Online Business Part 2Last week, we discussed if passion could translate into a good business, the processes of defining what you want to sell and using the Keyword Tool to do research. Now we shall cover the other four points:

  1. Red Ocean or Blue Ocean

This is where reality sets in. Through your research you may be excited to learn that few people or companies offer what you plan to offer. This could be great news, as it may represent a wholly unique opportunity – a ‘blue ocean’. Or, as is highly likely, you’ll find a lot of competitive activity in the space – a ‘red ocean’.

The distinction between red and blue oceans comes down to one thing – competition. A red ocean simply represents a market where competition results in ‘metaphorical blood in the water’. It’s a market that may be price sensitive with little margin to be made, or one where larger company dominate – sharks.

On the other hand, a blue ocean represents a space where there is little competition and you are free to explore and test your ideas. Beware though, blue oceans also have their dangers, rather like being cast adrift with no land in sight (like your ideas are so obscure that they don’t create a demand). Blue oceans require a wholly different strategy, because you are essentially creating your own market or building on a ‘nascent’ need – a need that people are only just becoming aware of. These of course, are the most exciting and potentially the most rewarding and is why the research is so important.

The outcome of this exercise will bring in to sharp focus the job ahead.

  1. Develop a marketing plan

At the risk of being clichéd, we’ll use a cliché here: “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. In the online world this is particularly true because ideas and business can be destroyed very quickly if you haven’t thought through how you plan to reach your market audience and fulfil their need.

Basically, you need a marketing plan. It’s a painful but worthy exercise. Again, whole books are dedicated to this, so we’ll be brief here. Your ‘online’ marketing plan should at a minimum accomplish the following:

  • Identify your audience, how you can reach them (email, search engines, auction sites, blogs, Youtube, social media, etc) and what ‘information’ they will respond too.
  • Identify your competitors, if there are any, learn from them. Try to figure out how they became successful and what they did to achieve it.
  • Outline your digital marketing strategy – what you need to build to reach your online audience. Examples include a website, a social media presence (and which ones).
  • Identify the type and form of content you need to create to appeal to your audience and engage them.
  • Outline how do you plan to advertise and what budget you have. Many options include ‘pay-per-click’ and ‘display advertising’ with Google Adwords Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, among others. You don’t always need to pay for advertising though; creating awareness through social media and other people’s blogs of valuable content on your own venues, can achieve the same end result.
  • Set some KPI’s (key performance indicators), such as: number of website visitors, response rate to emails, conversion rates (this might be actual sales).
  1. Learn how to analyse your performance and the actions of your audience

If you are using a website or social media, each has its own tools to analyse who interacts with you on-line. In the case of websites, Google analytics provides a wealth of data as to how many people and how they interact with your site; and it’s free. Others, such as SEMRush, are paid tools, but allow you to track your entire online performance – from keywords to social activity.

Using data in this way will help you adjust to the feedback implicit in how people use your website or social venue. It also allows you to monitor the performance of your advertising campaign. If you are an advanced user, you can also conduct tests to determine which ads perform better and adjust accordingly.

If there’s one aspect of an online business that sets the winners apart from the losers, it’s the ability to analyse and interpret the wealth of data at your disposal through these tools – it can help you beat your competition.

  1. Review regularly and don’t be afraid to change

Change is a constant in the world of online business. Online customers are fickle, technologies are changing all the time, as are search engines and the way people use social media. Adapt quickly by being aware.

Your end game maybe to sell product or services, but your goal should be to attract and engage your target audience. To do that you need to create a unique experience around what you have to offer. This is done through great content and content marketing. People share, and you want them to share your experience as this drives brand awareness and customer loyalty.

Best of luck to your online business.