5 Benefits to Starting an Online Business

5 Benefits to Starting an Online Business

Technically, an online business is not a digital or virtual extension of an existing traditional business. An online business is a digital enterprise where the primary forte of the company is in the virtual world. However, for the purpose of inclusivity, we shall include the digital or online extensions of existing traditional businesses. Here are five benefits to starting an online business.

Reasonable Investment

Most online businesses cost a fraction of what a traditional or conventional business demands. Compare the cost of launching an online store or ecommerce site and an actual retail store. The difference will be a small fortune. It is true that starting an ecommerce site or global marketplace like Amazon or eBay will require much more money than starting a convenience store in a neighborhood but not every online store needs to be an Amazon or eBay.

Easy Startup

An online business can be launched in weeks, if not days. Once the business plan is in place and all the products or services are ready to be rolled out, it takes days to start an online business. For those who don’t need to rely on website designers or a multipurpose agency, the ball can be set rolling in less than a week.

High Returns on Investments

The investment is low to begin with. The returns are high anyway when you assess the ROI. However, given the scope of expansion and exponential growth that one can encounter, the returns on investments are exponentially higher than conventional or traditional businesses. A traditional business can only reach out to an immediate audience. Online businesses can transcend geographical boundaries, cultural and social barriers to emerge as a global phenomenon.

Automation

Online businesses can be automated, almost entirely. You should conduct the reviews, assess the performance and make changes as and when needed but you don’t need to personally or physically intervene at every stage. Everything from compliance to sales, customer service to upgrades can be automated. Digital entrepreneurs will have more time at their discretion which can be used to diversify, to expand the business, to venture into new endeavors and to indulge in a plethora of leisures.

A Myriad of Freedoms

Online business owners can work from anywhere, at any time, for as long as they want and there’s the elusive financial freedom. Online businesses are truly empowering. Online businesses also help entrepreneurs to find that quintessential balance between work and life.

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How To Create A Business Plan Outline

How To Create A Business Plan Outline

A business plan represents the crucial foundation of your company. Regardless of how big or small this company is going to be, you need to put together some sort of plan for your future.

In the end, you want to create a roadmap that will accomplish two things:

1. It’s going to be specific enough to help you define what needs to be done over the next year, two years, or even 3-5 years.
2. It’s going to be open-ended enough to help you make adjustments no one could have accounted for earlier on.

Establishing a plan which incorporates both of these things is not impossible, or even that difficult. Nonetheless, it is still something that needs to happen, before you can move on to other aspects of establishing and launching your business.

Creating A Viable Business Plan Outline
Understand at this point, you’re simply crafting an outline. It needs to have some measure of detail, but it doesn’t have to account for every single little thing. You want to have something that will make it easy to define the next few steps.

A good business plan outline is going to offer the following:

• Executive summary: This element is going to summarize the plan as a whole.
• Company description: With this, you’re going to not only focus on what your company is going to do, but how your company is different from similar entities.
• Market analysis: Research your industry. This should include your marketing and your competitors.
• Organization/management: This is going to come down to discovering the optimal organization and management structures for your company.
• Service/product line: This is going to describe your product or products. What are the benefits? How about the lifecycle?
• Marketing/sales: Sales strategies and marketing plans are going to be discussed at this point.
• Funding: How much are you going to need? How is the money going to be spent? Transparency is key in this arena.
• Financial projections: If you do need funding, projections are going to be important.
• Appendix: Resumes, permits, and leases are just a few things one would include in an appendix, if this needs to be part of your business plan.

Different businesses are going to utilize the above facets differently. Some businesses will be able to disregard some of those facets entirely. This is something you will discover for yourself, over the course of putting together a plan for your business.

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How to Validate your Niche by Researching your Competition

How to Validate your Niche by Researching your Competition

Digital enterprises or online businesses are not bound by geography or stringent local regulations. This makes it easier to start a business but it doesn’t make running the business any easier. Competition is fierce in almost every niche. Whatever your niche is, you should validate it by researching your competition. Let us explain how you should go about this and also why.

Demand and Supply!

The essence of most businesses can be boiled down to one reality, demand and supply. If there is enough demand then you can cater to the supply. If there isn’t enough demand, then catering to supply doesn’t make any sense. If there is only one diner in a locality, then it is likely to do well. If there are too many diners and not many people to fill up all those places, then most of those enterprises will run out of business.

Likewise, a digital enterprise or any online niche must have enough demand for there to be space to exist. While firms or endeavors can always coexist, the pie gets smaller and there is just less in it for everyone. The hard reality is that if there are enough players in a niche already and some of them have already amassed a massive market share, then penetrating their share or usurping a chunk of it will be a herculean task.

Study your competition to find out how large a market is and if some of your competitors are already catering to the needs of the audience. If you intend to do the same thing in the same niche, then there is little or no possibility for your enterprise to find a foothold, let aside being a roaring success.

Niche within a Niche!

It is unlikely that the niche you have planned to target will be completely void of competition. There may be stiff or less competition. If there are players already with humongous market shares and dedicated customers or audiences, then you need to find a niche within a niche. You cannot cater to the same exact niche that your competition is committed to.

For instance, if you are planning to target the niche of food, cuisine or anything culinary, then you can find some subset that the existing players have not touched upon yet. If that is not possible, then you must figure out what you are best at and use that authority to create a niche within a niche. It is all about the value you can offer to your audience and how you help, change or enrich their lives.

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The Pros and Cons of Owning an Online Business

The Pros and Cons of Owning an Online Business

Working from your house has numerous advantages, but also comes with its disadvantages. Building a successful online business is a dream come true for many people around the world, though to some, it is not always fun and games. Sources have it that you can survive on online businesses and enjoy the freedom of earning real money from your passions. As earlier mentioned, running an online business is not always a walk in the park, and therefore it is wise not to underestimate the hard work that a successful online business requires.
To understand what it entails to run an online business, let us take a look at the pros and cons of running online businesses.
Pros of Running an Online Business
1) Flexible schedule and rules.
Owning an online job allows you to create your rules and be your boss. With the flexibility that comes with self-employment, one can even create time to see friends and family.
2) Low startup costs.
One key benefit of owning an online business is the low starting cost. Sources have it that you can start a website with less than $100, and as your business grows, you can invest more in it. An online business gives you the liberty of working from your house, and requires no leasing costs. You do not have to worry about employee’s salary too!
3) You become the boss.
Running your own online business gives you the mandate of setting the rules and regulations. Nobody tells you what to do, and you get an opportunity of controlling your destiny. You get to make decisions about marketing, product or service development, customer service, and pretty much everything related to your business.
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The Cons of Running an Online Business
1) Long working hours
For any business to succeed, it calls for hard work and long working hours. Starting an online job from scratch takes a good amount of time to be successful and in some cases, people are required to work on weekends to reach their targets.
2) Requires a lot of discipline.
With all the freedom that comes with running your own business, discipline is fundamental. Time one takes for breaks should be limited, and more focus should be made to reach the set target.
Running an online business has its pros and cons. Low startup cost, and setting your rules are some of the advantages of starting an online business. Additionally, for all the people who are not afraid of working for long hours, online business is meant for you.

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Things You Should Know Before Starting An Internet Business

Things You Should Know Before Starting An Internet Business

Starting an internet business can be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, if you jump right in without doing a little research first, you could find yourself becoming overwhelmed very quickly. Some people make it look easy. The truth of the matter is that the people who make it look easy are people who did a lot of research beforehand. They understood what they were assuming to such a significant degree, they were able to avoid some of the common pitfalls of starting an Internet business.

To be sure, you can avoid those pitfalls, as well.

Before You Start An Internet Business
The great thing about the concept of an internet business is the fact that you are referring to a very, very wide spectrum of possibility. The business can be as large or as small as you want/need it to be. Here are a few things that any internet business entrepreneur should keep in mind, before they do something like run out and buy a domain:

• Have a plan: While you don’t need to have a detailed, formal business plan, you still need to come up with some mode of attack. This can include researching potential competitors, developing a sense of what you want to market to which group of people.
• Establish a budget, and keep something else in mind: Your business is going to need a budget, regardless of its size. When budgeting an internet business, there are two things to keep in mind. First, remember that your budget needs to be realistic. Secondly, you want to appreciate the fact that in all likelihood, you’re going to lose money before you make money.
• Customers will want to meet you: Standing out from the pack with an internet business can be really challenging. Sometimes, it gets awfully close to impossible. With that in mind, remember that one good way of establishing a unique brand is to filter your own personality into everything that defines your internet business. People are going to want to know who they are buying goods and services from. Don’t reveal more than you are comfortable with, but understand that you will have to create a public identity for customer service purposes and more.
• Do something you’re actually going to enjoy: Large or small, an internet business can be a lot of work. Make sure you are doing something you will be able to enjoy, which comes in handy when things take a turn for the challenging.

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Top 5 Mistakes Online Business Owners Make

Top 5 Mistakes Online Business Owners Make

Every business owner makes mistakes. Even the likes of Warren Buffett, Richard Marx and Elon Musk have made mistakes in their businesses. The quintessential need is not be perfect and averting every mistake but to avoid those ones that will cost your business dearly. Here are top five mistakes online business owners make.

Cheap Infrastructure

A business must always remain sustainable and for that it is necessary to remain reasonable with all expenses or recurring financial liabilities. However, affordability should not compel a business owner to make decisions that will not augur well for the enterprise. For instance, opting for cheap hosting plans will save you money but the real cost has to be assessed. Hosting plans that cost very little every month will have severely capped bandwidth, there will be hardly any worthwhile security for the website, the online presence will be compromised as the uptime will not be a hundred percent or even close and any kind of scaling will be dealt with very slowly. Infrastructure is the backbone of any industry or business. Online business owners often opt for cheap infrastructure.

Outsourcing Everything

Globalization has ushered in an era when you can find people to do everything at a fraction of a cost than what you would have paid in the pre-globalization days. It is not fair to state that the quality of professionals or their skills has waned but it is true that outsourcing has its pitfalls. You can and should outsource anything that you are not very good at. From website designing to accounting, you can and must hire experts. Also, note that outsourcing is not necessarily off-shoring. You can hire contractors or companies based in your city, state or country. The trouble lies in outsourcing everything. When online business owners don’t have complete control on any of the assets of the company or the day-to-day affairs affecting one or all existential aspects of the enterprise, then the business is bound to suffer sooner or later.

Lack of Diversification

Many business owners are content with their zeroed in focus on one or a few niches. It is perfectly acceptable to focus on one or a few niches but you need to diversify to sustain your overall empire through the years. Every niche goes through upswings and downswings. You can always enjoy the upswings but you need to plan for the downswings.

Cease in Upgrading

Many online business owners launch their enterprises with state of the art propositions and then stop upgrading. It is not just the technological infrastructure that needs to be upgraded but also the quality of products and services, the manner in which the business is managed and how the clients are dealt with.

Ignoring Competition

Digital enterprises can spring up in no time and usurp the market share of a major brand in a brisk few weeks. Ignoring competition is a surefire way to ring the death knell for the business.

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Top Reasons Why You Should Start An Online Business

Top Reasons Why You Should Start An Online Business

Starting an online business is no cakewalk. Anyone who suggests that an online business is easy to run or one can make a million dollars in no time is not being realistic. There are serious challenges in running any type of business, be it offline or online. Yet, it is better to start an online business. Here are the top reasons why you should start an online business.

• There are innumerable people in the world who have great ideas but they are unable to manifest those ideas owing to lack of funds and resources. Starting any type of traditional or conventional business requires substantial investments. Most online businesses can be launched with very little investment. Even a neighborhood convenience store requires a handsome investment and that money is locked in for years. The storeowner doesn’t recuperate the entire investment in one year or even five years. You don’t need such massive capital to start an online business.

• Most traditional businesses have a significant threshold that must be attended to. You cannot start very small and expect to become a medium sized enterprise or a major brand in a few months. An online business can be launched as a very small initiative and it can grow quickly. This growth doesn’t have to be fuelled by a fortune in investment or tremendous expansion in sheer real estate. Expansion of online enterprises is much easier and hence a business can become sustainable in a much shorter period of time.

• An online business can be started by anyone, from anywhere and it can make its presence felt anywhere in the world. You don’t need to be in a particular state or country to sell your digital products or services. Conventional businesses are bound by location, the immediate target audience and local influence. An online business can start local and become global in a few months.

• The sheer scope of online business opens up a colossal realm of opportunities. Ideas that wouldn’t have made much business sense a few years ago are now gold mines that can make one a millionaire, if not a billionaire. There is room for every innovative idea and ever type of business that can add some value to the lives of people or companies around the world.

• An online business allows entrepreneurs to make as much or as little money as one want depending on the time, effort and resources one is willing to invest in the enterprise. There is of course the life work balance and personal freedom, both of which are unmatched perks of running an online business.

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Treat your Business like a Business, Not a Hobby

Treat your Business like a Business, Not a Hobby

A hobby can be turned into a business but a business can never become a hobby. There are some rich and famous people who have the luxury to conduct business while indulging in leisure. For the lesser mortals, business and leisure don’t go hand in hand. Any business requires serious investments, be it material such as money and infrastructure or immaterial as time and effort. Here are some of the many reasons why you should treat your business like a business and not a hobby.

• A hobby is more of a pastime in which you have substantial passion. A business can never be a pastime. There are serious consequences. You may lose money. If you have employees, then those jobs are at stake and hence their livelihoods. If you have products or services that people depend on then you are risking that and your consumers or customers will be left high and dry if you fail to deliver. A hobby is absolutely personal. No business is completely personal. A business will have direct and indirect impacts on the lives of many people. A startup can still be treated as a hobby till there is serious money in it and the potential or actual impacts on others. Beyond that point, a business must be treated like a business.

• A hobby has a lot to do with emotion over pragmatism. Most hobbies develop out of sheer love for something. There is little or no aspiration to monetize the skill or whatever you are creating. The purpose is to give form to your feelings or the skills you possess. Essentially, a hobby is about emotions. A business can stem from a particular or cluster of emotions but it can never be managed or run emotionally. You must always have a pragmatic take on your business and that will not happen if you treat it as a hobby or an emotional endeavor.

• A hobby often has to dabble through spells of procrastination. You cannot allow procrastination to seep in when you are running an actual business. There are deadlines in the real world, bottom lines and real money at stake. You cannot take your own sweet time to develop or deliver something. Treating your business like a hobby will be the recipe for disaster and sooner than later your enterprise will cease to exist or be unsustainable. Also, a hobby is principally about personal satisfaction. A business is not.

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Using Free VS Paid Merchant Accounts

Using Free VS Paid Merchant Accounts

For many who own and operate their own internet businesses, the need for a merchant account is a crucial one. Simply put, a merchant account is something that allows you to accept online transactions, which can involve using credit cards or debit cards. It isn’t hard to imagine how important something like this can be for an online business.

Also, it shouldn’t be hard to imagine the necessity of making sure you have a merchant account that makes sense for your business and your needs. It comes down to choosing between two possibilities, which are free merchant accounts, or paid merchant accounts. Obviously, a new internet business will want to keep costs down, so it makes sense to want a free merchant account. At the same time, a savvy individual would probably tell you that even these days, there is really no such thing as free.

So which way is the right way to go?

Free Merchant Accounts Or Paid Merchant Accounts
One of the first things to understand with free/paid merchant accounts is that with paid merchant accounts, you are talking about an expense that can strike you as particularly high. This is certainly true when your new internet business needs to adhere to a pretty tight budget. The costs with paid merchant accounts can also vary from one provider to the other.

At the same time, many internet business owners would argue that paid merchant accounts pay for themselves many times over. Strong processing/chargeback rates are common with free accounts. Furthermore, you’re not going to get very much in the way of features with free accounts, if you get anything at all. Paid accounts can take advantage of things like customer service, which is certainly something that’s nice to have, in the event that you run into some problems with a payment. Technical service can also certainly prove to be a lifesaver. You’re not going to find that with a free merchant account.

However, “free” can be useful in the early stages. If you don’t think you can afford a paid account, then a free option can be a useful temporary solution. However, you are going to need to do some research, and determine how much you are ultimately going to need to pay in fees. Even over a short period of time, these costs can prove to be higher as a whole, than how much you would to spend for a paid merchant account.

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3 Benefits of CRM in Your Marketing

3 Benefits of CRM in Your Marketing

When you combine CRM with marketing automation, you get more than a new system. You create a powerful marketing and sales tool that can improve the quality of your lead generation, make your market to sales handoff more efficient, automate marketing campaigns, and do much more. Marketers will enjoy better marketing accountability and find it easier to see ROI. Let’s look at 3 benefits to blending CRM and marketing software.

#1 You Can Automate Lead Qualification
One of the biggest problems between sales and marketing teams is that the quality of the leads is poor. Gathering data using a marketing automation system allows marketers to score and grade their leads. That means the highest qualified leads go directly to sales. Leads that reach a specific score threshold and grade are automatically assigned to sales personal. This really cuts down the amount of manual processing that has to happen. The lead assignments are more effective and efficient.

#2 Improve the Quality of Revenue Tracking
When your CRM and marketing automation system are integrated, ROI reporting on campaigns is far easier. Bi directional syncing means that campaigns you create in your marketing automation platform map directly back to your CRM software. This allows closed deals to be tied back to the campaign they occurred in. Closed leap reporting increases the quality of the reporting and allows for accurately measuring ROI and projected revenue, tracking marketing spends, and attributing revenue to a specific marketing campaign.

#3 Allows for More Targeted Messages to Occur
The majority of buyers want to receive different targeted content at every state of research. In fact, a recent study said 77% want this (Pardot’s 2013 State of Demand Generation Study). This behavioral information that marketing automation tool collects can be used to send a targeted message to your prospects. These emails can be very personalized and they can attract the interest of the prospect at the various stages of the buying cycle. The creation of one on one email communication based on criteria will increase the relevance of your emails and that’s going to make costumers happy.

There are many other benefits to incorporating CRM with marketing automation, but these three key points should be enough to get your attention. Much of today’s marketing is carried out through email and social media, as well as, a company website. The combination of these two tools can increase the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

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5 Tips to Increase Your Social CRM Success

5 Tips to Increase Your Social CRM Success

Social CRM can play an important role in your marketing strategies, especially in a world that is hyperactive around social networking. Let’s look at 5 things you can do to increase your social CRM success.

#1 Ensure Your Social Media Messages Are in Alignment With Your Brand Image
Even with social media, visitors want to feel like it’s a real live person they are talking with. You want to ensure the tone of your messages on your social media sites are in alignment with your company. For example, a laid back coffee house that caters to university students can have a casual, relaxed tone on their social media page, but a big corporation dealing with money investment must be professional, courteous and information. In other words, know what your brand image is and who your audience is.

#2 A Timely Responses to Customers is Necessary
How fast you respond to a customer is as important as your response. The faster the better. We live in a world of ‘instant’ and so when a customer asks a question they want an answer immediately. They should not have to wait hours for their answer. This is especially true if they have a complaint. You will have to work at staying on top of it, but the reward it customer trust and loyalty.

#3 Take Advantage of the Group Feature
Thankfully, the three most important social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter) make this simple. You can easily create groups such as Prospects, Current Customers, Positive Feedback, etc. You can then create social campaigns for each group of visitors. This is a very helpful tool.

#4 Be as Human as Possible – Put a Name & a Face to It
People on social media want to interact with ‘real people’ not with nameless corporate entities. When you are building relationships on your social networking make sure that you are using your name and it’s a good idea to have a picture of yourself attached to your ID.

#5 Use Your CRM System to Track More on Your Customer
Integrating your social networking with your CRM system allows you to record far more information on your customer. Don’t let an opportunity pass you by. This is a great way to build your customer profile, which in turn will help you to be able to create marketing campaigns that are even more targeted.

Social networks are an important part of today’s marketing strategies; make sure you get the most out of your social CRM.

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CRM Marketing Needs To Align With Multiple Technologies

CRM Marketing Needs To Align With Multiple Technologies

If you are going to create customer relationship management that is highly effective at the enterprise level you are going to need to create a database strategy that incorporates many different technologies along with integrating different business functionality such as sales, customer service and marketing.

If you really want to get the most out of your CRM technology, marketing needs to have a solid relationship with the IT Dept. This is not the same type of alignment that marketing would have with sales. The IT Dept deals with installing, maintaining, and supporting technology within the organization and they make the decisions about technology. When marketing correctly aligns with the IT Dept, they will be able to get access to the marketing systems they need to achieve their goal and get the marketing outcomes they desire.

It takes time to build this relationship with the IT Dept, so start earlier rather than later. It will be especially beneficial to you. It’s also important not to get IT involved too late in your CRM strategies. The earlier you integrate them, the better they will understand your needs and the more help they can be to you.

If you are using cloud based software you will need to have your IT Dept involved because there are many concern for your other data systems. Everything needs to be compatible, privacy needs to be ensured, and it must be secure. You need to your IT Dept’s help here!

Another excellent alignment is with sales. Sales already has the data relating to current customers and in that, data will be trends that can help you with your current marketing campaigns. However, in today’s world it’s also important to reach out beyond the sales department.

For example, savvy CRM marketers are turning to social networking and integrating that into the CRM database. Again, here’s a need for your IT Dept. Social media offers you an incredible amount of data on potential customers, such as what they like, what they watch, what they follow, personal information, and the list goes on. This information, when integrated with existing database information can be used to create powerful CRM marketing campaigns that are second to none.

To date, there has never been the ability to easily collect so much information on customers and potential customers. The use of social media is affordable and readily available. Many refer to it as the biggest marketing tool to ever be available.

The key is to make sure you are taking advantage of multiple technologies and venues to gather the information you need to build a strong and effective marketing campaign.

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