Starting an Online Business from Scratch
By Charles Hopkins
Published 04/20/2006 | Entrepreneur
One advantage of doing business online is that you can start from scratch without investing much money. Here is a 27 Step Action Plan to help you get started...
1. List 5 hobbies, interests or areas of expertise. If you want to start a new business, you'd better choose a subject that you like and a subject where you can show expertise. You will have more fun and you will be more competitive.
2. Brainstorm a list of keywords and phrases related to those hobbies and interests. For example, if you are going to sell small airplane collectibles, some possible keywords could be: airplanes, aeronautics, war airplanes, etc.
3. Research those keywords in Wordtracker.com to locate problem statements that have high search results and low competition. Wordtracker.com is a web page that helps you find out how many times your keywords are searched online, how popular your keywords on search engines are. Those keywords may represent problem statements. Wordtracker shows you how many people are buying traffic on those keywords and how much are they paying. You need to find popular statements with low competition.
4. Research those problem statements further to determine if you can develop a product to solve the problem stated. You may use search engines to see how many people are offering products that can help to solve those problems. If you find a popular problem and there are not many people offering solutions online, you've got it!
5. Find or create a product based on previous research for you to sell. Once you found a hungry market, you just need to find the food that your customers want and they will eat from your hands. You may find companies online that can manufacture the products for you or you may find a different way to create the product yourself. If the product is an e-book, you may write it yourself or you may hire someone else to do it.
6. Write a long copy sales letter for that product. The experience of the most important internet marketing gurus reveals that long copies sell much more than short copies. It is also recommendable that you try to sell only one product on your web site. Focus on one product unless the solution you are providing is the offer of a wide catalogue.
7. Register a domain and set up a hosting account. There are many places online where you can register a domain and set up a hosting account in minutes.
8. Register for a merchant account (to set up quickly use PayPal.com). If you don't want to register a merchant account that will allow you to take credit card payments online, go to PayPal.com and sign in. It can be a little bit more expensive, but it is a simple way to take credit card payments online very quickly.
9. Set up a simple web site using an automatic site builder or pay to have someone set it up for you. Do not try to design your own web site unless you are educated on html. Do not waste your time. Hire someone else to do it or buy automatic web site builder software. There are many of these you can buy online.
10. Set up an opt-in form on your web site to collect e-mail addresses. You need to start collecting e-mail addresses for your newsletter. The major part of your business will come from the emails that you will send to your customer list.
11. Build an extensive keyword list based on the initial list of keywords you developed. Use Overture.com. For each keyword on the initial list, Overture can help you find different combinations with other words that you may find interesting. Check the popularity of each term and write down on a spread sheet your final keyword list.
12. Submit those keywords to Overture.com to start driving traffic right away. You need to start driving some traffic immediately in order to test your web site. The best way to do that is to buy this traffic at overture.com
13. Optimize and submit your web site to organic search engines (Google, Altavista, etc...). Once you have proved that your web site works and sells, you will be ready to make the business bigger. It is then time to start working on building free traffic to your site.
14. Continue to test and tweak your web site until target conversion rate is met. Your conversion ratio should be that 1-2% of your visitors should buy from your web site, and 11% should subscribe to your newsletter. Continue testing until you get those stats.
15. Set up an affiliate program on your web site. Affiliate programs can double your business with no additional effort. Others will make the job for you. But you cannot set up an affiliate program before you are sure that your web site can produce results. If your site does not work, you will loose your affiliates and they will never come back to you again.
16. Approach complimentary web sites to sign up as affiliates to promote your product. Get in contact with people that can promote your product and ask them to be your affiliates. Just try to find your first 100 affiliates, and your affiliate list will boom alone.
17. Start publishing a monthly newsletter. You have started collecting e-mail addresses much earlier, but it is not the time to start working the newsletter until you can prove that everything else works.
18. Submit articles to related newsletters and e-zines on a regular basis. In the articles you should always have a link to your site, so that you can get more traffic and you can get more people joining to your newsletter.
19. Continue the development of a content rich web site to further increase search engine rankings. Search engines love content. You must have many web sites which are rich on your keywords and which have links to your main page. A good way to do this is to add as many articles as you can related to your business and link them to your home page.
20. Once keywords have been tested in Overture, roll out in Google Adwords. It works similar to Overture, you bid for traffic. But do not go to Google Adwords first. You must first prove your success with Overture and then go to Google Adwords.
21. Roll out tested keyword list in other major PPCs. When you are sure about your stats, and you know how much money you collect per visitor, you must buy as much traffic as you can get as far as your income per visitor is higher than your bids.
22. Create a viral e-book to generate more leads. Create a free e-book that you can promote and which sells your product or service. Give it for free, and this will bring more traffic to your web site.
23. Have an expert review and critique your web site. Even if your site works, you can always improve. Listen to others and learn from their experiences.
24. Survey your existing customers to find out what other products or services they are looking for. Once you have a big list of customers, use it to find out what other problems do they have. Try to find or create a solution for them and you will boost your sales instantaneously.
25. Create and find back-end products and market them through your e-mail list. Continue finding more products that meet your customer demands and promote them via e-mail.
26. Continue to test and tweak your web site and offers. Nothing is perfect the first time and can always be improved. It is very important that you take action, even if you make mistakes. Learn from your errors and improve your skills.
27. Repeat process to create "Multiple Streams of Income". Once your business is working on automation, then you can start the process again with a new business. Build as many businesses as you can, and reduce your risks. If one business fails, but you have another 5 working businesses, who cares about it?
If you have read up to this point, you are probably asking yourself how much it will cost to get started? The answer is very simple; it depends on how much time and money you have available to invest! If you have a lot of time, you can do everything yourself. On the other hand, if you don't have time, you will have to pay other people for building your website and/or for optimizing your site on search engines.
If you can do nothing else...just launch a web site and start promoting online...