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Running Your Own Online Business:Getting Started



So, you are thinking of building your own online business? The idea of running your own business on the Net is a right decision. It will bring you a sense of independence and accomplishment and you will be the boss. Now, you can experience that pride of ownership you have always craved. But you need to understand what it takes to be an online entrepreneur (a netpreneur, that is) and how different it is from doing business offline, even though there are fundamental similarities between the two.

*What Makes Online Business tick? *

Consumers often buy on the Internet for four reasons, which have come to be known as the 4Cs:

Convenience: You can visit a website and order from among thousands of displayed products without going through the hassles of traffic or standing in store checkout lines.

Choice: Consumers can avail themselves of numerous websites for almost any product or service, compare prices and quality levels and pick the right choice.

Customization: Do you remember that e-mail from a book club (to which you subscribed only a few days ago) began with Hi, your first name? Online marketers often target and customize their messages, such that customization of marketing replaces anonymous transactions. Such customization has the potential of growing into more interactive relationships with consumers, which are built over time. Beyond this, consumers also sometimes have the opportunity to customize products, services and experiences for themselves, when they buy on the Net.

Control: Online transactions have been known to give consumers control over the purchase decision process. For instance, you may decide to either click on the yes, sign me on tab on a pop up window, or the No, thanks option and continue with your shopping on the Net. Consumers, like never before, can make purchase decisions on their own terms and conditions.

Add these to the fact that the Internet is all about millions of computers wired to one another across the world with people hunched up in front of monitors, trying to find information or buy something they need most at that time and you have one of the biggest markets ever imagined, at your feet. Again, when you consider the opportunity of receiving instant payment for your products or services on the Net, you may need to ask why you never considered setting up your own online business, all this while. But wait a minute

*You need a Roadmap*

Yes. After all, you wouldnt travel to a city the first time, without preparing yourself with a map to guide you through. Putting a business plan together for your new online venture is not only important, but also necessary.

Not necessarily an expansive hundred page treatise that looks like the 7 Immutable Laws of Evolution, your business plan should be brief, easy to understand and flexible enough to adapt on a day-to-day basis, to the changing culture of the internet.

Remember Intels first business plan was on one page and Sun MicroSystems was just three pages. Your business plan should basically answer the following questions:

Where Am I now? This will include some background on your saleable talent, product or service (e.g. if you know a lot about public speaking, your best bet may be to establish an online business that teaches people, including business executives, how to make effective public speeches). Apart from a checklist of your strengths, you should also consider your weaknesses. If you cannot build your own website, for instance, you may need to hire a Webmaster. Other factors you need to consider here include competition. How many online businesses are selling the kind of product you want to sell, how have they been going about it, how large is the market and how can you differentiate your own offering? Again, what opportunities and threats are there in the market right now? If you find out that a particular segment of consumers are not presently being well serviced by your competitors, this is an opportunity within the market and it means you should target that segment. On the other hand, the increasing prices of courier services could be a threat (which may eventually affect your pricing and profitability), especially if your online business has to deliver physical products (such as Audio CD ROMs, e.t.c.) to customers by courier. This may inform changing your initial distribution strategy by making such product downloadable to a customers PC.

Where do I want to go? In other words, what are the goals of your online business? This should be a clear, concise statement of where you are headed. It should state where your online business would be in 3-5 years time. Your objectives should always be measurable and quantifiable. They should state what you are trying to achieve, such as to achieve a minimum sales target of ABC and a profit of XYZ, every year.

How do I get there? You need to consider which customers you will target and how. How much do you need to set up a website, what kind of website is most suitable for your kind of business and which Webmaster will you hire? How do you process orders, payment and delivery to customers?

In all, your business plan should contain a description of the business, a marketing plan, a financial management plan and an operational plan. If you need help writing a business plan, help yourself with some tips at www.bcentral.com/articles/businessplan .

*You can Sell Anything*

Youd better believe it. The Internet offers tremendous opportunities and advantages to anyone who has a quality product, service or business idea, as long as he is willing to invest some time, effort and, maybe, money.

You can sell anything on the Net that can be of value to other people. This includes your knowledge, life experience, specialized interest or hobby, which can be packaged into an information product such as an e-book, for other people to buy. Dont forget people are constantly looking for information to improve their lives and businesses, or just to reassure them that they are not alone in their downside moments.

Again, apart from selling your own products or services, you can sell other peoples information products or software, by becoming an affiliate marketer.

As an affiliate, you earn commissions by sending (or referring) prospects to a merchants website, that you are representing. If they make any purchases, the merchant pays you a commission. Affiliate Marketing has been described as the easiest way to make an entry into online business. You can build your business in no time and at minimal risk, by becoming the middleman between prospects and a merchant. This is done by marketing the merchants product and driving customer traffic to his website. The merchant does the rest. He supplies every other thing like excellent products, order and credit card processing, delivery, e.t.c.

Even when you sell your own products, you can always expand the scope of your business and increase earnings by making use of affiliates who will help do the marketing bit and drive constant traffic to your website. Unfortunately, a lot of netpreneurs do not exploit this fantastic opportunity.

*Want to Really Get Started?*

Well, I will recommend two definitive resources on the web right now, for people like you who want to make it big as online entrepreneurs (sorry, Netpreneurs). One is Sitesells Make Your Knowledge Sell which has been described as the complete infopreneurs toolkit and contains helpful solutions on how you can develop and sell your own proprietary product on the Net. Check it up at http://myks.sitesell.com/net_hunting.html.

The other one is Corey Rudls Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet, which contains in-depth information on how to start, build and run a successful online business. This package comes as two beefy 3-ring binders and 2 CD ROMs, containing tested and proven fast-growth strategies which Rudl has personally used to grow his own one-man Internet business into a $7.6 million enterprise. You will find this at www.marketingtips.com/t.cgi/840099.

In the follow-up to this article, you will get to know the various ways by which you can generate credibility for your online business, why you should differentiate your business through branding and which promotions will help you make the most sales. Happy netpreneurship!

Dele Ogundahunsi, an associate member of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria and an e-marketer, specializes in Online Advertising and Web Design Directing. He can be reached on (+234) 803 85 10 10 2 or at agroport@outgun.com.


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