How To Start An Online Business And The Benefits Of It?
If You Are Ready To Take The Plunge But Don’t Know How To Dig Yourself Out Of The Hole
By Anam Tahir | October 13th ‘ 2016
When I took the plunge in the online business world I had no idea what it is and how it is done. In fact my entry into the digital world was nothing but a pure accident of a mouse click.
As it was not a deliberate decision to enter this world, it took me longer than my other fellow members of the company that I am an affiliate for, to get out of my employee mindset and dig myself into the process of building an online business.
The deep understanding of business practices comes only through execution and not information collection – a fact that I took so long to understand. Nobody can actually teach you how to do business until you actually step out of your comfort zone and DO it! But you can always learn from others.
Before you dig yourself into the hole it’s very important to know where to step and how to find your way through the tunnel.
The Reality of Starting an Online Business
Ever since I took the plunge into the online business world, I have come across two kinds of people:
1. The ones who are ready to do whatever it takes to make their online business a success and are patient enough for the results to show up.
They are very keen on learning new skills and get the right education that makes them self-sufficient and not-vulnerable to the changing circumstances because they have put in the effort on themselves and learned new skills that they can leverage whatever come may.
2. The ones in search of quick fixes and short cuts. They look for get-rich-quick schemes and look at the potential customers as their ATM machines. They are the ones who enter the online business with unrealistic expectations.
The second ones loose the game in the long-run.
Hence, as your guide in your entrepreneurial journey it is my duty to show you the real side of the picture.
You’ll start earning money within days of starting it.
You’ll become a millionaire within x number of days or y number of weeks.
You won’t have to do the hard work.
You’ll work just a couple of hours each day and build a multiple six figure business.
You can earn tens of thousands of dollars just by spending a few bucks on advertising.
You’ll crush your competitors the day you enter the industry.
You will NOT become a millionaire overnight. But yes, you totally can become a huge success in the long-run over a sustained period of time. But keep in mind that it will take months of consistent hard work, perseverance and patience.
You can start earning from as little as $1000 up to $10,000 a month within two to three months of starting out if you take action consistently and apply what you learn readily.
You can scale up your current income by nx even if you work on your online business part time. If you work on your online business for a few hours, let’s say two or three hours each day after your day job, you totally can increase your current disposable income given that you follow the right strategies as per your niche.
You can work at your own time.
You can earn money even while you’re not physically doing the work because people will buy the products that you’ve already created and the system is working for you on auto-pilot.
There are no short cuts to success. Success takes time, patience and tons of hard work.
Today, I’ll walk you through the map of an online business so that you have a good understanding of the process before you take the plunge and once you do, you exactly know what is the next right move.
But before I dive into the nine steps to starting a successful online business, I want to share something with you that will literally bring a key turn in your business. And that is:
Get Grounded. Step Zero point O.
The best businesses are governed by one policy, one strategy.
The foremost thing that you need to understand is that the key to success of any business on the face of this Earth lies in providing value to other people.
I don’t care if you’re an employee at a local firm, a real estate agent or a manager at a super store, if you want to build a business on your talents and passion you’ve got to give value to people first.
By giving value I mean giving your customers the services that you’re not bound to give as a rule but you’re giving them simply because you care for them.
Treat your customers like humans and not as robots or your ATM cards. Treat them like you want people to treat you.
These are the very basics of any business. And if this CARING for people doesn’t run in the blood of your business then stop reading this right now and don’t even think for a moment that you’ll be the next success story.
You have to provide them value first without expecting anything in return. First give and then you should ‘ask’ them to buy from you.
As Gary Vaynerchuk says,
“Give. Give. Give. Ask, not take. Give so much value to people that you guilt them into buying from you.”
Only when you think from your heart, can you get people’s emotions involved and they’ll buy from you without you having to go after them and push them into buying form you.
Remember, people always buy things because their emotions are involved in it. Not because of some technical, logical reason.
So the key to growing your business is to earn a place in their hearts by involving their emotions, their pain points with your products and telling them why and how it will solve their problems.
And a Digital Business is No Exception.
STEPS TO STARTING AN ONLINE BUSINESS
– Your Blueprint To Success
Why have a blueprint?
Building your digital life is metaphorically similar to constructing a building.
There is a specific sequence of events that leads to the final building designs of the engineers. In many cases, it takes almost as long to complete the preparations and foundation as it does to erect the building. Without a strong foundation and proper preparation, without all the services and utilities in place, you can’t even think about shingling the roof let alone opening for business.
Building a successful digital business in no different.
The reason the majority of the first time entrepreneurs fail (about 82%) is because they don’t follow a proven business plan.
Success is never a guarantee, however, failure is imminent if you don’t properly position yourself, establish a solid foundation and do the required work for success.
I have mapped out the process of building an online business into nine major steps.
(Every step will be taken care of to depths and you will be taken into the layers of the process. Just hang in tight to the series of blog posts.)
So let’s begin the journey!
STEP 1. PERSONAL EVALUATION
Part A. Self-Awareness
“Most of you are not winning because you’re not working hard enough and you’re not working hard enough not because you’re not capable but because you don’t love it. And nobody likes to do what he or she doesn’t love. Do what you truly really love.” – Gary Vee
Like any game, before you begin your business, you must first know the rules of the game if you want to win it.
And The First Rule to success is to Know Who You Are Deep Down Inside.
Find out what is your talent, the one thing that you know in your gut that you were born to do and turn that into your biggest strength.
EACH one of us has That One Thing that is Our Thing.
I have a firm belief that everything begins with YOU. When you start out your business, knowing who you are is not just vital – it’s critical if you want to be successful!
Forget about all those 99.9% of the things that you suck at.
Focus on That One Thing that you’re good at!
Part B. Setting Goals & Reverse Engineering Your Goals
According to Gary Vaynerchuk most of the people fail in their businesses not because they can’t do it but because they fail in reverse engineering their goals.
Decide what you want and where you want go, and then reverse engineer it.
Reverse engineering is mapping out the steps that you must take to get to your end goal. And then start working on it.
But it’s very important that you start executing. Put that plan into action and do not let fears stop you from taking action.
Entrepreneurship is all about doing and not waiting for things to be perfect. Fear of execution is the deadliest illness that will eat up your business.
STEP 2. MARKET RESEARCH
Identifying Your Niche’s Problems and Building Your Ideal Customer Avatar
Success of a business is measured by the size of its profits. A business person is always a price maker, not taker.
The first thing when you start out your business is to focus on bringing in cash and the only way you can do that is by making sales.
Now the biggest mistake that the far majority of start-up entrepreneurs do, which leads to their failure, is that they build the product first and then try to sell it.
Sell Before You Make It
Always and I mean always, first sell the product and then make it.
Sounds crazy? Let me explain it.
This concept was first introduced by Toyota. It stems from the fact that in order to get great results in your business you must be able to sell your product to as many people as possible.
BUT What if nobody wants to buy your product?
The answer is first find the people who need the product that you have to offer and then produce exactly what they need and then sell it to them.
Never ever first make the product and then try to sell to people by convincing them that your product is the right fit for them. Instead, go the other way round.
This pops up the two highly critical but highly ignored questions:
- How to identify your niche’s problems?
- How to know who your ideal customer is?
These were the two questions that cost me a lot – in terms of both, time and money. Not because it’s very expensive to figure that out but because there was no one to tell me how to figure that out.
The HOW is the underlined key word in this whole customer-finding puzzle. If you don’t know how and where to find them, then how the hell on Earth are you going to create a product that meets their needs.
Identify You Target Audience
Figure out the places where the people in your niche, hangout. Look for the online forums, platforms, social media places where they spend most of their time and then see what problems they are discussing. This will help you define your target audience.
Define You Ideal Customer – Sketching Your Ideal Customer Avatar
Once you know what the problems of your target audience is, map out the basic characteristics of That One Person who you want to sell your product to.
Defining your Ideal Customer helps you a lot in designing your product and creating content that will attract exactly the right kind of people who you want to sell your product to and not just any body.
If you’re marketing to everyone, you’re marketing to no one.
Create the Need
Now once you know who you want to sell your product to, your next job is to create awareness among those people so they are ready to buy the product from you as soon as you create and promote it.
Start out by asking people in your niche what they are suffering from, what their problems are and then start working on creating solution for those problems.
Once you do that you’ll never ever have to do the convincing part. You won’t have to convince others that how good your product is.
All you’ll need to do is create awareness among them that your product is the answer to their problem.
You must be thinking, what’s the difference between convincing and creating awareness. Well, they are quite the opposites actually.
Convincing is push selling aka interruption marketing. Creating awareness is pull selling aka attraction marketing.
And once you’re crystal clear on what the people in your niche are looking for, that’s the point where your product becomes a hit even before you have actually created it.
STEP 3. CREATING/ CHOOSING THE RIGHT PRODUCTS
Part A. Creating the Right Product Mix – A Well Integrated Product Suite
Once you know who your customer is, this is the next most crucial step before you start building your products.
This is the phase where we talk about Sales Funnel.
What is a Sales Funnel?
In simple words, sales funnel is a model of marketing your product mix.
All the products in a given sales funnel are inter-related and every next level product is the advanced version of the previous one.
The top of the funnel starts from a free or very low cost no-brainer product to attract as many people and then gradually moves them forward towards the bottom offering higher priced products.
The end of the funnel is marked with the most expensive product.
Why the name Funnel?
Because as you move people from top to bottom, the number of buyers decrease.
In other words when you rank the products on the basis of the number of buyers and then represent it in the form of a shape or an image it looks like a funnel as you can see below.
The free product marks the top of the funnel as it attracts the maximum number of people and as your product offers upgrade, they become more expensive gradually and hence the number of people buying your upgraded products decreases. The end product has the minimum number of buyers as it is the most expensive product.
Designing the most effective sales funnel is very critical in digital business.
So to maximize your profits you should have a well-designed sales funnel and have a well-integrated product suite.
Part B. Choosing the Right Business Model
Affiliate Marketing Business Model
What if you don’t have the resources in terms of both time and money to create your own products?
What if you find that process very stressful?
So if you want to skip the phase of building up your own kick ass products, should you not dive into the digital world and avail the opportunities?
Of course NO! You totally can!
And that’s where the Affiliate Marketing business model jumps in.
Affiliate Marketing is a way of earning money by promoting other company’s products.
If you become an affiliate of a company, you earn a certain percentage of the sales revenue, called commission, if the person you referred to the company buys the product that you are promoting.
The advantages of having an online affiliate marketing business are the same as the benefits of having a digital business (as explained in my previous post) because online-affiliate-marketing-business model is a subset of digital business.
It is one of the many types of digital businesses that exist.
BENEFITS OF AFFILIATE MARKETING BUSINESS MODEL
You don’t have to go through the stress of creating products.
You don’t have to bear the cost of product creation. Of course there are costs associated with marketing, but that costs are very low as compared to the cost of creating your own products.
You can start promoting the products and earning money as soon as you become an affiliate depending on your marketing skills and the time and effort you put into your work.
The time span for you to start generating income reduces remarkably.
You don’t have to do any selling. All you have to do is promote the products using any marketing strategy of your choice.
No pre-sale and after-sales customer services is required. Your only job is marketing and bringing in as many people into that company’s sales funnel. That’s it.
As soon as anybody will buy the company’s product, you will earn your commission and if that person moves down the sales funnel (that is, purchases the upgraded products) your commission earned will increase as well.
Now, before we move on, I want to burst some myths around affiliate marketing.
Affiliate Marketing has suffered at the hands of MLM (abbreviation for Multi Level Marketing). Many people still mistakenly think of affiliate marketing as an MLM. In an MLM the company’s sales force not only gets the commission for its sales but for the sales of the other sales people that they recruit.
Most companies, like SFM, do not try to fleece the affiliates. In fact they introduce affiliate marketing into their business model because they need affiliates to promote their company and scale up their business.
And certainly there’s nothing shady about getting paid a commission for connecting a company with a new customer.
So if any person tells you that affiliate marketing is not the right thing, please don’t buy into it.
Today almost every business that has digital products have affiliate links for their products, a typical example is Amazon. But affiliate marketing for Amazon products is Low Ticket Affiliate Marketing.
If you want to make it big in the online world then go for High Ticket Affiliate Marketing.
We’ll go into details later on in the blog series.
STEP 4. BUILDING A WEBSITE
A website is a place where you build your personal brand.
It is like your online real estate, your store front where people can come and not just have a look at what you have to offer them but meet you, get to know you and connect with you.
Your website is a place where you can show case the products that you have to offer. They can be your own products or the products of another company that you are an affiliate for.
A website enables you to put up content that gives people value to attract them to do business with you.
Having a website is a must in today’s world. As I said earlier, your website is your personal brand and personal branding is a must in the times that we live in to earn people’s trust.
Luckily you have grown up to be in an age where it’s totally possible to build a website with just a few clicks! Thanks to the awesome online tools that you have today that not just allow you to build beautiful websites through mere drag and drop but are dirt cheap!
STEP 5. LIST BUILDING
There are five key concepts that must be mastered when it comes to list building.
Part A. Collecting leads
Part B. Growing your list of leads
Part C. Collecting Leads through Landing Pages
List Building is simply a collection of email addresses of people who are interested in getting more information from you.
When people go to your website, you ask them to give their email address in exchange of some valuable piece of information for free. If they like your content and are interested in your free offer, they will give their email address to you to get access to that piece of content.
That person is called a subscriber or a”lead” in pure marketing terminology. And a collection of ‘leads’ is called list and the process of collecting email addresses is called list building.
To grow your list or build your list you must have a “Lead Magnet”. The word Lead Magnet itself is quite explanatory of what it stands for.
The idea of a Lead Magnet is to offer something attractive, something of value, to your website visitors for free to be in a position to ask them for their email address. After all nobody wants to give anything without anything in return, right?
That free-valuable product is called a “Lead Magnet”.
Your lead magnet can take many forms. The most common types are: free PDF downloadables (such as reports, case studies, templates, e-books, checklists, cheat sheets), newsletters and video tutorials.
“Growing your list” doesn’t mean that you should target to reach a certain ‘number’ of subscribers.
You should be aiming at growing your list as much as possible but not by means of shady practices such as hiding information from people and making them curious to know what you are offering.
Such leads are called ‘cold’ leads.
If you tempt them into giving their email addresses to you by evoking their curiosity or worst case, buy the list of email addresses from some other person, you’ll never see great results. The number of people converting to customers will be very low because they didn’t opt into your list by taking an informed decision.
Instead you should be telling them about your products and offerings upfront so that their decision is an informed decision.
These are “hot” leads. A ‘hot lead’ is a qualified prospect, that is, a potential customer, as he or she gave you your email address by his or her own content because they were actually interested in your information.
They are termed as ‘hot’ leads as there are great chances that such people will convert into your buyers at one point in time because they already like what you have to offer.
As a good online business person your goal should be to maximize the number of hot leads aka quality leads.
Now, the question pops up,
How to ask people to give their email address?
What is that place on your site where they’ll put their email address?
Answer: Landing Page
You ask people to give their email address on a page called Landing Page. It is also called an Opt-in page.
Part D. Setting Up an Autoresponder
You must be thinking,
Why do you need leads?
The answer is simple: To upsell your products.
The ignorant say, money lies in the list.
Nothing could be more wrong.
Power and money lies in your relationship with the list.
By now you already have a sales funnel designed. But you just can’t push people into buying from you!
That’s just not the right way to do business!
Remember, people do business with people, not with some website or a software.
And people buy from people who they know, like and trust.
So the first and the foremost thing to do as a business person is to build relationship with your visitors and your subscribers.
You must win their trust first, make them like you and have faith in you by giving them insane amount of value for free without asking for anything in return.
Isn’t that how you treat another person when you want him or her to trust you? Correct me if I am wrong.
That’s the strategy that you exactly need to implement in your business.
You’ve got to feed this thing in your mind that doing business on a digital platform doesn’t mean you’re dealing with some money making robots.
I keep reiterating that.
You’re dealing with a human being who’s just like you, with emotions just like you, just sitting on the other side of the screen. Doing a digital business doesn’t imply that you sound like a robot.
And when the other person is on the other side of the screen you have to put in even more effort to make him or her comfortable.
Make that person feel that you respect his or her emotions and that you truly care for their problems and that you really want to help them out.
Now it won’t happen overnight. Building trust takes time. It takes effort. It takes patience. So don’t look for quick results.
So, now that you’ve people who’ve willingly opted in for your information, it’s your turn to give them back. And one way to return them a favor is through your emails.
Through emails you follow-up with those people. The word follow-up simply means ‘staying in touch’.
So in order to stay in touch with them and in order to keep them stay in touch with you, you send them valuable information straight into their inbox.
Once you have gained their trust by sending them information they were looking for, it’s the time for you to ask. Not take, ask.
Now in your emails along with information, you add the links to your products which if they click on they’ll be redirected to your product’s sales page and if they like it they’ll buy it. And that’s when you earn money.
Now, does that mean that you have to send out every single email to every single person every single time someone subscribes?
That’s the beauty of a digital business.
You set it up once and then everything is taken care for you on automation.
You have to write the emails once and they’ll go out to every single person automatically regardless of what time zone they are in. It means that people will be getting emails from you even while you are sleeping or enjoying on the beach or partying with friends or having dinner with family.
That’s the power of automation.
But how and where do you set up your emails for sending out automatically?
That brings us to the next step in our digital business system setup – Setting up your autoresponder.
An autoresponder is simply the software that automates the process of sending emails to your subscribers.
There are many autoresponder tools available online that are very easy to set up once you know how to play with them. Some are very economical while some are a little expensive.
Part E. Building a Thank You Page
This is a page to which your subscribers are redirected after they give you their email address, that is, opt-in.
STEP 6. Writing Copy that Sells
Part A. What is copy and how to write it?
Copy is simply the content that you write with the intention of marketing.
Copy writing not just means writing blog posts. It includes everything from the content of your blog post to the content on your ads to the social media status updates.
Copy writing is very strategic in nature and there are writing hacks to write it effectively.
What is an effective copy – a copy that sells?
A copy that sells is a copy that is structured in a way that captures human emotions just at the right spot at the right time.
It’s very important to realize that when we buy anything it’s not because of some mathematical logical equation.
We buy anything because we are emotional about it.
Look at those pair of shoes that you bought last Christmas.
Did you buy them because of some logic? Or because they looked really sexy on you and you couldn’t keep control on yourself?
So when you’re marketing your product it’s very important that you get your target audience’s emotions involved in it by rightly capturing their emotions and pain points.
Part B. Types of Content
Now, the next step is the content that you produce for your audience. The types of content can vary from writing a blog post to making your own video teaching them how to do it, to infographics to slides, images, animated videos and what not! You name it and you can create it!
STEP 7. GROWTH HACKING
Growth hacking means driving more people to your website.
Now there are many tactics to grow traffic to your website.
Part A. Guest Blogging
You can grow your website traffic by large percentage by writing guest blogs for the influencers in your industry. Influencers are the people who have huge following in your industry. Writing for their websites can significantly increase your credibility.
But it’s not that easy, let me tell you. You have to build relationship with them (which is quite time taking – you have to be very patient) and produce content that meets their requirements and matches their writing style.
But it’s worth it!
Part B. Marketing
Low Cost Marketing Strategies
i) Content marketing
Marketing through creating and distributing quality content consistently over a sustained period of time is called content marketing.
It can be in the form of blog posts, videos, images, anything.
Content marketing is a low cost strategy and is perfect for you if you don’t have enough budget to spend on advertising.
How long it will take you to produce results through content marketing is totally dependent on the quality and frequency of your content produced.
Although it takes longer to produce results and requires patience from you but it is the ultimate strategy if you want to become an influencer in your industry.
ii) Email marketing
This is what we just covered above in Step 5.
Advanced Marketing Strategies – High Cost
This is a paid marketing strategy. There are many variables involved in it and hence it’s categorized as an advanced form of marketing strategy.
- Social Media Ads
This includes placing ads on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc
2. Search Engine Marketing
– Google (AdWords , Adsense)
3. Placing Banners on websites.
It can be your own website or other websites. But placing banners is so 1990! The Click Through Rate (the number of clicks on the banner in a given time) is extremely low today.
4. Traditional Media Ads
This includes paying for your ads to get published on print media like newspapers, billboards and magazines, or running them on radio or TV.
As Gary Vee points out in almost all of his keynote speeches and (YouTube hit) #AskGaryVee Show, Traditional media ads are increasingly becoming ineffective and their ROI is dropping significantly.
The reason is very obvious.
Money is where the eyeballs are. You have to do business where their attention is. And that place is none other than social media platforms and that too on their mobile devices.
The day is not far away when we’ll be living in a mobile ‘only’ world.
People are no longer looking at the billboards while driving. They’re not even looking at the roads! They are looking at their mobile phones.
They no longer read printed magazines or newspaper or watch TV at a particular time. They go through news on their mobile devices. Go through e-books. Watch their TV shows on YouTube.
Do you watch TV because your favorite series go on air on Monday at 8 pm? I am ninety-nine percent sure, No!
You probably binge watch it at your own time in one night on YouTube. Tell me I’m wrong if you’ve never done that.
When marketing always keep in mind that we’re living in a stream economy. If you’re not on their mobile screens you simply do not exist and your business is subject to be doomed.
Observing the reality and becoming a better practitioner determines your game.
iii. Video Marketing
I don’t think I even need to explain the meaning of it.
Video marketing is The Ultimate form of marketing and it has already taken over all the other forms of marketing.
Now I’m not making that up. Data reveals that a staggering 80% of the Facebook newsfeed updates in 2016 so far were in the form of videos.
In the next three to five years if your business is not on videos your business will be a big question mark!
The reason why video has taken the internet by storm is because of the fact that it makes people get to know you, see you which enhances the realtionship building process dramatically.
It increases their trust factor and reduces their fear about buying from you.
STEP 8. UPSELLING
Upselling your products to your existing customers is a must if you want to see a robust increase in your sales.
Data reveals that upselling your products increases your sales by thirty to fifty percent! Whoa!
That’s a huge number!
But what is upselling?
When a person enters your sales funnel by opting into your list, as soon as they enter their email address and click the ‘Get Now’ button you redirect that person to another page called the Thank You page.
This page is basically meant to thank your subscriber (as the name itself says).
But instead of just wasting this golden moment in which your subscriber is pumped up and interested in knowing about your stuff , you immediately grasp their attention and tell them about another product that you have in line for them that will help them further in solving their problem.
The first product that you offer is a low-cost, low-barrier product that eliminates their anxiety of entering their credit card information and spending their money.
Upselling is done for your products that are inter-related and each one of them smoothly paves its way into the other.
This is the point when you realize how important it is to design a well-integrated product suite and to build a well structured Landing Page and Thank You Page.
STEP 9. Testing, Tracking & Scaling Up Your Business
It is very commonly said that if you’re not tracking your results you’re not doing business.
Tracking is basically measuring your results to see if your efforts are producing any results or not.
In order to get great results in your business you must apply the strategies that are working best for your products and target audience.
But in order to know what strategy, what tactics work the best for you, you have to test different variables and elements in your entire marketing campaigns.
Only once you know what’s working best can your duplicate the strategies and invest more in them to scale up your results.
And this puts an end to the nine steps to building a successful online business. Once you have gone through the process from step 1 through 9, after that it’s just rinse and repeat.
Tomorrow we will start off with Step 1 Part A in detail.
Do you have any previous know how of any of the steps discussed above? And was this article helpful to you?
If yes, then let me know in the comments.
And if you liked it and want your friends and family to follow the online-business-building series, please don’t forget to share it with them.
Coming Up Next
Tomorrow you’ll learn about:
- The Science of Success
- Creating your own Blueprint to Success
- Identifying your Why
- Finding your Passion
- Identifying your Strengths – Self-awareness exercises
- Creating a vision for yourself – Thinking in the future
Stay Tuned. Until then, take care. 🙂