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It’s true — the advent of the internet has indeed revolutionalized the way we look at entrepreneurship. Bricks-and-mortar types of businesses are becoming increasingly obsolete. And so, for aspiring entrepreneurs, going all-out on digital is the logical step forward.
Unfortunately, the internet is no exception to the rife competition that comes with an entrepreneurial state of mind. In fact, the thought of acquiring a global client base with negligible startup costs is so alluring that almost every other person you meet today is a proud ‘internet entrepreneur’. That’s fake entrepreneurship. In reality, most of them view online entrepreneurship as a ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme without putting in much effort, and hence, don’t last long.
And this is great news for the serious ones who truly wish to run a sustainable and meaningful business that adds real value to their customers’ lives, ultimately transforming their business into a cherished brand.
So, if out of the two, you are of the latter sort, then below are five crucial pointers for you to keep in mind when starting down the path of online entrepreneurship.
If you haven’t already, the first thing you need to do is niche down. That is, be crystal clear on what market you want to cater to with your business and who your ideal target customer is.
When starting out, it is highly advisable to have a laser-targeted focus on a single customer pain-point than to set an extremely generic (and frankly, oversaturated) niche like ‘health’ or ‘finance’ as your primary focus. And this should go without saying, but have you defined what sets you apart from your competitors (your USP)?
Once you do just that, it is time to set goals. While most people would tell you to set “more realistic” goals, doing so might truly hurt your chances of succeeding. As a matter of fact, the hackneyed quote by Norman Vincent Peale: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” is actually what you need to swear by.
Think about it this way ― it is better to aim high and fall short than to aim small, achieve it, and then rest on your laurels. In the former case, you are likely to achieve more because you know you’ll have to push yourself to the limits to get there, and so you’ll work harder. Whereas in the latter case, you’ll tend to take it easy, which is not how one succeeds in the unforgiving world of entrepreneurship.
If you think you can do it all by yourself, then you’re mistaken. Doing so will stall your business growth. Sure, if your online escapade comprises dropshipping drones or freelancing, by all means, go ahead solo.
But, if your internet venture is based on a ground-breaking idea to solve a relatively big problem, having one or more co-founders or business partners to complement your abilities is surely a good idea.
Besides, when it comes to the actual execution of your business idea, you need to have a growth-driven mindset. Consider outsourcing work that does not directly impact your business’s growth, such as day-to-day back-office tasks.
Entrepreneurship has long seen outsourcing as a strategy reserved for big business, but technology has made it a more accessible tactic for up-and-coming internet enterprises. In essence, technology has facilitated improved connectivity, so now you have the ability to assign tedious work to qualified professionals who can get it done from anywhere in the world.
For many small internet startups, outsourcing has had a powerful positive impact on growth, productivity, and bottom lines.
Once you’ve got the foundations right, it is time to start spreading the word. Every business, online or offline, requires a constant influx of customers to keep going.
But for that to happen, your prospective customers first need to know that you exist. Hence, marketing. Specifically, for internet-based businesses, digital marketing is pivotal. Here are a few spheres of this broad field:
- Content marketing: Having a blog on your business website is an absolute must today. Consistently producing fresh and informative content on your blog will not only help you attain higher search rankings on Google but also help you win the trust of your audience.
- Social media: Leverage as many social media platforms as possible to generate brand awareness. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube are the most popular platforms. Depending on your industry, take your pick and aim to have an authoritative presence on those channels.
- Paid promotions: Setting aside some budget for paid promotions is always a good idea. With Pay-per-click advertising on Google (or any social channel), you can create highly targeted promotions to be shown only to your desired audience which will help you gain initial traction in terms of qualified leads.
By using a combination of these, you can outshine your competition and drive higher traffic to your website which will result in more leads and ultimately, more customers.
Measuring the performance of all your efforts is just as important as putting in all the hard work in the first place. Fortunately, tracking success for online businesses is relatively simple if you know what you’re doing.
Typically, it involves setting up Google Analytics (or a tool of your choice) to track visitors and their behavior, sales and conversions, and other key performance indicators (KPIs). Moreover, regular performance tracking gives you a chance to tailor your strategy in accordance with the current demands of your customers.
Additionally, earning the trust of customers is one of the most important factors for successful internet entrepreneurship. According to these statistics by G2 Crowd, 84% of people trust reviews they read online as much as personal recommendations. What’s more, 72% of B2B buyers say negative reviews give depth and insight into a product.
Thus, getting positive online reviews can make all the difference for your internet startup.
Above all, being successful in any business venture requires patience, steady hard work, and the ability to keep a level head. Even if you are not achieving your goals today, do whatever it takes to stay motivated and keep at it. Remember, it is a marathon, not a sprint.
The path to achieving big results is paved with simplicity. Steve Jobs once said, “That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
The more complicated things are, the more overwhelmed you’ll feel. So, always strive to follow the KISS principle (used in software design), which is to keep things as simple as possible and avoid unnecessary complexity.
About the author:
Shyamal is the Founder of SmartTask, an online work management tool that’s helping teams be more productive by having clarity on who’s doing what by when. Has a penchant for researching and sharing strategies that could benefit a team’s productivity.