Modern Blueprint For Online Success
Around 40% of the world population has an internet connection today. Therefore it’s natural that companies set up an online business. The advantages are obvious: You can reach many more potential customers online than with a local business – and even worldwide.
If you are self-employed, have a local shop or your business idea can be well offered on the Internet, you should definitely take the step into online business. In our step-by-step guide, you can read about the advantages of a web presence for your business and how you start.
- The digital business strategy
- Select online channels
- Create a website or online shop
- Market online presence
- Online business costs
- Advantages of online business
The first step: The Business Strategy
You have a business idea that could also be of interest to online business and you would like to make your offer known nationwide. In the first step, you should scrutinize the idea carefully and check yourself critically whether success is realistic. Ask yourself:
- “Why do I want to go online?”
- “What exactly do I want to achieve with it?”
Example: You run a small restaurant. You want to reach more customers via an online presence. However, in order for people in your area to know that your restaurant actually exists, you first have to make sure that your restaurant is found on Google Maps and in local search. You should note the following before you start:
- Mission statement: What does your company stand for?
- Unique selling point: What do you do better / differently than others? In other words, how do you stand out from the competition?
These two points will help you to focus on what makes you and your business special and unique when creating your online presence. So you can think in advance how you want to highlight these special features and how you want to present your company in general.
The Second Step: Select Suitable Online Channel
Think through which channels you can best reach the target group for your online business. If you don’t want to set up a website in the first step, you can also start by entering your business in digital directories and registering with rating portals. In any case, the entry in a business directory should be your first step.
Overview of business directories
Social media: Find the right channel for your target group
Many companies maintain a presence on social media before creating their own website. Think about which social media channels your customers are most likely to use: You can reach young people via Snapchat, for example, and their parents more on Facebook. The easiest way to find business customers is on B2B networks such as Xing or LinkedIn. If your business is very visual and you have good image material, you must have your own Instagram or Pinterest account.
Local search engines: Google My Business and Bing Places for Business
Google My Business and Bing Places for Business are arguably the most important and effective business directory for local businesses. Maintain your company data there yourself, so that you are shown directly when searching for your name or industry.
Both platforms automatically integrate customer ratings and reviews into your profile, which are also displayed in your search results. The entry also shows other useful information, such as a menu, opening times or peak times.
You can upload professional images yourself, which are then displayed directly and give customers an impression of the business. An entry in Google My Business or Bing Places is also completely free. So the user can find all the information he needs directly on Google when looking for a local business in your industry. You don’t need your own website and no knowledge of search engine optimization. Simply fill out the form and the business listing on Google or Bing is ready.
The entries are also used in search engines such as Google Maps. No local company should do without its own presence in the two most important search engines in order to do online business.
The Third Step: Set up a website or online shop
A website is now the next logical step to your online business. Although you can draw attention to yourself and your company through directories, social media and rating portals, you are always bound to the general conditions of the respective portal. It is therefore essential to set up your own channels. This can either be your own website or an online shop. Here they are completely free to design and are independent of third parties in the long run.
Quick and easy: create a website with WordPress
To get you started and especially suitable for beginners, we recommend WordPress. With this free content management system (CMS) you can easily create your own website without any technical knowledge, as you wish with a blog or shop. Depending on the scope of the project, the creation of a website with WordPress is comparatively cheap and easy to maintain. If you would like additional functions and services, you can install plugins at any time instead of programming them yourself. You can also hire a freelancer to create your WordPress site if you don’t want to do it yourself. If you need a shop, this should only be done by experienced professionals.
In addition to WordPress, there are many other popular content management systems such as Typo3, Drupal or Joomla, for which you need a specially trained developer.
First steps in e-commerce: Open an online shop
E-commerce is defined as the sale of goods or services on the Internet. There are numerous providers who enable you to open a small online shop without extensive technical knowledge. However, always keep in mind when creating that the online shop is your digital shop window and maintain your online shop as well as a local shop. Offer your customers all information about the product that you could also find out on site and work with pictures.
Tip: We have created a step-by-step guide on how to open your own online shop.
Shop platforms: Amazon, eBay & Co.
There is no more powerful search engine than Amazon, especially for online shops. So if your online business is based on selling products, you can hardly avoid Amazon as a sales channel. Even eBay provides excellent service for sellers.
The Fourth Step: Market Your Online Presence
The following options are available in online marketing to reach customers and build a successful online business:
For unpaid reach, content marketing is the magic word: offer your target group high-quality content that makes your offer visible on search engines and social media channels even without paid advertising. Establish yourself as an expert in your industry and ensure that you not only provide advertising, but also useful information.
If you don’t have the ability to produce videos or blog posts yourself, you can also book influencers with a large reach. Instagram stories are currently one of the cheapest forms of advertising on the net and videos are particularly effective here. If possible, try to use all channels relevant to your target group, but only if you can do it on a professional level.
If you want to be successful with an online business, you have to deal with these channels in order not to lose touch.
How much does it cost to set up an online business?
If you want to reach customers online, it depends on whether a presence in local search (Google Maps, Google My Business) is sufficient. You don’t pay anything for that.
Nevertheless, we recommend every company to set up their own website. Depending on the size of the website, this costs comparatively little with the WordPress kit. If you deal with the topic, you can set up a WordPress site completely free of charge.
There are also hosted modular systems such as Jimdo or Wix, where you can rent a homepage for a monthly subscription fee of between 10 and 40 euros. Technically, however, these can hardly be optimized for search engines. These providers are only recommended if a simple online business card is sufficient. We clearly recommend a CMS that is on its own server or web hosting package.
If you want to build your own online shop, you have to calculate with significantly higher costs for the maintenance and marketing of your offer.
It is cheaper to start an online business as an Amazon seller or with a eBay shop, but then you are dependent on the conditions of the respective providers. Anyone can register as a seller on the marketplaces and place products for sale for a fee and commission. The sales commission is between 7 and 15 percent. With Amazon’s special FBA program (Fulfillment by Amazon), you can even have the purchased goods sent directly to you by your supplier (so-called dropshipping) and save the costs of storage and shipping – Amazon does all this for you.
Conclusion: Is it worth building an online business?
The online strategy depends on the individual objective or product and target group of a company.
- If it is enough for you to be found on Google Maps to find new customers for a local business – whether with a restaurant, a doctor’s office, as a tax consultant or a lawyer – a simple entry in the industry may be enough.
- If you need a simple business card online, on which the price list, references or contact options can be published, you should familiarize yourself with WordPress. The blogger software is suitable for almost every company today to build and maintain a professionally designed homepage.
- If you have a lucrative product that can also be offered outside of your own business premises, you can set up your own online shop and sell it nationwide or even internationally. However, this is associated with considerable costs and manpower.
- A shop can be opened easily and with less effort in established marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay, but not entirely without risk. The big advantage: You can use these platforms to sell products worldwide. With a little Amazon SEO, you can be sure that you will be found when searching for certain products.
In the business plan, you should be clear about your own goals and the strategy to achieve them. We therefore recommend creating a business plan and a SWOT analysis before starting your own online business . This is the only way to become aware of the opportunities and risks of starting a business and to plan accordingly.