11 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting an Online Business

1. Planning

It is important to make an online plan to get your business implemented across the digital sphere. Usually, this will involve the creation of a website, setting up social media, and initiatives to drive traffic to your site and channels.

Before any of this can get underway you will need to establish a buyer persona, so that you have a good understanding of who your target market is.

There are many things to consider when starting a website. Some of the first things you need to plan include:

Your product/service offering. In an ideal world, this should be something that you are passionate about, as that makes it easier to sell. However sometimes that is not possible, so then it might be that you get passionate about running the business aspect. Another is to carry out a competitor analysis, you need to see which other players are offering similar products/services, and you need to be able to differentiate your offering from theirs.

Buyer persona. Take some time out to think about who your buyer is, who do you intend the product/service for – how does it fulfill their need? Why would this product/service be relevant to them etc?

You must think about how you want to monetize your online business. Will you sell your products directly on your site, or will you consider an affiliate marketing option?

Business name, or if already established offline a business logo (optionally a tagline). If choosing a name for the first time it is important to choose something that reflects the service offering, as well as is catchy. For example, if you sell dishwashers, it will not make sense to call your business “Rocket Science”.

Look and Feel of Website: You need to think about the look and feel of your website. This is important, as it will also convey a message about your brand. There will need consistency across the site.

This is probably one of the most important things to consider. You may have a site – but you will need to find ways to drive traffic to your site. If you have the in-house capability you may want to consider SEO, PPC, and Social Media, for example, otherwise using the services of a digital marketing agency will also be a good way to do this.

Privacy Legislation: Now with privacy legislation, you will need to ensure your site meets GDPR requirements in relation to collecting personal data, as well as others such as selling to consumers online amongst others.

The plan will help you outline key areas that are important for your business online. It will also give you clarity so that you do not miss anything, but it also serves as a checklist so that you look back and make sure you have covered everything that you need to. Remember a good plan requires research, so make sure you understand why these areas are important.

 2. A product/service that you are not passionate about

Why is this important? Firstly, if it is something that you love, you will not mind working extra hours to get the business going. If you are not passionate about the product/service offering there will probably be competitors that are! They will more than likely invest that passion into promoting their business which will mean that you may have a tough job keeping up.

3. You cannot do it all

Sometimes when we start out we want to do everything ourselves, just so it is at a standard we can be proud of – however as time goes on, and business starts picking up, it will become harder to do it all. You can try but you may end up working late at night, with minimal sleep.

Sleep and rest, a work/life balance is conducive to a successful working environment. Ideas and creativity come from a rested mind.

There will be tasks that you can outsource or hire someone else to do.

4. Limited Marketing Efforts

A business may have launched its website, however without any marketing efforts the chances of potential customers finding you will be limited. Think about it for a minute. Offline businesses do it all the time: Word of mouth (referral marketing), giving out business cards, and setting up shop on a busy high street are all attempts to market a product or service. So why not online?

So why is online marketing important?

Fundamentally – Traffic (visitors to your site). The question ‘is’ how do you get that traffic? ANSWER: Good quality marketing, such as SEO, PPC, Social Media, Content, and more.

5. Forgetting the legal stuff

Some business set themselves up online however they forget to allocate adequate time or resource on the compliance side of things.

For example, If you collect personal information online, or if you sell to consumers, you will need to wrap your head around and understand your obligations as a business. Like privacy legislation, you will need to ensure your site meets GDPR requirements in relation to collecting personal data.

You will also need certain information visible from a business registration point of view. It is well worth spending time doing the necessary research and speaking to the relevant bodies so that you have a good understanding of what your obligations are as a business operating online.

6. What do your customers want?

This can be a tricky question to answer for some businesses. If you have never sold a product or service before, you may not know how to engage your buyer. Or it might be that you have mainly sold your products or service offline, and the customers just walked through your shop door in the high street without much more effort on your part.

So how do you figure out what your online customers want? I would recommend a competitor analysis, and research what they are doing? See what their tone is, what they are saying on social media, they may have promotional offers on their websites so on and so forth.

7. Just like your competitor

More than likely, you will have competitors in the market, unless of course, you are developing something completely new or unique such as a teleporter or something.

You have done the research on your competitors, and you have valuable insights into your product market. The key is being able to apply that market knowledge to your business without copying your competitors.

Of course, first nature is to say that you have a quality product or service offering. However, you will need to think about the character of your business, your values, and your approach – bring this into your positioning.

If this is not your forte, you can reach out to digital marketing agencies, the agencies will be doing this type of work regularly.

8. Niche or Small

Niche markets are a limited pool of sales. There is only so much that you can do to sell them your goods unless you are offering vegan or specialist foods, which customers may purchase again. Then you will have limited sales potential for new sales as there are only so many times that a person may buy a table with fur on it for example.

9. Multi-tasker

When running a business there will always be something that needs doing. You may find that one minute you are wearing the administration hat, then switching to sales, then to product development, then stock takes, then to accounts, then marketing, back to admin, and on it goes. This can become quite time-consuming, but this may also mean that you are stretched too thin and that nothing is being looked at long enough to be done properly.

I like to plan things, that way I can plan which task will have my whole attention for either a day if needed or half a day. Alternatively, if this is too slow moving for you and your business, you can always outsource certain tasks to external agencies, such as marketing or accounting.

10. Procrastination

You might spend time learning about your business, and market, you may learn new skills, such as accounting, or go to a workshop on ‘how to run a business. But you may feel that you have not learned enough to start, the thing is that especially online the digital arena is constantly changing, you can take a course today, and by tomorrow something new may have come out that everyone is utilizing or doing.

The longer you spend learning and researching, be mindful that this does not go on for an extremely long period of time so that you are forever researching.

11. SEO for your website

Success for your business online may depend on how much new traffic you can generate for your website. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) enables visibility and ranking on search engines.

There has been researching carried out that shows that the first few pages gain the most visibility for search queries. Thus, in turn, the traffic for those businesses listed on those pages may have a higher percentage of traffic than those that appear on pages further in the search results.


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