When you think to grow your business online, it is not something that is done overnight. In fact, it can often take years to become truly successful.
Before you start on your online endeavor, it’s best to get your priorities straight and see what you need to do.
Below are 10 items to focus on so you don’t waste any time – you can get where you want to go in the shortest possible time frame.
#1 – Goals and Milestones to Grow Your Business Online
Every single entrepreneur that has become successful has a distinct and clear vision about where the company was going and what it was going to provide. Obviously, circumstances change as the business grows and evolves. But the core goals and ethos of the business will stay the same.
Ask yourself some core questions:
- What am I providing?
- What is my financial target?
- How soon can I reach this financial goal?
- What skills do I need to provide the products and services?
- Do I love what I do?
- What are the major business milestones I need to achieve?
- What kind of people will I need to bring my dreams to fruition?
Without goals, your business cannot reach the desired height – because it has no destination. Goals are the perfect way of keeping you focused, so you have something to strive for. They should be exciting to you, so you’re not merely chasing empty financial targets.
This is not a static process, and the goals will constantly need to be re-evaluated. When you have a clear vision, running the business becomes a whole lot easier. You can share your vision with employees, independent contractors, partners, and potential clients when you have a clear vision.
Making a mission statement is also a useful idea to grow your business online. The core ethos of your business ideals will be reflected in your branding, logo, and marketing. For instance, Dashnex is about simplicity, speed, and efficiency.
All of its products are designed to get aspirational online entrepreneurs set up as quickly as possible, without any fluff or excess attached. The straightforward approach to making sales and growing a business is evident throughout the business model.
The bottom line is, you need to really nail down what you and your online services are all about. As always, planning makes the execution so much easier.
#2 – Key Performance Indicators (‘KPIs’)
With an online business, you have an advantage in the sense that you can gain access to analytics quite easily with a few tools. Many of these tools are few or of a very low cost. A KPI is a core metric that you can focus on to see how your business is progressing.
Choose your KPI carefully. Some metrics can be a little misleading, and may not be a huge indicator of success. For example, you might be spending significant revenue on increasing your sales, but total sales are only going up by a small percentage. In this case, the tactic is not working efficiently enough to grow your business online. For online businesses, the more important KPIs include:
- Total Traffic – It includes the total number of visitors to your site on a given day, week, month, or year. This will allow you to see which time periods are the best for you.
- Conversion rate – This is the rate at which customers on your site are converting. If you have a hundred customers and two of them made a purchase, you would have a 2% conversion rate. This is typical for an online storefront. This metric is as important as the total number of visitors that are coming to your site.
- Shopping Cart Abandonment – This is a very important KPI for online business owners. Shopping cart abandonment rates remain extremely high. Customers are often put off by the extra taxes and charges observed upon checkout, and leave the cart.
- New v Repeat Customers – The more repeat customers you have, the easier it is to make a profit and grow your business online. This is because the cost of acquiring a new customer is expensive compared to simply treating an existing customer well, who will then keep buying. Customer retention can drive loyalty and word of mouth referrals, at a fraction of the cost.
- Product Affinity and Product Relationship – These two (separate) metrics can tell you what products are bought together and what products are viewed after a separate purchase has been made. This is important for cross-selling and promotion.
- Customer Lifetime Value (‘CLV’) – This tells you the value of a customer for the duration of the time they engaged your services. This is an important metric for seeing whether or not your loyalty services and customer retention policies are worth it.
- Customer Acquisition Cost (‘CAC’) – This KPI will tell you how much money you spend on acquiring a customer and to grow your business online. Calculating this is quite straightforward. Simply divide your total marketing cost by the total customers to get an average cost per customer (CAC).
- Bounce Rate – This tells you how many visitors look at your website once before ‘bouncing’ somewhere else. To grow your business online, you might need to look into why customers are bouncing away from your website if the number is high.
There are far more KPIs than the ones listed above. Other key metrics will include average session duration, source of traffic, mobile traffic, email open rate, subscriber growth rate, email click-through rate, churn rate, revenue per visitor, and more. Certain KPIs will be more relevant to specific departments and businesses.
To grow your business online, if you are relying heavily on paid advertising, then you will focus on KPIs relating to this. For email marketing, you will be focusing on newsletter subscriptions and click through rates. For an online storefront, the KPIs could include bounce rate, cart abandonment, conversion rate, and total traffic.
A good idea would be to have a huge spreadsheet of KPI metrics. This is good for spotting insights. Highlight the metrics that are most important and that need to be brought up. Track everything, but focus only on the very few metrics that need to be improved. You can identify what needs to be improved by comparing your rates to the market average and aiming to beat it.
Remember, the best (and only) way to improve is to see where you are and to have a target to aim at.
#3 – Hiring the Right People
Good businesses grow with the efforts of good people. It is the bane of many entrepreneurs that they are unable to delegate tasks to others. Thus, they remain as ‘small’ businesses. To grow your business online, you need to get the right people and get them to do the work for you.
This is not a ‘Machiavellian’ concept by any means. You are paying them (‘fairly’) to do a specific task and providing them with employment opportunities. Without you setting up a business, then they would not have a job!
The person does not have to be an all-rounder. All you need to do is hire those who are good at specific roles. And the online business model is perfect for finding these people. You can hire on an as-needed basis through freelancing platforms like Upwork and Freelancer. Choose the ones that work best for you. This is a massive advantage – you are not tied down to yearly contracts with the online business model. Hiring the wrong person used to be very expensive.
You can rely on others to do what they do best, just give them the appropriate guidance. If you provide the right framework and hire the right people, instilling the workers with company values, then it will grow the right way. Don’t fall into the classic trap of micromanaging every minor detail – you’ll go insane quite quickly.
Always have automation and expansion in mind. The idea is to leverage ideas and resources so that the business works for you, and you do not work for the business. Getting used to it might take time. It’s where a lot of business people get stuck. They can’t really take their business to the next level because they don’t have the mindset to let others do the work.
#4 – Sales
Businesses run on sales. There is no escape to it. If follows that you should focus on making sales first and foremost to grow your business online. Make sure that you have a goal or plan for sales, such as ten items a day. When you are selling products and have customers coming in, then you can work out the details.
Sales are the most important aspect of your online business. If you have a good sales strategy, everything else will fall into place. To really become good at sales, you need to understand some timeless principles with regard to the process, and some key terms.
- Problem Solving – When selling, always lead with the resolution of a problem that the customer is having. Don’t meander into the price packages or special features of what you are offering. You are first offering a solution to the problem. After this has been outlined, you can then get more specific. Your sales strategy needs to clearly articulate how problems are resolved before anything else.
- Identify Niche Markets – You have to clearly identify your target market. This will make the sales process far easier, as you can get more specific in your efforts. You might even be able to locate specific markets for your products – such as people on certain devices, or people from certain areas.
- Marketing Psychology – There are key psychological principles that have been backed up through numerous scientific studies. Such principles include conformity, reciprocity, ‘foot in the door’, and endowment. These principles tend to transcend social barriers and are applicable to everyone.
What kind of sales strategy you decide to pursue, will be up to you. You will keep learning as you move along and adapt. It’s always a good idea to build an email list, as this is a timeless marketing strategy (people tend to keep their email addresses for long periods of time). As an online business owner, you will definitely be looking to optimize your landing pages, maximize traffic, and reduce bounce rates.
#5 – Search Engine Optimization
As an online business owner, you will need to know all about Search Engine Optimization (‘SEO’). SEO, a subset of Search Engine Marketing (‘SEM”), relates to all kinds of marketing deployed using the search engines. With SEO, you are specifically optimizing your web pages for the search engines so that they rank more highly.
By using other models, such as paid advertising, you are merely bidding on keywords so they appear on the first search engines results page. With SEO, you optimize pages using the latest Google guidelines so that more customers will find your site.
The premise is quite simple. Users search for products and services by typing phrases (‘keywords’) into Google. Your page is optimized using these keywords so that the customer finds your page first.
There are many aspects to SEO, and it has got a little more complex than was the case in the past. You can’t simply stuff the keyword into the page anymore, and Google has decreased the importance of this, taking more factors into account than the keywords alone. The user intent is factored in and Google has got a lot smarter in terms of supplying what the user is looking for, based on historical searches, location, and other variables.
Still, the classical principles work. Good SEO guidelines will include:
- Long-form content that is unique.
- Between 0.5% – 2.5% keyword density.
- Short paragraphs.
- Use of H2 and H3 headings.
- Use of bullet lists.
- Videos and images in posts.
- Keyword in title, one header, and in the first paragraph.
SEO can no longer be ‘gamed’ as was the case in the early years. Site owners will simply have to adhere to the best practices and have patience as their sites slowly rank for better and better keywords. However, what can be gamed are the new niches and positions that come available from the rise of new trends. Such trends may include localization, personalization, and omnichannel marketing.
#6 – New Trends and Creative Solutions
Most of the advice you will get online, relates to following the best practices for growth. This makes sense, and there is a lot to be gained from following this advice.
But it will only take you so far. How can you beat the competition if you are following the same advice and doing the same thing? At some stage, you need to take responsibility for new solutions and capitalize on new trends. Somebody had to figure out the information first of all, right? You can be one of the people who discover trends and patterns in your niche.
For whatever reason, specific sales or marketing techniques might work especially well in your unique area. You can only discover this by capturing analytics and going over it (You can see why it’s a great idea to start tracking KPIs in s spreadsheet sooner rather than later).
New trends include personalization, voice search, and omnichannel marketing. Practically every business owner is playing a game of ‘wait and see’. They are waiting for the latest guidelines to come out so they can figure out what to do. But many of these patterns are already here.
We have not even scratched the surface when it comes to omni and cross channel marketing. You can market to customers across platforms and devices, which is really useful. Most web owners have not even fully investigated all of the plugins/tools that can be used to increase SEO, sales, and marketing on sites.
The first step should be to do everything right using the latest guidelines and best practices. The second step is to do everything even better. And the third is to discover entirely new trends that result in massively increased sales and customer satisfaction. Aim to do better and to discover new trends and patterns.
The average conversion rate for an online storefront might be around 1.5%. Nothing can stop you in making your storefront conversion rate closer to 4%. There is nothing stopping you from endless optimization, apart from limiting beliefs and accepting the current situations.
The point is to find the sweet spot between the commonly accepted solutions and the cutting edge techniques that you can create. Focus on creating these new techniques and look at things with an open, creative mindset.
#7 – Self Development
The business is merely a reflection of you as a person. You start it. You determine what its values are, and where it is going. It stands to reason that to improve the business, you have to improve yourself.
There are many forms of self-development and improvement. Public speaking is a useful tool for business owners, and for people in general. There are Toastmaster seminars available in many cities which can be used to improve public speaking skills. Your confidence will increase when you learn to speak in public. It will also help you to crystallize your own thoughts when speaking about your business.
Mose ‘esoteric’ practices that improve productivity and the bottom line can include mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness is the best and simple practice that will help you in becomming aware all of the time. With information overload, it is so easy to become distracted and to focus on the wrong things, the wrong metrics, the wrong ideas. Mindfulness will help you to delegate properly, to see things that you would miss, and to look at the business from a higher perspective. After all, problems can only exist when you fail to adapt to a new solution.
Sitting meditation has similar benefits. It can serve as a recharge after a stressful day so you are operating at 100% the next day. It also serves to increase emotional resilience, so you can handle tough clients and partners. 80% of world-class performers interviewed by Tim Ferris have a meditation practice. It has huge relevance in the world of business.
Regardless, it is best to have a means of self-development that is ‘outside’ of the business so you can well and truly take a break. What this means is that when you come back, you will be more efficient than ever.
Other forms of self-development can merely include patience and focus. Building a business is a huge and long-term endeavor. Give yourself more time and stop trying to do everything today. Wealth quickly gained is often wealth quickly lost.
#8 – Financial Realism
Money is the oxygen of business. If you wish to grow your online business, then what you are really saying is that you want to grow your finances (it won’t grow otherwise – all that will grow is your credit card debt).
Being a business owner, you need to be really savvy with money. Being conservative with cash is good, but you can’t be conservative forever. You need capital upfront to expand rapidly. If you misallocate this capital, you will go bust and have to start again. Make sure you have the capital at hand to start a business. 6 months in the banks is not enough if you spend it in 3 months, or don’t focus on quickly generating revenue.
One of the single biggest advantages of the online business model is that you can play it safely. With a dropshipping business enterprise, you will only pay for the item when the customer buys it. You have nothing in stock, and the logistical provider takes care of shipping and packaging. You can set up a website for pennies these days, and hosting is usually less than three bucks a month.
But you still need to tackle the biggest issue of attracting traffic to your site and make them buy your products and services. For this, you need a marketing strategy and a budget. Because customers simply don’t land on a random online store or website and buy products. They only arrive when they are led there.
Make out a budget for each item and stick to it. Hire people as you need them and when they bring value to the table. Don’t quit your day job unless you have a firm strategy in place and your personal finances are in order. A good way to think about finance is practicality. If you are consistent and logical, then your finances will increase with time.
Ultimately, you will need to focus on increasing your sales and total traffic. This will (invariably) increase your profit margins. So keep a tight track on your financials. It’s worth reading some good books on wealth and financial management (not simply sales and marketing, which may also be very useful).
#9 – Use Free Online Tools
Google Analytics and online free tools can be of invaluable assistance, as long as you use them wisely. Get up to date on all the resources you can and which ones are most suited to what it is you want to do.
Automation tools can also be a huge help. For instance, if you want to share a post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, social media management tools like Buffer can be used to post across all four.
If you use more than one online social media account, then an automation tool can be a massive help. To optimize SEO on a website, WordPress has thousands of plugins (literally) to complete a variety of SEO related tasks. DashNex is the ideal platform if you want to create an online storefront in minutes. It will be perfectly optimized for business people to make sales.
The issue is not that these tools are not available. It’s that there are so many free tools to choose from – how do you know which ones are best? First, identify what you need to do, then find the tools to do it. Make use of all the online resources available to you, so your online efforts can get more efficiency.
When using any tool, always keep your eye on the ball. Most likely, you need to focus on increasing conversion, generating brand awareness, and delivering value to customers. Don’t stray just because you see a shiny object. As a rule of thumb, the more you can automate tasks, the greater your profit margins will be.
Growing an Online Business – The Bottom Line
Growing an online business takes time, patience, and capital. Just like growing any business. On the one hand, there are many things that you can do to speed things along and increase your profit margins.
On the other hand, it takes time for businesses to start to attract a serious audience, even with the very best of products and services. Get started now using all the latest resources. Check out DashNex if you want advice from a marketing team with expertise in coaching new online entrepreneurs. It can help to start your online business quickly and efficiently.