When going online, few people give much thought to all the aspects of running an online business. But in order to be among the 5% of the businesses that still run after their first year, you need to keep a few things in mind.
Know your target market
In order to create something that people would love to buy and use, you need to know your target market. To do this, you can:
- be an expert in your industry
- read websites in the industry, such as blogs, forums, social sites, etc
- ask your friends about your product idea, what they think, what they would suggest, etc
- ask various Internet marketing experts (there are plenty of blogs and forums out there) about your idea: they usually see a winner and can advise you how to improve your idea and approach
- ask your industry expert friends
If your idea is hard to duplicate, you can share it with other people, especially, if you have everything necessary for the start available. If not, it may be not a good idea to share it with the experts.
But one of the signs that the idea is worth implementing is if you hear people saying 'I want this, but I can't find it anywhere' or "Wouldn't it be cool, if..". If you see plenty of such mentions related to your idea on the forums, blogs, then you are on the right track.
Ultimately, it boils down knowing the needs and values that run the people and what they need at some point of time.
Provide value to the people
Knowing the needs and values of the people is absolutely necessary to provide value to them. As people only do or use what is useful for them, you need to provide absolute, astounding and astonishing value for them to pick up your product and share it among their friends.
Offer an easy to use product
One of the most precious things on the planet, becides life, is time. You can't control how fast your time runs: you can only control what you do with it. That's why people also enjoy things they can use easily and that work fast.
- if you are creating a web application, ensure that it is easy to use and that it runs super fast
- if you create a piece of software, make sure a user has to click the least amount of times to do a task
- if you have a website, make sure it is usable and that you have optimized its speed significantly
- if you have an e-book, apart from providing the PDF format, provide other formats, reading applications for which load faster than Adobe reader (such as .doc, .rtf, .html, custom e-book software, etc)
- if it is a tangible product, only keep the most necessary functions with the least amount of controls (iPod is a perfect example of this)
Becides providing value to your users/visitors/readers, you need to value their time and efforts. That's why you need to provide excellent experience for them by offering a useful and easy to use product.
Start with a niche
Most products can be used in many industries, markets and niches. But in those markets, there are many other products competing for the same audience. To start well, you need to start with a very tight niche with little competition.
In this case, you'll be able to
- get noticed easier
- test your product on a smaller bunch of real people
- see whether your product is a success
- spend relatively little before clearly seeing where to go next
- improve your product before going large scale
- have experience, practice and capability of expanding to a larger market
- will learn to adopt to the market (the real people, your customers) easily
All of the above will get you prepared to the future life of your product and company. It'll teach you how to live in the current market and progress.
Expand to a related niche
Once you have conquered a small niche and have proven that your product is a success, you can expand. But you need to expand smart to keep the image you have earned within your small niche. That's why you can expand to a market, related to your first one.
For example, if you were producing umbrellas for the business ladies, you can expand to the mens business umbrellas market.
If you want, you may not expand, but you'll need to increase the quality of your product, create more offers for your niche and try to improve your business from the inside to create a stable company.
Keep working and providing value
Once the success comes, you still need to keep providing value to your customers, because that's what have earned you their attention. If you increase too quickly, you may lose the product quality and the customers.
Focus on the benefits
Since people need value, you need to focus on explaining why your product is useful for them: show them why they need to spend their time, efforts and money to use your product.
Use call to action in marketing
If you want your target audience to take action, you need to explicitly use call to action in marketing. This way, you will not only get a much higher conversion rate and ROI in your marketing (be it offline or online, especially on landing pages), but will help you get a share of your customers' minds, if you also focus on the benefits.
Embrace your audience
Nowadays, the web is getting more and more active and interactive. You not only just have to socialize on blogs and forums to know what your audience wants, but you want to be a part of the conversation for people to talk about you.
You can always add a social aspect to your marketing, such as:
- make it easy to share your product or news about it
- ask people to share
- take part in the conversations on the Web: on your and other related blogs, forums, social sites
- have your own blog, maintained by people within the company, who know everything about your product and audience
- create viral content, tools, videos, audios: anything to capture the interest of the people, who share actively online
- create a space for your customers to interact with your product/company and help you improve it (like Dell's IdeaStorm)
- always be receptive and pay plenty of attention to your customers, both online and offline
- watch your online reputation online and fix the issues as fast as you can
- reward active participants in your community with free gifts and cool gadgets (even if not produced by your company)
- if possible, run local meeting events of your customers, where they can talk, share ideas (you can also use this opportunity to brainstorm with your customers on what they need most in your product and how to improve it, your site and promotion)
If you become a part of the community, your product will also become a part of the peoples' lives, and that's what one of your marketing goals is.
Rounding up part I
Of course, savvy Internet marketing can't be put on one page. While the above rules significantly increase your chances for success online, you may want to subscribe to this blog's feed to stay updated with more tips on successful Internet marketing.
P.S. A fellow forum member of mine is trying to win a MyBlogLog contest. So if you have time, please join his community (the link is on the top-right) and take part in his $1.5k giveaway contest. Thanks.