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The Golden Rules of Running an Online Business

In many ways, running an online business is very similar to running a business with a brick-and-mortar location. Certainly, the general rules of business are the same. Run your business with an eye toward profitability, and do what you can to keep your customers happy. It seems easy enough, right? But a business that is completely online, with no physical location that customers can visit, has some different kinds of special challenges. Let's take a look at some of the challenges online entrepreneurs have to deal with.

Have a Business Model

A business model is the key to any business, whether it’s a physical store or office, or a website.  The simple definition of a business model is a plan for the success of a business.  This plan is created by identifying sources or revenue, whom your customers will be, products and services you will provide, and the details of how you will fund your business.  It’s important to get all the steps right with an online business, because you don’t have the face-to-face contact with potential customers that traditional brick-and-mortar businesses have.  Factor that into your business model.
Golden Rules of Running Online Business

Integrate Social Media into Your Website

There is no denying the power of social media. Therefore, you must get comfortable with social media platforms and use them as a way to get your product and services out there for customer exposure.  Every business needs, at the very least, a Facebook page and a Google+ page.  Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are other commonly used social media platforms, although some platforms are not appropriate for every business.  Know which form of social media will work for your business, and use it.

Create a Great Customer Experience

Word of mouth is often the single most important factor in a business’s success or failure, and nowhere is that more true than with the internet.  Word spreads far more quickly on the internet that in person, and a bad customer experience will quickly be known by the rest of the world.  Make every customer experience a great one.  Engage your customers through social media, and give them the feeling that you care about your customers.  Place the focus on the website user, and respond quickly to any comments or questions from website visitors.

Have a Marketing Strategy

No business will succeed without marketing.  Online businesses must approach marketing from a different way, compared to traditional businesses.  Traditional methods, such as print advertising and commercials, are not options with online businesses.  Again, this is where social media can be a good asset.  You have to find ways to get exposure for your business through the internet.  A customer email subscription list can also be a good way to market your business. 
Send out a weekly email newsletter to discuss your products or services, and provide other interesting content that ties into your business. However, many customers still prefer having a customer service phone number to call, even for online businesses. A toll-free number can fulfill this need and also assist with your business's marketing strategy by enhancing local ad campaigns. To learn more about getting a toll-free number for your business, consider researching how it can boost your customer engagement and overall marketing efforts.

Create the Perfect Website

With an online business, your website is the store/office location, so you have to put a lot of thought into designing it.  To begin with, you have to find the best web hosting service that meet your business' needs. Secondly, the website should have clean, simple lines, and should provide plenty of information to customers, without seeming cluttered.  Make sure your website is a good user experience for every potential customer.  It’s imperative to test different styles of websites, rather than just assuming customers will prefer one style.  This is known as A/B testing, and can provide great feedback for what customers want in a web design. It’s also imperative to make sure your website is mobile-friendly. 

Most internet traffic now originates from cell phones and tablets, rather than desktop computers, so your website should reflect that trend.  Use search engine optimization techniques to ensure that your website will rank higher in search engine results.  This is necessary to draw in as many website visitors as possible.

The Work Doesn’t End with the Launch

Don’t feel like you should rush the launch of your online business.  It’s always best to make sure your business website is as perfect as it can get before its launch.  Post-launch, you’re still going to have to work just as hard.  It can be tempting to relax a little once your business gets started, but this can be a big mistake.  It’s important to continue evolving your business and website, and to continue to make changes as needed, rather than just waiting to see what happens.  One of the most important duties of any business owner is to be able to recognize what the customers and trends show, and adapt to those changes.

In Conclusion

Many of the same rules that apply to traditional businesses can also be applied to online businesses.  However, it’s important to recognize that there are some challenges that are unique to online businesses, and following these rules can definitely improve your chances of succeeding with your online business.

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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 18th December 2016.

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