If you are thinking about starting an e-commerce business I’m going to guess you have a few questions. What product or service will you be offering? Will you be able to sell it and make a profit? Do you know how to create a business plan or how to get financing? Who is your competition? How will you get access to your customers?
You don’t have to have the answers right now. If you are new to this, how could you possibly know all the answers to those questions, right? The actual start of the business is in development and a big part of that is about asking the questions and then conducting the research to get the answers. For this part of the journey asking questions and doing research are your friends and valuable tools to get you started.
And you can do both from the comfort of your own home!
Doing the right research is a great place to start. Making a list of questions and getting them answered will help you decide if the idea you have is a viable option.
It will also help soothe some of your worries or concerns and empower you with information.
In the world of digital commerce, lack of market research is one of the top reasons online businesses fail (next to lack of profit). That means some people start a business, put time, money and energy into that online business and never think to see who the competition is, what their ideal customer is actually buying or focus on creating a working strategy to capture sales.
No sales means equates to no money coming in, which translates to lack of profit, which is the other top reason so many online businesses fail.
Those that success have a way that they do it. It’s not secret handshake or secret formulas (even though some advertise it as such), whatever strategies they are using are often actually created after collecting valuable information and utilizing the right resources available to them. For example, a young woman I met who sells product on Etsy.com has collected a big Instagram following because she found that is where most of her clients hang out. She finds out what kind of products they like, set up a marketing strategy through that social media platform to offer promotions, sales and special events for her customers. They love it!
This is a business, and the creation of it is actually a creative process. That means, thinking and developing ideas, finding resources, doing research and creating things are part of this process. It also means that things will always be changing.
Change, questions and idea generation are ok!
Things to ask:
#1: Who are you offering your products/services to? And how can you test your product or service with them?
#2: What is their need? What is it they are looking for? Are they small business owners that have a high turnover? Dentists that need help with training staff? Stay-at-home moms that want to lose weight?
“In order for a small business to be successful, it must solve a problem, fulfill a need or offer something the market wants.”
The more specific you narrow your customer base, the easier it will be to target and tailor the right products for them.
#3: How can you get access to your idea customer? Some ways to do this include: networking, radio announcements, speaking engagements, mailings, or advertising on social media. If there are conferences, social groups or forums where prospects are likely to be found, those are other ways to introduce yourself.
#4: Do you need a website? Some professionals have a such a great network they don’t really need a website. For this type of business, it’s more of an after-thought.
Some life coaches, consultants and business coaches, they often have to create the opportunities for find prospective clients.
Industry experts recommend setting up multiple avenues to get referrals from. In other words, different opportunities for clients to find you. The Internet can be a valuable resource, offering you the chance to have your own website, advertise on other business sites, try affiliate marketing, run ads or join forums, to name a few opportunities.
In this way, a website can be a really valuable resource. I spend a lot of time on my website and it’s been totally worth it.
If you’re planning on doing speaking engagements and marketing it by sending out post cards through the US post office, your money might be better spent on those things rather than having a snazzy looking website or paying a 3rd party a monthly fee for some online advertisement that people probably won’t see. Then again, it might be a way to supplement your advertising and add another way for people to find you.
Most people need an online presence for their business, but not everybody does. You can create a website inexpensively just to get it up and running or you can set it up as a platform to advertise your services and other products you will be offering. Some people utilize landing pages instead of having a full website to manage and maintain.
Something to keep in mind: once you create the website, you will have an opportunity to expand your business by offering other things, like books, trainings and programs. It can become a valuable resource for you.
#5. How many customers would you like to have? Weekly? How many sales dollars would you need to break even? Take a salary? How many hours would you like to work every day?
Visualizing what you would like your business to look like, how you will be running it and who will buying from and then setting goals in line with your vision will help you answer these questions and give you an overall picture of your dream business.
#6 Are you open to other sources of income? Even if it’s temporary until your business generates revenue? This could include a “day job” or other ways to make money online.
#7 How you will finance this? This is something to think about before you invest your hard-earned dollars and precious time. Will you be paying for the set-up out-of-pocket? Will you need funding?
To see more options and learn more about this aspect, visit the Small Business Administration website.
#8 How you will set up your business? From naming the business – creating a website name, setting up a Trademark or creating a “DBA”, the name you pick will directly impact which type of business licensing you register for.
For more information on this click here: https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/launch-your-business/pick-your-business-location
#9 What will your advertising campaign be? Online? Mailing? Radio ads, networking? What will your budget be for this?
There are some low-cost ways to start running campaigns, like starting a mailing list for email blasts or a newsletter, utilizing social media like Instagram or running low cost Facebook ads.
#10 How will you manage the financial aspect of your business? Can you create a business plan? How will you manage product inventory? Invoicing? Income? Expenses? Funding? Will you need a P&L statement? Or a forecast?
You don’t have to have all the answers right now, but especially if your intention is to eventually sell your business, setting up a system that is organized can set you up for business success.
#11 How will you connect with customers? By email online? By phone? And how will you handle the customer service aspect? Some type of referral system should be put into place, even if it takes a while to build.
#12 Do you understand the tax and licensing requirements for your business?
For any business, I always recommend having a financial expert, accounting professional and, legal counsel available to help you answer questions and manage these vital areas of business.
Note: Because I am not a legal, financial or marketing professional, even though some of the information within this post has been provided by experts within their field, what is offered in this post are solely suggestions. Please consult with an expert in any area (especially for legal, tax, licensing and financial) that come up.