Establishing Your First Online Business: A Guide to Online Success

You have decided to finally take the plunge and start your first online business. Congratulations are in order! It is certainly a big step to commit to starting a business, one that comes after many decisions made and research done. Once you have made this commitment to start your first online business and put in some work initially to get it off the ground, you do not want it to go forth only to fail. You have to provide it with the things it needs to flourish.

Your business needs its own brand. It needs a brand that will be distinguishable and remembered by those who come into contact with it. Establish your online business by building its brand identity and by producing quality content that engages the online community.

Identify your target market

In order to reach the right audience and keep the loyal following of that audience, you need to first identify the target market for your business. Without narrowing the focus of your online branding efforts, your business will miss its opportunities to cater to a certain public, and thereby to connect with it and promote consumer engagement.

To properly identify the target market for your first online business, you will need to conduct market research. This market research can be either in the primary or secondary form, each of which is explained below. In your research, you will first identify who your target market is. See if they are primarily made up of men or women, what age range they fall into, where they live, what their approximate yearly income is, etcetera. Then, you will be able to go on to learn more about who they really are as consumers as well.

Primary research

Any research that is done by way of your business collecting original data for it to use and analyze would be considered primary research. You could conduct a focus group, or distribute a survey, or do one-on-one interviews. All of these methods allow your business to learn about its audience through connecting with the public and making their thoughts and concerns heard. On top of that, through your business’s primary research, its audience members begin to establish a brand identity for your business in their minds through their interactions with you.

  • Focus groups: A focus group can be viewed by your business as an opportunity to collect the information you would in surveys, but more in-depth and with face-to-face interaction with consumers. Plus, in addition to the consumers simply sharing their own thoughts pertaining to your brand and its industry, they can also connect with the other consumers that are in the focus group with them. Connections your brand’s followers make with one another lead to a stronger community engaged with your business.
  • Surveys: With a survey, your online business is able to collect information about its audience directly from the members of the audience themselves. They can be easily administered remotely to consumers online, giving your business a low-cost method of conducting research that leads to the collection of valuable data. You can encourage people to take your business’s survey by promoting it on social media or including it in your email marketing. Give an an incentive to take it also, by offering something like a discount code or a free ebook to those who choose to participate.
  • One-on-one interviews: In interviewing an individual who has interacted with your online business, you can present the individual with the opportunity to really communicate any feedback they have for your business. They get to do so in a way that they know is legitimate and that your business gets to make a connection with a face from its target market.

You could ask 1 in every 100 (or whichever number you choose) visitors to your site or recipients of your email newsletter to partake in an interview. The interviewee gets the chance to feel heard by your brand and your brand gets the chance to obtain valuable consumer insight.

Secondary research

When your business uses and analyzes data from research that has already been done by an outside party, it is conducting secondary research. Take what other organizations or businesses have already learned about the industry and/or your competitors and use it to your advantage. As opposed to primary research where your business is doing the entire research process beginning to end on its own, secondary research is taking what has already been gathered by market research firms or government agencies or other companies and using it to form your own conclusions.

The primary and/or secondary research your business does to identify its target market can also be used to get more details about who the people within it are as individuals and not just as statistics. With the questions you ask people (be it in a focus group, survey, or interview), your business can learn more than simply their demographics. Ask questions that teach you more about the likes and dislikes they have (that are relevant to your business) and about their consumer habits. In learning as much as your business can about what its target market is looking for in the products and services it buys and what it expects from a company, your online business can cater to the present wants and needs.

Register a memorable, brandable domain name

The domain name that you choose for your online business’s website will often be the first form of interaction that an individual has with your brand. The domain name you choose for your site is therefore highly important in establishing your new online business. When someone sees your business site’s domain name, they should automatically begin to develop an idea as to what your business is all about and what it has to offer them.

Your domain name should also encourage everyone to remember your brand whenever they see it printed somewhere, or type it into their web browser, or pass it along to a friend. To help your domain name’s likelihood of achieving these things for your brand, it must follow a few rules.

  1. Make it concise. Keep your domain name short and sweet. By keeping it to no more than about four words, you are helping its chances of being typed into web browsers correctly and verbally shared without error.
  2. Avoid using hyphens or numbers. When a domain name has hyphens, people often put them in the wrong place or forget to include them altogether. With numbers, people are sometimes left unsure as to whether they are meant to be spelled out or left in their numeric form. Ensure your audience gets to your site and not the site of someone else by not using hyphens or numbers in its domain name.
  3. Have it relate to your brand. It is helpful to use your brand in your business website’s domain name. This of course helps them to develop a more deeply-rooted memory of your brand when they encounter your domain name and also helps your site to be found when people conduct their navigational searches online.

Have an awesome logo

The logo for your online business has to help your brand set itself apart from its competition and be known by anyone who sees it. There is no logo template that exists to manufacture a “one size fits all” logo. The best logo for your particular business will depend upon factors such as its industry, its primary audience, and its general identity as a brand. However, there are certain elements that the logo of every business should have to make it good.

Your online business logo needs to help the brand communicate its desired message to the public. It should provide at least a hint of what your brand is all about, through a design feature (like the arrow/smile in Amazon’s logo that can be interpreted as a representation of both its speedy deliveries and friendly customer service) or an actual image representation of what the business does (like the coffee cup in the logo for Dunkin Donuts). Include the right choice of color and font, as well as the ability to be versatile in how and where it is used to represent your brand.

The overarching purpose of a logo is to serve as a visual representation of your business in various digital and printed locations. Therefore, the logo for your online business must set itself apart from its competitors by not containing similar colors or typefaces. Also, it must carry well across the multiple places where it is used. It needs to look just as good on the homepage of your website as it does set as the profile picture for your business Facebook page.

Provide quality content

When creating content for your business’s online presence, focus on making it what will engage its audience. By posting and sharing things that simple get scrolled over and left unseen and unread, your business is missing out on chances to have more people make connections with it. Your content must be both interesting to your target market and what is relevant to your brand.

Use visuals

Visual elements like images and infographics tend to garner more attention than words-only content. (Visual content also helps your site to get more shares and inbound links, and Google weighs the amount of inbound links to your site heavily when determining its search ranking.) Work to include visual elements in any of the content that is produced by your online business.

Get shares on social media

The more your content is shared across social media channels, the more exposure your brand receives. The more exposure your brand receives, the better the SEO of your online business will be.

Provide value

Whatever type of content your online business chooses to create and share needs to provide value. It has to prove useful to its audience in some way, be it informational, or entertaining, or something new to the market. A sure way to make your site uncredible (both in the eyes of those who visit it and the eyes of Google rankings) is by having its content be riddled with errors and lacking originality and expertise.

Develop a content marketing strategy

The main goals your online business needs to have for its content marketing efforts are to build the public’s awareness of your brand and to convert views to customers. Gain the attention and trust of your audience by providing them with knowledge on a subject of interest and/or answers to the questions that they have. Have a way to capture valuable contact information for those who interact with your brand’s content marketing. For example, you could include the option to subscribe to your business’s email list and thereby get consumers’ email addresses, giving you the ability in the future to market directly to their inbox.

The forms in which your business could choose to tackle content marketing vary. You could utilize an email newsletter, your brand’s social media channels, or even use a blog run by your business. The content marketing efforts of your business can pay off in a big way. Your content can increase traffic to your site, improve its rankings with search engine sites, generate sales leads, and overall promote brand recognition and recollection.

Establishing your first online business is done by creating its brand identity and by engaging its target market. Ensure that your are setting your business up for success by being authentic and by developing and sharing content of the highest quality.

  • Elise Dopson is a freelance writer and blogger. She shares tips on how start, market and run a successful freelance business on her blog. 📧 Contact: elise@newsanyway.com

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