Deciding to become an entrepreneur is a difficult choice to make. You have to commit time, effort and dedication to your endeavor in order to ensure the success of your future business. What’s more, starting and running a business can be quite challenging, especially since the online market is over-saturated and quite competitive.
Still, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Starting an online business is a good strategy, mainly because everyone is online these days. In addition, the internet is filled with numerous opportunities you can explore to ensure your business success. However, before you get started, you’ll have to plan well ahead, so that you avoid making some of the most common mistakes that can easily ruin your business right from the start. With that in mind, here are a few tips for starting your own online business.
Conduct thorough market research
The very first step of starting your own business is market research. Without proper research, you’ll basically be improvising and going in blind. Research can help you obtain the necessary information required to make more strategic decisions and develop, as well as grow, your business further. As an example, market research can help you determine the market need for your products or services, identify your target audience, conduct a competitive analysis and identify market trends, among other things. The information you obtain from market research will not only help you get started, but it will also aid you in making future plans.
A business plan is essential for starting an online business. It will help you determine how to proceed once you’re ready to launch your business on the market. A business plan is an outline of your company and your goals. It’s also a foundation for your business strategies. For instance, a business plan consists of a few things.
• Executive summary
• Industry overview
• Market and competitive analysis
• Marketing and sales plan
• Ownership and management plan
• Financial plan
• Operating plan
Simply put, a business plan will help you run your business and make executive decisions that will contribute to the overall success of your online endeavor.
Develop a website
It’s quite obvious that you need a website for your online business, but not just any website will do. As a matter of fact, online consumers pay special attention to details when website design and performance are involved. In order to satisfy their needs and meet their expectations, you’ll have to optimize your website well. That includes ensuring that your website is fast, responsive, secured, easy to navigate, user-friendly and visually pleasing. If you don’t ensure every website factor is properly optimized and performing well, you’ll lose customers simply because you couldn’t provide them with an exceptional and seamless experience.
It’s no secret that starting a business requires a hefty investment. What’s more, you must ensure that you have enough funds to support your business until it becomes profitable. Many startups fail because their owners ran out of money midway. That’s why you should make sure you can avoid such an inconvenience.
In addition, while you wait for profits to start coming in, consider other income sources that will improve your financial status, such as becoming a casino affiliate or getting a side job, to name a few. Simply put, the sooner you ensure proper funding for your business, the sooner you can stop worrying about your finances.
Focus on marketing
Digital marketing is essential for online businesses. As mentioned before, the online market is over-saturated and competitive, but good marketing can easily level the field for your business. Furthermore, experts suggest that the more you invest in marketing, the more effective it will be. That being said, you need to understand that you don’t have to overspend to get viable results. In fact, you can consider cheaper marketing strategies, such as social media marketing, email and other inbound methods until your business is stable enough financially to explore other marketing strategies and campaigns.
So, even though starting an online business of your own may be a daunting and a challenging task, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
In order to see your business as efficient, you need to ensure that your clients get a satisfactory service and that your operations remain profitable. Nothing more, nothing less. There’s no rule about whether your company’s processes should be handled in-house or be outsourced to other agencies. Sure, in theory, it would be better to be self-reliant, however, this is not realistic in the present-day business landscape.
Look at it this way, even some of the world’s greatest conglomerates like Microsoft and Apple outsource their production to countries like China, whereas SMBs and startups tend to outsource specialized functions like IT and general virtual assistant services. Either way, outsourcing is an option your business is bound to encounter sooner or later and the choice you make here may just play a deciding role in its future course. Here are several benefits of outsourcing that you should take into consideration.
The first thing you need to take into consideration is the cost of starting your own specialized department or initializing an in-house business process. Think about one of the most basic examples – the delivery system. In order to handle this in-house, you would have to acquire a sufficient number of company vehicles, hire a fleet manager and pay for the specialized software.
Aside from this, you would also have to hire a sufficiently large number of capable drivers and ensure their discipline at all times. It goes without saying that the costs of such a thing would be stellar. Therefore, outsourcing is not only the best choice you have but the only viable choice. Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule, for instance in a scenario where you need a single vehicle, for the time being. Still, a purchase of such a vehicle, alone, would probably surpass the available space in the budget of an average startup.
The next problem you will encounter when trying to establish an in-house department is the problem of proficiency. Think about it, even if you do hire an entire team (let’s say legal team for the sake of this argument), as a startup, you won’t have the privilege of hiring veterans. Instead, you’ll have to bring in inexperienced people (despite their talent and credentials) and wait for them to become proficient enough.
Another thing you need to understand is that the majority of processes that your startup will face will depend on you. The thing is that, as a person with an idea, you probably have some knowledge or previous experience regarding the core tasks of your company. For instance, the majority of people who decide to start marketing agencies have probably already worked in a marketing agency before. During the research for the startup alone, you can acquire so much knowledge on the topic that you may become somewhat proficient at it.
However, the same does not apply to every single aspect of running a business. As a seasoned marketer, chances are that you don’t know the first thing about HR. This is why it’s easier to outsource your HR than to start your own department. Think about it, the very process of vetting the right head for the department can be a nightmare. In this way, you can just have someone else oversee it.
An outsider’s perspective
The next thing worth mentioning is the fact that in some scenarios you need an outsider’s perspective. For instance, when hiring a marketing agency to do a branding for your startup, you get the privilege of getting an outsider’s opinion of your business. Think about it, your own marketing department is still a part of your team and has a biased view of your organization.
As a part of your structure, they also start from the point of brand awareness instead of going through the stage of brand recognition, in the beginning. This is also great for customer service, seeing as how they start from a position that’s much closer to that of a client than your in-house customer service team ever could. This ability to distance themselves from your company, if only just a bit, can make a world of difference when it comes to the outcome.
Most agencies work with multiple clients and have different arrangements with different businesses they work with. This means that, as your company grows, you can change your contract and switch to a more encompassing plan or change your partner altogether.
The problem with outsourcing lies in the fact that most entrepreneurs prefer to keep everything under direct control. This, however, is a psychological problem that they will eventually have to overcome in order to grow their business and future-proof it in order to endure the long run. In other words, outsourcing gives them more room to focus their attention and resources elsewhere.
Virtual assistants have gone beyond providing administrative tasks to clients. We are also great at providing customer service, tech support and even creating chatbots. Provided with proper training, a virtual assistant can do the work of customer service representatives in answering customer service related concerns.
In fact, Virtual Assistants and
chatbots were included in an article by Tenfold
which listed down the digital trends and technologies that are transforming
customer experience in the banking and finance sector.
In the article, it said, “the
demand for faster, more efficient services has eventually led to a forecast
that 85% of customer interactions will be automated by 2020, according
to Gartner. Chatbots and smart assistants are finding their way in various
verticals, serving various purposes from customer support, marketing, and
sales. These robots, powered by artificial intelligence, are used by the
biggest banks in the world like JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, HSBC (Hong Kong)
and SEB (Sweden).
Chatbots enable banks and financial
service companies to deliver efficient, personalized and responsive service to
customers at a minimum cost. Chatbots are available 24/7, and are capable of matching customer queries
quickly to solutions. Some are also programmed to take in leads, and the most
advanced ones can make personalized recommendations based on previous
interactions, customer data, and other factors.
Detractors of chatbot technology say
that these tools lack the empathy of human CS reps. While that is true, we
should also recognize that chatbots improve on this aspect over time. Machine
learning algorithms help these virtual assistants learn more about the art of
human conversation from experience. With such capabilities, chatbots prove to
be sufficient in handling basic customer service queries, pleasing consumers
with their efficiency and effectiveness.”
Empathy is as important as effectiveness in creating relationships with your clients. If empathy is what these chatbots lack for the customer to experience what would surpass their expectations, then that is where Virtual Assistants specializing in Customer Care or Customer Service comes in.
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