Launching Your Website: A Guide to Going Online

Having a website these days is almost a necessity to doing business. Whether you’re a retailer, providing a service, or are operating purely online, launching a new website needs the same careful consideration as launching any business.

Write a Website Business Plan

A well thought-out plan is vital to the success of any business or new venture. Who are your target markets and are they online? Are your competitors online, and if so, what do they offer? How will you market your site?

What do you want your website to accomplish? A website can be used as a distribution channel (selling direct to customers) and/or as an advertising or promotional tool, so it’s important to know what you what your website to be.

Refer to the How to Write a Business Plan article for guidance on how to write an effective business plan.

If applicable, you’ll also want to consider consulting an accountant and a lawyer for issues to do with ecommerce, taxation, privacy, and other legal rights and restrictions.

Reserve Your Domain Name

Even if you’re not going to be online for several months, you should carefully research and reserve your domain name as soon as you can.

Your domain name doesn’t have to be your business name; a location, campaign, or task-driven domain name can be just as effective. Take your time to research your domain name options, and choose a domain name that is simple, easy to spell, memorable, unmistakable, and that you like and that will inspire you and your customers. You might also want to consider reserving both the .ca and .com extensions (to avoid confusion in your market), as well as potential misspellings. Read more about domain name extensions and see domain name tips.

Register Your Domain Name on Key Social Media Networks

It’s hard to turn on the news without hearing about Twitter or Facebook, or to read a business magazine that doesn’t mention LinkedIn. Online marketing efforts are shifting and social media networks have become a viable and, in some cases, an essential online marketing tool.

Your small business may not use these sites yet, but you likely will in the future. Like a domain name, it’s important to register your business and/or domain name on key social media networks.

Research Your Options for Web Development

Launching a website involves many skills and disciplines. Here’s what you’ll need to consider:

  • A website requires design, coding, copywriting, and online marketing. If you’re operating an ecommerce site, or collecting customer information, you’ll also have to take into account backend systems like payment processing and database management. Larger companies can offer a lot of these services, but are more expensive; freelancers usually specialize in one or two areas and tend to charge less per hour or project, but you’ll need a roster of talent.
  • Do your due diligence. Before choosing to work with a company or a freelancer, make sure to ask for references and portfolios. We recommend that you create a request for proposal (RFP) to better communicate your website objectives to your potential suppliers. This can help them give you an accurate estimate of the duration and cost of your website project.
  • Don’t overlook open source applications and tools that are freely available on the web (e.g. WordPress) that can give you a website at the fraction of the cost of building one from scratch.

Get a Contract

A signed legal contract can protect both parties in a web development project, whether you’re working with one company or several freelancers. A contract is a written agreement between you and your suppliers, without which there is no legal proof of the terms and conditions of your project, such as delivery, payment amount, schedule, expectations, type of work, and future support.

Build Your Website

Before proceeding with website development, you should:

  • Create a prototype or design mock-up (called a “wireframe”) and get feedback from your friends, family, and user groups made up of potential customers.
  • During early development, consider the user friendliness of your site’s design and navigation.
  • Ensure your content focuses on your customers’ needs and helps them accomplish what they would like to do on your site.
  • Give your customers a good first impression by having good content and web copy.
  • Make it easy for people to find you online by optimizing your website for search engines.

Stay Current

Read articles and attend seminars on how you can improve your website. By learning about web tools, technologies, and trends as they emerge, you can make better decisions about how to improve your website, and generate more traffic or sales.

How To Design Your Dream Lifestyle Job with Tijana Momirov

If you know my story, you’ll know that I had ‘real jobs’ myself before I decided to quit my 8 years in the corporate world and leave the 9-5, create my own business and become a digital nomad.

But I also know plenty of people who love their jobs and their work, they just want more freedom around them and the flexibility to fit the job around their lifestyle.

Which is why I so love Tijana Momirov’s story as she’s done exactly that – designed her life around things that she loved to do and built a consulting career to support that.

Tijana Momirov is a software engineer and has been a digital nomad for years – following the elements.

Her last ‘real job’ was in Athens, Greece and after realizing the best times of the day to kitesurf (her passion) was when she was working, and they seemed inflexible on allowing her to work different hours, she quit her job and started freelancing.

Five years in, she is still convinced that going location independent has been the best choice she’s ever made. And that the time is now, for everyone else to realize this too.

She is passionate about the revolution of the way we work and live and wants to bring more people over to the sunny side.

Listen to this episode

Podcast: Subscribe in iTunes | Play in Browser | Download

What you’ll learn in this podcast:

  • How Tijana went from cubicle, to wind surfing and living on her own schedule
  • The professional way to leave your job, and how to have the conversation the right way
  • The steps Tijana took to build her client base – and how you can do the same in as little as 1 month
  • Why you shouldn’t wrap your work around your life, and what you should do instead
  • How to handle negative perspectives of “working from the beach”
  • How to prove to others that you’re capable of having a career and being location independent

Want to take this further. Grab the FREE download workbook

Simply click here or the image below to get it now.

How to Start an Online Business: 11,520 Free Resources for the Internet Entrepreneur

This 40 page guide is a massive (11,520 to be precise) compilation of free to access resources on how to start an online business. These internet resources take the form of tips, tricks, tools, techniques, advice, tutorials, tests, blog posts, articles and guides.

The guide takes you through different phases of starting an online business, right from generating a business idea to implementing and marketing it and later growing your business. To best of my author’s knowledge, no other guide contains such a huge list of resources and is so comprehensive that everyone (from newbies to professionals) is going to find something useful in it.

In detail, this guide contains:

  • 4113 Ideas for an Online Business: From affiliate marketing to blogging to freelancing to ebook creation to selling on Ebay. Every single money making idea is in this guide.
  • 3619 Ways to Market Your Business: SEO, SEM, Social Media Marketing, Viral Marketing, Link Building, Email Marketing, Viral Marketing. Every buzzword is there in the guide.
  • 200+ resources in Videos and Podcasts: Learn startup secrets from the veterans, Stanford professors, business gurus and startup founders.
  • 1514 Resources in Blogging: 101 blog posting ideas to 101 ways to monetize your blog to 100 resources bloggers can’t live without to 99 ways to promote your blog for free, this guide has it all.
  • 1933 Resources in Freelancing: All the best tools that a freelancer needs, all the ways a freelancer can attract more clients and a list of niche job boards for freelancers.
  • 792 Resources for Small Business General Internet Marketing: Heard of Guerrilla Marketing? Know 101 ways to market your small business? This guide will give you the answers.
  • 173 Ways to Grow Your Business Online: Already established your online business? Know different ways you can grow it into an empire.
  • 451 resources to Maintain Work Life Balance: Who says you can’t enjoy life as an entrepreneur. Sure, you can. And, this guide will show you how.
  • 513 Tips for an internet entrepreneur: From 100 ways to be a better entrepreneur to 15 blunders rookie freelancers make. These are the tips which you can’t simply afford NOT to know about.

Download this free Ebook here.

The Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Starting A Small Online Business

If your goal is to start a small online business that replaces and exceeds your current income this may be the most important article you read this year.

Brash, huh?

Here’s the deal: I’ve been working online full time for almost 10 years, since age 19. I’ve had a lot of failures and a lot of successes.

There is no better way to learn how to succeed than to learn from someone who has already done it.

Tip #1: Focus On What’s Important

What’s important? Action.

In the beginning, just get started. Don’t get too caught up in details that don’t matter.

Dealing with the paperwork, business cards, and other ancillaries isn’t absolutely necessary.

It’s an online business for a reason. Save the time, paper, and money and don’t get business cards.

If you happen to meet someone who wants to know more about you or wants to visit your site ask for their e-mail address and actively follow up with them.

Handing out business cards is passive, and even more than that, ineffective.

Other paperwork a lot of people get caught up in is registering a corporation or other business entity. That will be important eventually. But you can (in the US anyway) start a business in your own name with very minimal paperwork (a simple Doing Business As form) and cost.

Consult a tax advisor for specific insights.

Tip #2: Invest In Education

Whatever business you want to start, be it blogging, eBay sales, information product selling, affiliate marketing, or any one of the countless other ways to make money online, there are hords of people who have done it before you.

Sometimes those people will have written about what they did to succeed. In those cases, if their business aligns with what you want to do, don’t be afraid to invest money into their products.

Personally, I have easily spent upwards of $40,000 on non-University education. That includes buying eBooks, print books, seminars, coaching, membership sites, you name it.

As a general rule, the most important skill you can learn, no matter what business you’re starting, is marketing. I don’t make a distinction between online and offline marketing. Once you learn marketing you can use it anywhere, with a few tweaks of course.

I liken it to learning computer programming. The language you learn isn’t as important as the logic behind it. You can adapt to any language.

Tip #3: Ask For Help

If you’re a bit introverted like me you might be shy about asking for help.

Don’t let that be a barrier to your success.

In other words, feel the fear and do it anyway.

You will deal with rejection. Many people won’t respond to your e-mails, phone calls, or tweets.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter.

Starting a business isn’t supposed to be easy. That’s the filter.

I promise you, if you talk to enough people, you will get the help you need. I’ve been quite surprised by just how accessible some people I was initially afraid to contact are.

Bonus hint: I’ve had greater success connecting with ultra successful people than those who are just ultra successful in their heads. 🙂

The key to getting a response is to send very short, very succinct e-mails. Practice the http://five.sentenc.es rule. Keep your e-mail to five sentences and make it clear what you’re asking.

Tip #4: Participate In The Community

Whatever niche you’re in there is a community.

For example, back in the days when I used to sell on eBay, I hung out on a few eBay message boards. I helped people where I could and I got help where I needed.

As an added bonus, when I decided to start selling eBay how to products (I haven’t sold them for over 5 years), guess who helped me launch that business? The same community that I had participated in freely for over a year.

These days, whichever community you should be a part of is larger and more easily accessible. Take advantage of that.

Tip #5: Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Your ultimate goal may be to quit your job, but don’t jump the gun.

You will find tons of stories of people who quit their jobs before they had their businesses going, but there’s a reason for that.

People who failed furiously because they didn’t have an income to support themselves in the lean business startup phase don’t usually write about it. And because they don’t write about their failures, you never hear about them.

I want you to quit your job as much as you want to quit your job, but I don’t want you to do it before it’s time.

A new tool for assessing your Facebook engagement: SumoRank

Buzzsumo releases SumoRank, a tool for measuring your Facebook engagement

Buzzsumo, one of the best content marketing tools that allows you to find the most shared content and key influencers within your industry, has this week released a new tool called SumoRank. The tools is aimed at community managers wanting to assess the interaction rates of their company’s Facebook page and find out the best days and times to post.

SumoRank is quick to get started with and offers a more user-friendly and visually appealing interface than Facebook’s own ‘Insights’ tab. Admittedly much of the data that SumoRank gives you can be gleaned from ‘Insights’, but SumoRank does a lot of the work for you, telling you straight up what your most popular time to post is and your most popular day of the week for interactions.

As we’ll see, SumoRank also enables you to benchmark against competitors or review industry trends such as the current decline in Facebook interactions.

Optimise your posts

All this data is perfect for finding out what works well on your page and what isn’t going down as well as you might have thought. Figures for average engagement by post type may prove or disprove your hypothesis that your audience prefer images to links –  looking around different pages has shown me this does actually vary considerably between page, it isn’t the cases that one type is consistently top. Figures for average engagement per character range will also help you establish where posts over 300 characters are good or bad for engaging your audience. Again there is considerable variety here. For Smart Insights, we saw posts with over 300 characters perform considerably better than ones with less characters (except for ones with less than 50), and yet other Facebook pages see their engagement decline rapidly as their posts get longer. It depends on the type of content your audience is looking to consume.

The data it gives on engagement by day posted can again be gleaned from ‘Insights’, but SumoRank presents it in a more accessible way.

If you don’t post frequently at the weekend but are seeing high engagement rates then it might be worth stepping this up somewhat.

The data on engagement by time posted may be somewhat more useful for community managers. If you see a spike during lunchtime hours you might want to time your posts to go out then, whilst similarly if you get good engagements rates well into the evening but never post then you could be missing a trick.

Spy on the competition

The really neat thing about SumoRank is that you can look into the results of almost any Facebook page (They don’t have data for very small Facebook pages), which mean you can get all the engagement stats of the competition. If your competition is doing particularly well you could well learn some lessons from them, as what appeals to their audience may well go down well with yours as well given that you will be targeting the same demographic. An interesting trend I’ve noticed when researching the tool and looking at a lot of Facebook pages engagement stats is that almost every single page has seen it’s engagement rate fall considerably since March this year. This reflects the deliberate reduction in organic page reach by Facebook over this period, which is part of Facebook’s efforts to force brands to pay to boost their posts and make the platform ‘pay to play’.

If you are involved in the running of your brand’s Facebook page, or just want to see how the competition measure up, you can access SumoRank here.

Putting the Cart Before the Smart: 4 Ways to Bend Technology to Your Favor

 

The smart cart has been dumbed down.

More than a decade ago, retail pundits were practically breathless over the possibilities of magical smart carts that would transform the customer experience. In reality, they were putting the cart before the smart.

While the path of the American shopping cart has been a storied one, its most compelling chapters may just be arriving now, through beacon technology and on-demand home ordering. Still, with everyone holding their own little smart carts in their hands in the forms of smartphones, the key for retailers is not making the cart – or phone – smarter, but designing the technology they deploy with the shopper experience in mind.

Those experiential opportunities are increasingly plentiful. Nearly 70 percent of consumers use their mobile devices to find a brand or product before they go grocery shopping, while 86 percent use their devices to plan their shopping trips, according to research by NinthDecimal, a mobile intelligence consultant. Almost 60 percent of consumers use their phones while grocery shopping.

Still, while the possibilities are plentiful, they are not without limit, as a look into the fleeting opportunities of the grocery cart reveal.

A rolling history

The first grocery carts rolled into the aisles of Piggly Wiggly stores almost 80 years ago. In less than four years, entire supermarkets were being planned around them, with wider aisles and larger checkout counters to accommodate the increased amount of products people were buying. One could credit the shopping cart for 64-ounce detergent packages, and 16-roll toilet paper bundles.

Over the years, the basic design of the shopping cart has not much changed, though its technology – or technological potential – has. From tracers that showed grocers how we shopped to LCD screens that could map out the store and alert us to sales, the cart had been earmarked as a central device for improving the shopping trip. Consider this excerpt from a 2003 USA Today story:

“The smart shopping cart looks like a normal one except for an interactive screen and scanner mounted near the shopper. Once the shopper swipes his store card, his shopping history is available for all kinds of purposes, from presenting a suggested shopping list to alerting him to discounts or reminding him about perishables purchased a month ago.”

Sound familiar? It turns out that hitching the customer experience to the shopping cart is expensive. Instead we have smartphones doing much of that work for us, pretty affordably. They enable beacon technology that can identify a shopper in close range of a specific product, map out a store and deliver a host of other in-the-aisle features.

A central problem remains, however: Retailers have yet to enable the phones to deliver the kinds of relevant experiences that elevate the task of grocery shopping from featureless to fun.

New shopping list

Can a phone, regardless of its smarts, transform the task of selecting just-the-right banana bunch and bone-in chicken breasts into something one can look forward to? The resolution exists not in how much technology a shopper really needs to get the job done, but in what specific experiences the technology can deliver to make the job a pleasure.

At a time when grocers are competing with drug stores, gas stations, mass merchants, online merchants and even some department stores for the grocery dollar, technology alone will not give the supermarket an edge.

However, all the pieces are there to reshape the in-aisle encounter to an event that includes an element of happy surprise. It is up to grocery retailers to build the infrastructure and test what will bring this journey to fruition. My simple suggestions:

Learn how to connect: Let’s all assume we can bypass the smart cart and go straight for the smartphone. How will you use it to connect with the customer in a way that is personally relevant? Beacons are popular, but note that in-store promotions do not necessarily translate to a happy experience, especially if the shopper is in a hurry. Perhaps a greeting at the beginning of the trip that asks, “What brings you here today?” can be used to inform the rest of the trip communications.

Be brand true: A grocer’s personal shopper communications, whether by smartphone or cashier, should hinge on its brand promise, mission and why its shoppers choose that brand. Once this is determined, the company can build a platform so its specially appointed team can hear customers in real time and then craft appropriate experiences to reinforce the brand promise.

Pass it on: A customer message that sits with the marketing team is a message in a vacuum. By developing an in-house system for sharing what the customer says throughout the organization, it can discover unexpected potential in its marketing efforts, product placement and customer interests.

Deliver: As with any experience-enhancing endeavor, the company should ensure it has the budget to deliver on the initiative’s promise. It sounds simple, but sometimes customer reaction differs from what we might expect. A recent case in point involves British grocery chain Waitrose, which offered free coffee or tea to its myWaitrose loyalty members, and ended up getting hordes of free drinkers who bought no groceries – irritating lots of paying customers.

No cart, or phone, can outsmart that sort of oversight.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com, where Bryan serves as a retail contributor. You can view the original story here.

Why is CRM the ideal solution for every small business?

CRM is a great tool for customer management!

However, unfortunately, many small businesses have still not started using it. Reason – A myth that CRM software is designed only for the large businesses.

And this is what is keeping most of the SMBs away from using CRM and improving their customer service.

Why is this a frightful situation?

Experts have predicted that by the year 2020, customer service will beat price and product quality and become the first brand differentiator.

That means only those businesses will survive who will be able to understand the Voice of the Customer through the CRM and provide exceptional customer service, along with good product quality and low price.

If now the SMBs do not take up the CRM then, nothing will be able to save them them from meeting the doom after a few years.

What do the small businesses need to understand?

CRM is not just a tool only for the BIG BOYS.

Although earlier CRM was designed to just meet the enterprise needs, today most CRM vendors have involved small business’s growing needs to shape up their solution. In fact this is exactly what Brent Leary, popular CRM thought leader has also commented in Software Advice

“There are a lot more CRM choices for small businesses today than there were a few years ago. These products are more affordable, easier to use and the subscription pricing terms are in line with what small businesses are looking for.”

In fact the few small businesses that have taken the CRM have admitted of a hundred percent satisfaction.

According to Software Advice online survey (conducted over 304 large, medium and small businesses who use CRM software) – small businesses (those with 100 employees or fewer) are “very satisfied” (37 percent) or “somewhat satisfied” (33 percent) with their current CRM system.

This clearly proves how well is the CRM performing for the small businesses.

What kind of benefits do the small businesses get from CRM?

  • Customer Data Management
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Customer Interaction Tracking
  • Lead Management
  • Sales Forecasting
  • Sales & Marketing Automation
  • Project Management
  • Workflow Standardization
  • Internal & External Team Collaboration
  • Social Media Management.

It is interesting to see that CRMs are delivering on so many more areas (such as project management, team collaboration, sales and marketing activities) other than customer relationships.

The reason behind this is the objective to expand the scope of CRM from just a Customer Management Tool to a full-fledged Business Management Application.

That is why, sales, marketing and project management features have been integrated to the system. This has made CRM a more significant tool for every business as it has more features and benefits that result into revenue generation and growth.

The right choice of CRM

In order to get the benefit from CRM, it is important to select the right technology. However, due to so many different types of CRM solutions available – it can get confusing for small businesses to make the right selection.

Some of the factors to take note while choosing a CRM are:

1. Ease of Use

2. Mobile functionality

3. Customization

4. Training

5. Frequency of CRM upgradation

6. Open APIs

7. Cloud or On-premise

8. Security Measures

9. Support Service.

In addition to these elements, small businesses should also consider their own goals that they wish to fulfill through the CRM.

Example: if they are looking for CRM to automate most of their routine data entry work, then they should look for a CRM that has a robust automation module.

Michael Kristian, CEO of Asuret (business consulting firm) also has the same point of view-

You need to get a package that’s tailored to your company’s size. At the most basic level you have simple contact management. Then you have contact management with a shared database. You can have sales tracking or opportunity tracking or customer service functionality. Match the capabilities of the software with what your business goals are.”

Final Thoughts

Once small businesses have CRM by their side, they will automatically develop a tight grip over their business process. Customer relations will improve which will result into a better and continuous flow of ROI.

It’s just that small businesses need to opt for the CRM that is correct for their business. Right? Or do you think that there is some other factor also that plays a key role in ensuring the success of a CRM

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