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Starting an internet based business from the ground up is usually seen as a way to bring money in with few overheads. And it is….for some – not so much for others. To give yourself the very best start online, make sure you've considered these factors:
So you want to sell uber cute baby clothes? Be careful, there are a lot of people selling them – what can you offer that nobody else is doing and is there a big enough market for it to make you some moola? If you can't afford a market research company (who can?) you can create your own survey at Survey Monkey to gauge what your audience wants. Use social media like Facebook, forums like Flying Solo and anywhere new mums hang out to collect a solid number of responses (minimum should be 100). It might not give you a definitive answer but it should narrow the scope for you.
Become a Facebook fan or Twitter Follower or Google+...Circler of your soon-to-be competitors. Check out promotions that work for them, products that sell well, items that bomb and what they do that you could do better. Get involved with the chat check out the pages that their likers like and get a feel for what your future clientele wants. Just remember to be ethical, don’t try to steal customers or harm their business in anyway.
So, if this is going to be an online business, it stands to reason that most of your clients will find you through Google. Get familiar with the Google Adwords Tool . Switch it to "exact match" mode (and ignore the competition score) and start searching for terms that you think your customers will search for. Put competitor's web addresses into the URL box and see what terms their website marketing targets. If there are only a few searches that are relevant to your new business and a lot of competitors, you might find it hard to make money (unless you sell a unique item for tens of thousands of dollars per unit). Take note of these keywords, you'll need them for your website.
4. Figure out how hard it's going to be
Use SEOMoz to see who is linking to your competitors and how strong their sites are. Check their stats – as a general rule, anything over about 35/30/100/150 is going to take some DIY SEO (or even paid) to beat, how far will you be down the Google list? It's WAY more complicated than that but if all the sites that rank on the first three pages of Google have 60/50/300/5000 stats, you'll need a pretty hefty SEO budget for your new business. There may be ways around it with expert keywording but you'll likely need to hire an SEO copywriter to help.
What's in a name?
Sure, you want to call your new business the first three letters of everyone in your family but Karpetpopjac is hard to remember, not very branded and worthless as far as SEO goes. You have two options – go for brand or go for SEO – if you can do both, huzzah!
Exact Match Keyword Advantage: There's talk that Google will wipe this out soon but for now, this is a good way to get to the top of the search results for your keyword. Find a great keyword and then register it as your web address (URL). You can call your business "Cute-T-Boutique" (probably not, it's probably taken) and still have the website www.buycutetshirts.com (again, probably not) – the name of your business doesn't need to match your URL. All you need to do is register everything.
Register both the website and the business name with Fair Trading.
Register the business name for an ABN and "trade as" your website name (get advice on how to set up your business from your accountant)
Register the .com, .com.au and .net versions of both (it's about $12 a year each) to avoid future problems
Put a 301 redirect in place to send visitors from your brand name website to your keyword website (this is super easy even if you're DIYing your website).
Brand development baby
If you're entering a competitive niche (like baby clothes for example) you'll need to REALLY stand out amongst competitors. Pick a strong branding position that is completely unique. If everyone else is doing pink owls and fighting for every sale (usually through cut throat pricing that helps nobody) go something completely different that stands out and tell the world why exactly you're different. Maybe you'll be better quality, all for boys, the ironic and funny mummy, the honest, under the pump mum with the practical solutions to life's frustrating spills and messes…. In short, be something desirable and be the hell out of it!
No point promising fast delivery if you have three pre-school aged kidliwinks messing with your day! Figure out how you're going to find the time/money/resources to pull it off and put a few good practices into place. Find a space away from noise, distraction and grotty little hands. Consider time saving tricks like quoting templates, filing systems and the like. Then, do (at least a basic) business plan. Find the government supplied business plan template here.
Get help and advice
We luckily live in a country that has tons of free services for those who fit the criteria. If you fit the NEIS criteria – do it! Free small business certificate IV, a business plan mentor and a year's worth of income supplement! Visit DEEWR (department of something long and forgettable) and the Smartlicence in your state for advice on your legal and taxation requirements, for mentoring, free and cheap seminars, training, networking events and resources. In addition to government services, speak to an accountant or financial advisor about how much you can afford to spend and how much you need to make to keep the family budget on schedule.
Here's the plain truth, social media marketing is free any website worth having costs money. If you're targeting grocery buyers (women aged 25 – 49) go facebook first. If you're going after the kids, go Twitter and Facebook, if you're going after business to business clients, go Linked In and Facebook, all free, all great places to generate leads and all ideal for testing your brand out. That's the thing, you'll eventually want to invest in a professional looking website, testing your brand out on social media gives you a chance to refine it, target it to your market better, get to know who buys and who doesn't, understand your industry better…..all the things that a start up needs to know BEFORE dropping a wad of cash on a website.
Choose your website well
There are a lot of factors that make up a good website, stay tuned for a full assessment of each option, but in short:
Free Builders: We do not recommend Weebly, Wix or other, similar products. Some perform badly in search engines, many have TERRIBLE on page optimisation and some just steal all your hard work. Just don't.
Wordpress and Blogger: We recommend Wordpress for building and paying for hosting! That means that your website will be www.yourwebsitename.com not www.yourwebsitename.wordpress.com. If you don't pay that monthly hosting fee (from as little as $5 per month at a cheap and cheerful web hosting place like Crazy Domains) all your hard work goes towards improving Wordpress's SEO! Choose a good template from a reputable seller. We have used Elegant Themes before and have had good results. You may need help with the "c panel" work – which is the more hardcore stuff like setting the site up and then uploading it to your host's server. This will cost you between $100 and $200 with a local web designer. From there, the Wordpress CMS (content management system, how you add stuff to your website) is easy to use and generally pretty good.
Template Sites: These are the "affordable" end of professional web design. A good template website will be designed by a professional designer, will look great, be completely customisable to your branding, give you access to all on page SEO elements (title tags, H tags, alt text, Webmaster Tools etc) and for all intents and purposes appear to be a bespoke, expensive website…..for a grand or two. This is a good option on a budget and also good if you are…. "technologically challenged" as a good template designer will provide phone support too. So, what's the catch? Because you're using their template, you're using code that you can't just take away. You have to stay with them! So don't choose anywhere that has a bad reputation for unreliable hosting, or over priced hosting. Anything more than about $60 per month for a basic site is to be avoided. For this, you should get back ups, security and some basic admin services. Be cautious also if there are only a few designs on offer and customisation is limited, as these could be used widely and you could end up with the same site as a competitor. Of course, always Google the provider for reputation too, you don't want any dodgy built in code…..
Bespoke Sites: So beautiful, so EXACTLY as you want it, so ideal in everyway…so much more than the deposit you put down on your house. A beautifully designed and built website by a professional web designer who knows their stuff (it's not just putting pretty pictures together, there's a lot of strategy in there) will cost you….the length of a piece of string if a piece of the cheapest string was $5000. Maybe stick with the template until you're rolling around naked in your piles of money – or at least until the kids leave home.
Fall in love with it.
Be dedicated to building your internet based business, nurturing relationships, watching your stats, working very hard and being passionate. That's the best start to any business; the big challenge is sustaining it. Starting an online business can be the best thing that ever happened to you and your family, if you lay the foundations to succeed. Good luck.
Ask Talk About Creative about Online Marketing packages to help you market your new enterprise. A Talk About Creative web copywriter can also help with internet based business branding strategy SEO and social media strategy.
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