Some hear about startups being bought for millions by big companies, and hatch plans to start their own internet business.
Others nurture online business ideas that they think will shake the web for long-time before taking the leap of entrepreneurship. While there is nothing bad in dreaming big, it is important to keep the realities of starting and running an online business in mind.
When it comes to starting a web business, there are hundreds of details to be mastered but let’s just focus on 11Cs under the most critical phases of starting an e-venture. And it only makes sense to begin where it really begins.
Initial research and planning
‘Little can be accomplished without planning’. The statement holds true for almost everything challenging in life. Whether you want to start an online store or something completely unique, you need a blueprint, a roadmap or whatever you want to call it. And in order to do that, you need:
1) Clarity – The process of planning cannot begin unless you are crystal clear about your needs. Want to blog for a living? Answer these questions first:
- What kind of blog I’m capable of running?
- What is the competition out there?
- Are there unanswered questions that my blog can address?
Answering such questions will help you learn if you are ready to start and run an online business or need to busy yourself with groundwork.
2) Courage – Every idea is brilliant while it exists in your head. Finding time to put your thoughts on paper, discussing them with people, and taking concrete steps to materialize your ‘great idea’ are the real challenges. And doing all this requires real courage.
This is a part of planning because this is where it all begins. If you cannot muster the guts to start working on that glorious online business idea, we are sorry. It can do nothing more than impress your drunk friends.
Okay. You are done with the initial planning, and are sure that this is the online business idea that you want to bet on. Next is the task of doing the work that people won’t see but will become the backbone of your venture.
For multivendor e-commerce stores, this means getting merchants on board. For food ordering and delivery startups, this means joining hands with local restaurants. Got the idea?
Now to go through this phase smoothly, two Cs are most crucial, and they are:
3) Collaboration – Of course you cannot do it all on your own. You need people. People that are:
Without collaborating with such people, it would be really difficult to get your venture off the ground. This bunch can be your friends or people you pay to do the work. Mostly it’s the prior.
4) Conviction – Starting something online just because it seems a good way to make easy money will never lead you far. To create an online business that survives the tests of time, you need to believe in your idea. And this ought to be true of your team as well.
Strong belief in your internet business will help you and your team in completing the tiring groundwork.
NOTE: Even if your amazing online business doesn’t require offline struggle, you still need a team that believes in your idea and is willing to go the extra mile, online.
Good news, it’s time to build your website, app or software. Bad news, it will be exhausting if you don’t know how to code. There is no dearth of amazing web businesses that never scaled because they failed to connect with target audience or came out with poor features.
Let’s straight get to the Cs that will play a dominant role in making you succeed with the Setup phase:
5) Capital: Already dreaming about making loads of money and raising millions in VC funding? Stop right there. Before that, your unique idea needs financial nurturing. The capital will be mostly spent on hiring:
- UX and SEO experts
- Infrastructure (servers etc.)
If you already have a team that has great design and development talent, then, the investment will be less. But don’t think you can go ahead and build something awesome without some dough.
6) Concentration: During the development phase, it usually happens that the focus strays away from the primary idea, making the end product something that doesn’t fit in the initial vision. This is why founders ought to stay true to the blueprints finalized during planning and development phase.
Here are some points that will help you with the task:
- Explain your vision to your team in detail in the very beginning.
- Write down your goals and objectives and paste it somewhere everyone can see.
This however doesn’t mean you have to ignore suggestions from the team members. Embrace ideas that align with your product philosophy.
Marketing (Yeah! you need to tell people)
Congratulations! You have a website just the way you wanted. Okay, somewhat like you wanted but it will not generate traffic on its own. You need to work for the visitors and it is not going to be easy since you spent a big amount of your savings in developing the site and don’t have handful of millions in funding. So, don’t even think of TV ads.
Below Cs will come handy to make your online business trend on internet:
7) Creativity: Even offline businesses are trying to grab eyeballs online. In such a melee, how will you make your new venture stand out? We think creativity can drive your brand message across in the choking internet advertising scene. All you need to do is:
- Plan memorable ad banners
- Create engaging explainer videos
- Run interactive video ads
- Engage your audience with insightful conversations
Okay, this is easily said than done but this is also exactly what you need to do if you are thinking about paid marketing. Check out this post if free marketing is on your mind.
8) Commitment: No matter how passionate you are, you will get tired of ‘selling’ on internet at some point of time. It is inevitable unless you taste the fruits of success quite early.
Don’t stop your efforts when everything seems a lost cause. Stay committed to your marketing practices, and work relentlessly to:
- Get your venture featured on relevant blogs and news sites
- Communicate with relevant audience on platforms like Quora
- Speak about your online business offline as well
Stay true to your marketing goals and our next section will follow.
Funding! (Do you wanna accelerate?)
VC or angel funding is like getting paid millions to raise your own kid. While some startups and online businesses continue to grow without funding, it is nice to know that there is truckload of cash in the bank to undertake aggressive expansion. But dollars will not come walking to your door. You will have to earn them, and here are 2 helpful Cs for that:
9) Coaching: Even if you have the most brilliant online business idea in the world, it still needs to make sense to angel investors and venture capitalists.
Doesn’t sound difficult?
What if you only have a couple of minutes to explain:
This is why you need someone that has firsthand experience in presenting ideas to reluctant people in suits. Long story short, get a mentor.
10) Consistency: Time to refer to top dating rule! ‘Be prepared to be rejected, multiple times’. Your pitch for raising money will find no takers so many times that you will lost count. This is why you need to practice ‘not giving up’.
Keep approaching VCs and connecting with investors to find the one that will be ready to bet on your dream online venture. This however will only work if you do as Paul Graham (founder of Y Combinator). He says:
“Convince yourself that your startup is worth investing in, and then when you explain this to investors they’ll believe you”
And let’s not forget the most important point.
11) Customers/clients: Seems kind of obvious, right? Yes but still worth mentioning. Your website, mobile app or software needs users, and their number needs to grow as the months pass by.
While you need to think about this from the planning and research phase itself, don’t forget about the users while including new features. Answering such questions will also help:
- Will the new features add value to user experience?
- What matters the most to target audience?
- How to counter clones and competitors?
There are 700-paged ebooks and rather small videos out there titled ‘starting an online business for dummies’ or something similar of sorts. And let’s not get started on the startup literature out there available for free and few pennies.
To put simply, there is overwhelming knowledge to help you gain perspective on starting and running an online business. But remember, the best way of learning about anything is by doing. So, get out there and get your hands and mind dirty.