One of the key struggles for any new business owner is figuring out how to get a company up and running without breaking the bank. Startup costs can cripple an entrepreneur and kill the business before it’s realized, so minimizing these costs is critical for any new company.
One option for reducing costs - that didn’t exist prior to the Internet - is the possibility of having an online presence only. Many businesses are forgoing the traditional “brick and mortar” style in favor of operating solely online.
The benefit of this is that online businesses have fewer startup costs and can reach people all around the world, regardless of physical location. The Internet is not a panacea for small business, however. Online businesses come with their own host of difficulties and issues that business owners must remain on top of to be successful.
Online businesses need discipline and coordination in order to ensure that they are operating as efficiently as they would in a physical location. Companies need to be more proactive and extroverted when they are networking, marketing, and courting clients. It’s easier to ignore a company that isn’t physically “there,” so it’s important to make sure that if you are only online that people notice your presence.
You'll Need to Learn to Be Tech Savvy
If your company is going to exist online, you will need to do some research. Taking advantage of cloud computing software (Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.) and web-based meeting programs (Skype and Google Hangouts) can help ensure your business and employees are in sync with each other, and reduce the possibility for miscommunication.
But your most important tool is your marketing strategy. A brick and mortar business acts as its own form of advertising – if you pass a McDonald’s on the road, then you are automatically aware that it exists and is an option to you.
Online Businesses Are Different - They're All Online
No one is going to search for a company they don’t know exists, so you have to be aggressive in getting your product message out to your consumer base. Additionally, online businesses need to work harder to build trust and legitimacy with their customers – walking into a building is reassuring, but buying a TV off the Internet makes some people uneasy.
You can’t rely solely on your physical location to bring in customers, you need a smart, deliberate marketing strategy that alerts people to your product without coming across as spam.
You will need to learn about SEO (search engine optimization), or how to affect the visibility of your business based on users’ natural search terms, pay per click advertising, affiliate marketing, and strategies for how to develop and promote your brand such that it engages and interests the customer, rather than annoys them. One way to do this is through user-generated content – allowing the customers themselves to market your product.
It's More Relaxed, Informal, and Provocative
Finally, it’s important to understand that the Internet is a strange, different place and any good marketing strategy will attempt to adapt and cater to this mentality.
Online advertising doesn’t have to be so rigid or traditional as in the past; your marketing strategy can be funny, provocative – even a little offensive, as long as it makes people notice you. The key to success is to research and know your customer base inside and out, you don’t want to offend or annoy anyone.
The good news for small business is that e-commerce is becoming more and more commonplace and accepted – the millennial generation is far more likely to trust online companies, and online shopping is becoming the trendy, easy way to buy what you need.
Not only is it more cost-effective to start an online business, but today you have a greater chance of success with that business. All it takes is some discipline and a good marketing strategy, and you’re on your way to becoming the next Amazon.
Now attract the customers that will turn you into the next Amazon!