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Gear up your online business strategy
There’s a multitude of opportunities in the world of online business. And where there’s loads of opportunity, there’s also bound to be competition.
Not to worry though, that’s why you’re here – to lay a foundation with a firm strategy that’ll help you get prepped and geared up for success. So, let’s get into it!
Strategy is for direction and success
Trying to reach your business goals without a strategy is like trying to get to a destination you’ve never been to without a navigation system. No business, online or offline, would successfully reach its business goals without a strategy.
Why? Because a business strategy is a clear set of plans, actions, and goals that outline how a business will compete in a particular market. It’s the GPS to get to your destination – success!
A business of any size needs a strategy to survive or thrive. So, we’re going to list the elements you need to have in your online business strategy to make starting, running, and growing your online business a success.
But before we go in too deep…
Why is it important to have a strategy for your online business?
- It guides your business progress
- It lays out the vision and mission for a business
- It helps in identifying current and future trends
No two strategies are the same because different businesses exist for different reasons. The great news is, with the right tools, anyone can formulate a strategy.
Are you ready to get started?
Steps you need to follow to create an online business strategy
1. Find a business idea that works
You’re probably thinking, “that’s kind of obvious”. But you’ll be amazed at how many people struggle with this first step of starting a business. Although ideas fly at us at all angles, you need to find an idea that will flourish and grow in the online world.
In an increasingly saturated market, it is difficult to come up with a completely unique idea. That’s okay. The key is to ask questions. And if there’s an already established business out there, ask yourself how you could do things differently to stand out.
We’ve got a whole article dedicated to finding the right business idea, but first, we’re going to get you into the idea brainstorming zone with these questions:
What is your why?
We’re not only creatures of habit, we’re also creatures of reason. There’s a reason behind everything we do. “Why?” is a simple question and its answer solidifies the foundation of any sort of business.
Your why will be the fuel that keeps you going and thus, brings your business idea to life. In the words of Simon Sinek, “Start with why.”
What problem are you solving?
Businesses exist to solve problems. So, ask questions to find out what people need. What’s missing from their world? How can you use the digital realm to reach them and make their lives better and easier?
If there’s competition around already solving the problem, there’s no need for you to chicken out. You could find a way to do it differently or do it better.
Whether it’s an original business idea or one that you’re choosing to improve on, you need to go in knowing you’ll need to do in-depth research.
That’s up next in step two.
What are your skills and strengths?
You don’t need to be a master at everything, but you need to be skilled at a few things.
It’s always good to establish your business idea on your existing skills, hobbies, and passions. Not only will it make it a little easier for you to get your online business off the ground, but it’ll make the process more bearable.
Does your idea work online?
Online businesses are shaping our future. So, aim to find something that’ll work on the internet and also has the potential to expand into something bigger and better than what you can imagine.
Tip in action: Make sure that you’re brainstorming a business name at this stage too. Get your name game on with the 10 Do’s and Don’ts to Finding the Best Business Name Ideas
2. Dig into market research
Okay, you’re at the stage where you believe you’ve found the perfect business idea. Now, it’s time to test it. The only way to test your business idea is through market research.
Market research will assist you in finding suitable customers for your online business. It combines consumer behaviour and economic trends to validate, mitigate risk and improve your business idea.
How to conduct market research
1. Determine your research objective
Before you jump into anything, determine exactly what it is you’re trying to find out and what you need to know about your ideal customer.
2. Develop your research questions
Ask the right questions. This is where outlining your objectives comes in handy. The questions you ask are based on your objectives and the information you’re trying to gather.
For customer research, you'll ask questions about their age, interests, hobbies, where they live, where they shop, and any other information you feel will be necessary to know.
This is an example of questions to ask so you can understand the online business environment:
- Is there a demand for your product or service?
- Where there may be a demand for your product, is the economy stable?
- How many people would buy into what you’re selling?
- What do your customers search for when they’re looking for your product?
- How many similar options are already available to consumers?
- How do your potential customers want to pay for these alternatives?
- What is missing from current competitors?
The sort of questions you’d ask regarding your competitors would be who they are, where they’re popular in the world and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
3. Conducting your research
There are different ways you could conduct your research. The common methods are:
- Online surveys
- Social media polls
- Mailed questionnaires
- Experimental website testing
- Focus groups
Tip in action: Try Twitter Spaces to conduct online focus groups.
We’ve also given you a head start. Our How to Test a Business Idea article has a free market research template to help gain competitive advantage.
3. Figure out your unique value proposition
Online shoppers are spoilt for choice. How will you ensure that they choose your business over others?
By crafting a unique value proposition (UVP), also known as the unique selling proposition (USP). A UVP or USP is a statement that clearly expresses your product or service's distinct selling points to potential customers. Something they can’t easily get from just anyone else.
A lesson from Apple
If you think of Apple as a brand, its value proposition has changed three times. They were “Think Different” from their initial Mac launch, which made sense because they had just entered the market and were innovating.
A couple of years down the line, they released the first iPod and iPhone. The UVP changed to “Tech That Works”. MP3 players and cell phones were already existing in the market, but the proposition insinuated that their technology, above the others, is the one that works.
With personalised technology being a player in our decade. Apple has shifted their UVP to “The experience is the product”. Every new product that Apple has launched stays true to this statement – using an Apple is a personal experience.
Your online business should do the same, evolve with the times and keep to its UVP.
4. Understand your target audience
The key to making a sale is knowing your target audience well. Knowing your audience means understanding what they like, what they spend their time doing, buying behaviour, and what they do online.
Creating buyer personas doesn’t only guide your online business strategy. It also sets the voice and tone for your online store. If you don’t speak the language of your potential buyers, generating sales will be an excruciating process.
To know your target audience, you need to understand their:
Demographics: These are fundamental characteristics of who your customers are. Think about what their profile would look like – from age to location.
Psychographics: This is where you’ll find your insightful information. These questions dig deeper to find out why they do what they do. Like what are your customers’ preferences, habits, and behaviours.
5. Build your website
It’s time to get technical.
If you’re needing a confidence boost to build your website, this article should do – A Beginner’s Guide: How to Build a Website
Nowadays, anyone can build a website. For those eager to trailblaze selling online, it’s as simple as finding a website domain that works for your vision.
Pro tip: Have a business name before going ahead and building your website. The name of your website will be the name of your business. Also, consider double-checking if your website (domain) name hasn’t been used by another online business.
Did you know: 53% of mobile users leave websites in three seconds. So, you have under three seconds to grab someone’s attention. You can do this by:
- Keeping the design simple yet engaging
- Making it easy to read and navigate
- Adding visuals and video
- Having a clear checkout system
- Ensuring your website is user-friendly and mobile-friendly
- Ensuring your website loads in 3 – 5 seconds
6. Create your marketing plan
Once you’ve pinned down your target market and tested the online market waters, you’ll need to develop your marketing plan.
Going into business with no marketing strategy is like shooting in the dark. It’s almost impossible for customers to know and hear, especially online where there isn’t any passing foot traffic to lure new customers into your store.
What channels will you advertise on?
This is when you determine the best online advertising channels that’ll bring in more revenue and grow your online business.
The best channel for your online business will depend on the products or services you offer, your target audience, and other elements.
Here’s a list of channels you could advertise on:
When you’ve chosen your platforms, you can start planning the steps you’ll take to announce your online business and the products you offer.
Pro tip: Build up anticipation to make it exciting.
Who will create your content?
You don’t have to be the one who creates the content, but you do have to be involved in the process of creating it. Do your research. There are many freelancers and agencies ready to lend a helping hand.
Read: Building an A-Grade Social Media Team from the Inside Out
Remember to have a balance between paid media (adverts) and organic content (what people will see when they visit your pages). You’ve got to spend money to make money. In digital marketing, paid media includes pay-per-click (PPC) ads, paid social media ads, and search engine marketing (SEM).
7. Set your business goals
Goals help you focus on the targets you want to strive towards and sustain your business.
Which means they need to be tracked and measured. The excellent part for online businesses is that every platform has a performance and measurement section that you can keep your eyes on.
But, the first thing you’ll want to figure out is what you want to accomplish and when. Don’t be afraid to start your goals broad. After that, you can get specific and granular.
Start by identifying your objectives and key results.
We’ll paint a picture to make it a little clearer.
You have an online store that sells coffee beans.
The objective: To become a South African well-renowned coffee beans company, bigger than Mugg and Bean.
- Have x amount of visitors on your website
- Create a loyal customer base of x amount
- Have a solid and authentic social media presence that reaches your target audience
These are the 10 Things to Put on Your “Start a Business” Checklist
Get set, get strategic, get selling
If you’ve reached this point it means you’re ready to hit accelerate on your journey to strategising. Even better things come when you plan. And remember, whatever your put in is what you’ll get out.
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