
Looks simple, doesn't it? The dropshipping scheme allows you to offer potential buyers a wide range of products with minimal costs for purchasing and logistics. In fact, thousands of companies are ready to offer you hundreds of thousands of goods from dozens of categories:
Alas, dropshipping implies a few challenges. Thus, you need to find a reliable partner, a drop-shipper, who will not let you down to ensure the declared quality of goods and delivery time. Otherwise, you're the blame if the quality is not as advertised or delivery terms are not met.
Also, because this market is very competitive, your margins (the difference between your wholesale and retail prices) may not be high enough. Therefore, you need to generate significant sales volume to make good profits.
However, even considering these challenges, this type of business is available to everyone because of the lack or minimal need for start-up capital.
You can also use dropshipping if you already have a business and want to expand the range or test new products or niches. All you have to do is negotiate with a partner and put his product on the site, then see if there is demand.
To briefly summarize, the dropshipping business has the following pros and cons.
- Small startup capital;
- No inventory and warehouse maintenance is needed;
- You can use trading platforms (marketplaces) for sale, with an extensive base of existing customers;
- No shipping costs;
- You can test many products in your range without any risks.
- You can be the one to blame for your dropshipping partners' faults;
- You depend on the availability of goods in your partner's warehouse;
- Low barriers to entry cause significant competition in the market;
- To get a good profit, you must provide a high sales volume.
This approach to business is similar to the previous one. However, there are a few key differences.
Affiliate marketing means choosing a potentially attractive niche to do business in and finding an affiliate selling products/services in demand.
Next, you write unique selling articles for your site or blog and place links to products and services from affiliate sites. If visitors of your resource click on such a link and make a purchase, you will get a commission (the range is usually from 5 to 25%, and if we are talking about affiliate programs for info products, the commission can go up to 50%).
The most famous site offering affiliate program trading is AliExpress. However, the options for earning on affiliate programs exist in many industries. For example, in banking services, you can sell insurance products.
The difference from dropshipping is that you take on even less responsibility in this model. You only need to ensure that your site visitors click on affiliate links. The more clicks, the better.
To succeed in affiliate marketing, you can promote your site in search engines, set up contextual advertising, use social networks or email marketing campaigns, and so on. The goal is to make customers click on that link. After that, your job is done.
- Minimal investment requirements - all you need is to maintain your website;
- Simplest business model - only traffic attraction;
- No special knowledge or skills are required - others carry out sales; you only need to get traffic;
- As a rule, your partners provide you with marketing materials, which you can place on your resources.
- You don't manage affiliate programs, and you have to agree to other people's rules;
- High competition because of low barriers to entry;
- If you can't attract traffic to your site, no one will click on affiliate links, and therefore, you will not earn on commission;
- You may have to spend money on paid ways to attract traffic to your site;
- You cannot create your own customer base and expect to make repeat purchases.
If you have the knowledge and passion for a certain topic, you can start making money through blogging.
The most important thing here is regularly publishing unique and useful content to a specific target audience. Your content has to be well-indexed in search engines and call your readers to action.
You might think that blogging is about writing articles. And yes, you can write articles if you enjoy it. However, it's not just that. After all, there are photo blogs and video blogs, as well.
So how can you make money on a blog?
- You can place Google ads (or other providers) on the pages of your blog;
- You can make money from affiliate marketing by promoting the products and services of other manufacturers, for example, by posting reviews of new products and links to stores where people can buy them;
- And, of course, you can sell your own info products (ebooks, courses, etc.).
What does it take to create a successful blog?
First of all, you need to create attractive content. No one will read if you publish boring information on your blog, similar to what they publish on other sources. Don't be afraid to showcase your unique personality traits on your blog and be unique.
Second, you need to publish your high-quality content regularly. People want something new all the time. This can be articles, videos, infographics - anything, as long as your readers will receive new materials regularly.
Moreover, it's desirable that your blog's information is updated less than once a week. Otherwise, your readers will have time to forget you.
And finally, be sincere. Yes, you want to make money from your blog, but that doesn't mean you have to sell all the time. By sharing useful content with your readers, you make sure more people learn about you and start to like you. People are used to trusting people they like. People are so short of genuine feelings and original opinions in the digital age.
You can create a blog in as little as an hour. However, it can take quite a long time before it will pay off. You need to build credibility and a loyal community. Even after that, not all your subscribers will buy something from you.
Your potential earnings should outweigh all potential difficulties because the best bloggers make $200,000+ a year.
So what do we get in the end?
- Starting a blog is very easy and requires virtually no cost;
- The ability to work on your own schedule and where you want;
- Potentially a very large reach (if people like your topic and how you write).
- A good blog needs to be constantly updated - you can't afford a break;
- It can take quite a bit of time to start making good money;
- Creating, processing, and posting good content is quite time-consuming;
- You need to optimize your blog's content for search engine requirements.
When was the last time you watched a YouTube video? Yesterday?
It's one of the most (if not the most) popular sites worldwide. More than a billion people watch hundreds of hours of videos on it daily. And you can use this platform to make money.
You don't have to create a viral video with millions of views. Although, if it does, it won't get any worse!
All you need to do is follow a certain strategy to maximize the number of multiple views on your channel regularly.
Most importantly, ensure your channel visitors see the benefit of watching your videos: they should inspire, educate, or entertain your viewers. You can do this in many ways in a huge number of niches.
However, the basic scheme doesn't change:
You can make money from advertising that will be streamed on your YouTube channel. For this, you should do the following:
- First, create an account on YouTube;
- Create an attractive, high-quality video;
- Upload your video on YouTube;
- Enable the monetization option, which allows Google to put short ads in front of your videos. When visitors to your channel click on them, you make money.
Another great way to make money from a YouTube channel is to get sponsors. If you provide your channel with many subscribers, many large companies will be happy to pay you money for reviewing their product/service or mentioning their brand in your videos.
To ensure the faster promotion of your YouTube channel, start promoting it on your social media pages, your blog, and other resources from which you can access your potential target audience.
Again, we come to the point that you can make money from video blogging, but it's also a two-sided coin.
- Creating a video is easy; you can use your smartphone or computer to do it;
- It doesn't cost anything to create a channel on Youtube;
- YouTube allows you to use (embed) your videos on other online resources (websites, blogs, social networks), which ensures their viral distribution;
- Video blogs work in many niches.
- To create a channel on Youtube, you need to understand that you are creating a business on someone else's platform and be aware of all the risks that follow;
- YouTube principles imply that your channel's visitors will be advertised to your competitors' channels;
- It can take quite a long time to start making good money (i.e., build an audience and make a name);
- Creating, processing, and posting high-quality video content can be very time-consuming.
If you want to create a business online, you don't have to sell physical products at all. In fact, info products, which exist only in digital form, are one of the easiest and fastest sources of income.
There are a huge number of options for creating info products, but the most popular formats include the following:
- Audio: podcasts, recordings of interviews, training courses, audiobooks, etc;
- Video: webinars, video instructions for solving a problem, video interviews, etc.;
- Text formats: ebooks, guides, checklists, instructions, how-tos, etc.
In addition, you can combine different formats to meet your customers' info needs best.
You understand that not everyone will get rich by selling info products. However, if you take the time to do a little online research, you will find out that making $15k per month is not something unattainable.
No matter your content creation format, it can provide you with passive income. The money will keep coming to you even when you sleep! Because info products are sold through a website, clients will be able to buy and download them at any time of the day or night. You can host free events using webinar software to attract more leads. All you will have to do is keep track of what sells best and create new info products accordingly.
- Allow you to earn passive income for a long time after going to the market;
- Can be a fast enough way to make money;
- High margins can bring a large return on the effort invested because of the ease of replication.
- It can be difficult to convince potential customers that they can get value from your informational products;
- Creating info products may require some time and effort;
- Marketing and advertising costs may be required to promote info products.
Starting an online business doesn't have to be tedious. Take things one step at a time. First, research the eCommerce niche and identify products in demand. Then determine your business model and implementation strategy.
After that, start building your online business. Choose an eCommerce platform, customize its design, and add products to your catalog. Focus on attracting traffic to your online store.
Once your business is up and running, make sure you collect as much data as possible. Analyze that data to understand better what's working and what's not. Change your business strategy accordingly.
While you can quickly see the results of your marketing efforts, the reality is that marketing, especially the type that produces long-term results and recommendations, takes time. You are competing in an increasingly crowded and noisy marketplace. The better you can tap into your ideal market and build a relationship with it, the better the results. If you offer a great product or service and are attentive to your customers, they will leave positive feedback, which will help you stand out from the crowd.
The most effective ways to promote your business, whether you have no or limited budget, remain the following channels:
- Search engines (Google Search and Maps, etc.);
- Social media channels (including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest);
- Online directory listings (there's more to it than you think);
- Your local community (events, sponsorships, and press);
What part of your online marketing strategy you should implement and what elements of online marketing services you use depends on the nature of your business, budget, time, and goals. Many small business owners do everything on their own at the start. However, as their business grows, they begin to realize that your efforts and knowledge are not enough to get ahead of their competitors.
Don't worry that you don't know everything about eCommerce. No one does everything at once - we all learn as we go!
You don't necessarily need "marketing" as a business function to launch an online marketing business, but you will have to invest in some advertising activities during the launch. Unless you're launching with a previously acquired audience (such as your social media fans or blog readers). A strategic launch marketing campaign will pay for itself in a matter of months.
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