Planning an online business is as important as anything else. This quick guide shows you what to consider

Planning an Online Business with Sihme

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Did you know that more than 40 new businesses are created every single day in the US? Planning an online business is as important as anything else. There are many entrepreneurs just like you who are successfully using the power of the internet to sell their services or products.

Starting a business is hard work. There is much planning and preparation to do before you make a single dime online. It’s even harder when you have little financial backing to start with. Fortunately, there are many free and affordable online apps that can help you set up your business without having to break into your savings or get into debt. This article is a small guide for people preparing to start an online business.

Setting Smart Goals

Firstly, you need to have as much knowledge as possible about your market – the size of it, the services you can offer, and who your competition is.  This is working smart, not just working hard.  So let us create some smart goals for your business.

The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound.  Let’s cover each of these in turn:

The first step is to do some research.  Who is your ideal customer?  Specifically, what are their demographics, education, and where do they work?  What problems can you solve for them, and how can you do it better than anyone else?

If you are uncertain about what problems your audience has, create a free account at Google AdWords and do some research on the keywords that your audience is looking for online in your local area.  The monthly traffic that those keywords get will give you an idea of your market size.  Or, if your business is not restricted to any particular area, then you can also check out online social groups in your niche or industry such as those found on Facebook and Google + which will give you more information about your target audience.  You also could research in niche-specific forums, magazines, and create polls to find out what your audience really wants.

Once you have done enough research, it is time to choose a compelling company name which you will also use for your domain URL (your online address that begins with www. and ends in .com).

When thinking about what URL to choose, should you purchase an exact match domain or use your own brand name?

There are pros and cons for either, so personally, I would choose to use both your main keyword (e.g. what your company does) and your brand name (creative name), for instance, Gordon Food Service.  Once you have chosen your domain name (you can purchased one from sihme), you can get website hosted by sihme and build a WordPress website.  At the very minimum, your WordPress website should consist of a ‘home’ page, an ‘about us’ page, a ‘blog’ page, a ‘contact’ page and several informational pages answering questions that your audience would be looking for online.  The design and development of your website usually takes between 1 – 2 weeks depending on your requirements.  You should also create a Google business address at the same time.

At this point, you need to take stock of your assets which include the services and products you can offer, your team members and the financial resources you have available.  What are your financial risks and startup costs?  What do you want to accomplish with online marketing?  Do you want to:

  • Build a list of prospects?
  • Increase traffic to your website?
  • Get more clients?

Whatever you want to grow you need to measure on a consistent basis.  You need to create a plan that will get you results by a certain deadline.  Knowing your numbers and applying smart strategies will ensure that you increase your profit margins.

How can you reach your goals?  At Sihme we can help you grow your list of prospects with our integrated services.  We offer our clients a mailing service along with lead capture pages to create efficient sales funnels.  We have found that building a list of prospects is one of the greatest assets you can have in online marketing.  Email is a very affordable marketing tool and once you own a list, you also own the traffic that comes with it.  You can direct people back to your website to read your latest news and see your latest offer.  With a few clicks of a button, you can make money online.

You can also increase your website traffic by optimizing your site for search engines.  At Sihme we can host your own WordPress site (which is the best search engine optimization platform).  Once you have created your website, simply download the yoast plugin to help you work out how to optimize each web page.

“More traffic equals more clients equals more revenue.”

As always, attention to detail is everything.  We will help you build webpages that are optimized to convert your browsers to buyers by using persuasive copywriting, trust elements, and call-to-actions.

Are your goals realistic?  Do you know where you are going to find your ideal clients online?  Do you have a marketing plan that you can roll out?  Do you have a plan to fulfill your orders or services?  Do you have CRM software that can help you streamline your business operations?

Download this online Gantt spreadsheet to figure out whether your goals are realistic or not.

There are only 24 hours in the day and sometimes I bet you wish there were more!  Where does all the time go to?  Now you can check how much time you spend on each task with Time Doctor and Rescue Time.

The beauty of Time Doctor is that you can record the time spent on individual projects and you can also let your clients see how much work you are doing for them, by sending them their own URL link.

In business, organization and discipline is everything.  If you really want to get ahead, each morning, you should aim to prioritize your ‘To Do’ list by selecting the top 20% of items that will get you 80% of the results.  You could also find ways to streamline manual administrative tasks that you do over and over again.  Try out these websites that integrate several apps together at IFTTT and zapier.

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Organising Finance

If you haven’t done so already, you should set up a business account with your bank.  Your next step is to prepare some bookkeeping systems.

The best bookkeeping service by far to use is quickbooks.  If your company uses QuickBooks, it gains instant financial credibility in the eyes of your clients. However, if you want to create invoices and online payments you could try out freshbooks.

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Setting up your Communications

Google apps has a whole suite of products designed to help you work with your team much more efficiently.  You can set up your own brand email on the Gmail platform.  You can have access to your calendar and all your contacts.  You can set up face-to-face meetings using the Google hangout – all for the price of a latte and biscuit per month.

Finding Design Resources

People tend to judge a book by its cover, and it’s no different with websites.  When new visitors arrive on your website, do they browse for a while, or bounce quickly? The level of attraction they feel for your business has much to do with your website design and selection of images.  So, is your website uncluttered and attractive?  Secondly, the length of time they remain on your website depends on how much they like your content.  Make sure that your website answers all their questions and is easy to navigate.

Your branding should start with your company logo.  One of the best sites on the web is fiverr.  You can get almost anything on Fiverr for an affordable price.  Logos are no exception.  But if you don’t find a logo designer you like and you want a slightly more creative design you should try out 99designs.  Once you have your logo, make sure you go ahead and print off your business cards and stationary at vistaprint. If you need to design some business cards, head back to Fiverr.

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Managing Your Social Accounts

As part of your marketing plan you will want to create social media accounts.  As using social media can suck vast amounts of time from your schedule, you will want to select your social media channels wisely.  The best way to do this is prioritizing the social media channels that your target audience is most likely hanging out on.

Google plus has attracted a large percentage of professional males, students and technology enthusiasts.
YouTube is a great all-rounder as you can use it for search engine optimization purposes.  By using the correct combination of keywords and tags, you can make your videos rank high in Google’s search engine within a couple of days.
LinkedIn is for professionals and those wishing to job hunt.  You can use this if you are marketing business to business.
Facebook is another great all-rounder.  However, it doesn’t have the same SEO benefits as the other channels.  But you can create great relationships with your prospects and clients, research your target audience, and advertise on this channel.
Twitter is good for creating short news announcements.
Pinterest is great if you are selling products online.
Instagram has a large female audience in the 18 – 35-year old bracket, but it is limited to mobile phone use.  However, as 50% of people use their mobiles to browse and shop online, you should not rule this out by any means.

Once you have chosen the social media channels that are best suited to your business and created accounts for each, you should now design some attractive artwork for those channels.  Fotor helps you create the right size image for each of your social media accounts.

Now you can set up a posting schedule.  You can automate posting and manage your social media accounts from hootsuite.

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Preparing an Advertising Campaign

By now, you have built a solid foundation for your business by creating a website, setting up email communication and integrating social media.  It is time to attract some customers or clients and start bringing in revenue.  And what better way to drive customers to your door than using a pay-per-click advertising campaign that delivers fast results!

Or is it?  Advertising on Google is expensive and maybe out of your budget, so two cheaper options would be to advertise on Bing or choose a Google pay-per-call campaign where you only get charged when someone calls you.  Now think about it, if someone has taken the trouble to call you, do you think they would be interested in your services?  Do you think that you can show them enough benefits of working with you and give them enough valuable advice that you turn that phone call into a sale?

Of course you can!

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Growing Your Business

In order to get your business off the ground you may wish to invest in the following marketing strategies:

  • Lead generation where you pay for the contact information of a warm lead which you can convert into a sale.
  • Search engine optimization which works over time by driving your website to page one on Google for specific keywords that your target audience is searching for. What is so special about page one?  Hardly anyone ever looks on page two or beyond…

You should also invest in your team members, by training them well, especially in the subjects of sales and CRM.

Final pro tip – always offer more value and more bonuses than anyone else in your industry.  This will work in your favor because not only will your existing customers continue to enjoy your products or services, but they will bring their friends along with them too.

Interested in a FREE consultation with an online marketing specialist?  At Sihme, we can help you turn your business vision into a reality, so contact us today. We will be only too happy to help you set up your online campaigns and grow your business.

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