Running an online business shouldn’t cause bankruptcy – especially if it is a side business. The golden rule to starting an online business is “keep your day job until your profits outweigh your income.” Many people make the mistake of quitting their money making job in order to put all of their eggs into that dream business. While commitment is great, common sense is even better. Expenses such as storefront software and merchant service can be curved with open source software; however, many choose to use big name shopping carts (such as Shopify, Volusion, and BigCommerce) and well known merchant centers (such as 2checkout and Authorize) in order to have a worry-free, technical supported, customized store. It is a personal preference that is based on available time, technical know-how, and overall desire. The point is: you shouldn’t have to take out a small business loan to get started.
Once the business is up a going, how do people know it is even exists? That is where most begin to drain their finances – advertisement. Advertisement can make or break a business. A company can’t make money if it doesn’t have customers. Having a website online doesn’t mean it will be found – many wish it was that easy. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get those initial doors open to even a few people. During this journey, a company’s best friends are Alexa and Google Analytics – these allow the owner to monitor what is working (ads vs. social media vs. organic searches), where people are coming from (referring sites), how long they are staying, and what is peaking their interest. This should be setup before the first dime is even spent – how else would you know that the $.95 cpc keyword actually worked and made a user stay on the site for 5 minutes versus 2 seconds because it wasn’t relevant to the site.
As soon as your free monitoring sites are setup, a new owner should begin to strategize their marketing approach from free to expensive. Begin brainstorming to determine the cheapest way to be found versus the most expensive way to obtain customers. The cheapest way to obtain a customer is through a number of free methods: Social media sites (Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Polyvore, Twitter), Blog Sites (Hubpages, Tumblr, Posterous), Web Crawl Sites (Google Webmaster Tools, Bing, Submit Express, Ping My URL), Directories (Yahoo, Google Places, DMOZ, Yelp, Manta, Merchant Circle), and through literature by submitting articles, videos, and press releases to a number of sites.
Social Media is an online business’s greatest ally – not only does it provide free advertisement, it allows people to easily suggest a site to friends and family by the means of “likes”, “pins”, and “shares”. It puts those interested in your information to work for you. By using these means, visitors and followers can keep up with the latest additions, customer favorites, and sale items. They are also able to link their Facebook account and Twitter account to each of these in order to have one social media platform help another.
Web Crawl Sites allow a site to be surveyed and recorded in search engines. By making sure your site is SEO friendly, a web crawl of the site will make is searchable in some of the biggest search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Your site may appear on page 15 but at least it is appearing. Pay per click advertisements will help that but it can be an expensive helper. Directories are great for businesses that also have a physical location; however, they can still be used as a place for online businesses to obtain reviews. An additional source to consider is site dedicated to coupons. Sites such as RetailMeNot and GroupOn allow companies to offer discounts and specials to potential customers in order to drive traffic to their sites.
Press Releases, articles, and videos provide two forms of assistance, they deliver your intended message to customers, and they allow for backlinks to be created. Microsoft Office programs such as PowerPoint and Word can assist in creating these items for free. Backlinks will help with a page’s ranking which will assist in its position in search engines. An owner does not have to pay for the submission of press releases, articles, and videos – there are a number of sites that allow these items to be posted for free (such as EzineArticles, YouTube, and PRLog). If a person is interested in having their press releases and articles created as well as submitted, there are a number of services (such as PrWeb and Submit Your Article) that will be provide these services at a reasonable cost. There may be additional free methods that were not mentioned in this article but these are some of the most popular methods utilized by beginners.
Once the free methods are exhausted, the owner can review Google Analytics and Alexa to see how their hard work is paying off for them. If desired conversation rates are still minimal, paying options may be the next resort. A person can invest in pay per click ads or banners that will appear on several sites. Google Ads and Facebook provide pay per click services that allow the advertiser to set their own minimum bids and maximum budgets. The controversy behind ppc services is that the little man cannot compete with the big businesses uses the same services, so unless you have a niche to market, you may be paying $1.00 or more per click to obtain first through third page status. While that does not sound expensive, imagine at least 300 people visiting your site a day and no one purchases. That means a person just spent $300 in a day or $2100 in a week for advertisement that may or may not convert to a purchase. Other paid services include SEO optimization, website submission, backlink creations, marketing solutions, and etc.
Starting a business does not have to cost a fortune, it just requires commitment, dedication, and time. It may take six months to a year before you make your first sale. Spending your budget wisely will make the wait for that sale much less stressful then sinking thousands of dollars into a business only to make $50 in the end. The choice is yours.