One of the greatest benefits of the internet is that it allows people to earn money through previously non-existent channels. Selling products and services online has become an especially popular way for people to earn money. With the advent of easy-to-use website building platforms and omnipresent social media, reaching out to potential customers is no longer a problem. But that doesn't mean it’s an easy task. Stiff competition and a customer base that's drowning in information and advertising makes it difficult, but not impossible, to earn money by operating an online sales business. If you're planning to take the plunge and start selling your wares online, here are five things you need to do first to maximise your chance of success.
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Find a niche
The first thing you need to do before starting an online sales business is deciding on a niche product or service that you can sell. This involves a fair amount of research – you will need to figure out which products are most popular among customers (figure out their problems and how you can solve them) and which ones have the least competition from other online businesses. At the intersection of these two criteria you'll find the perfect product with the highest selling potential.
Once you've decided what you want to sell, you'll need to get feedback from your would-be customers. Don't just go around asking your family and friends if they would buy it because they can’t be objective. Instead, devise a buyer persona and then ask those people who fit the description if they would buy your product. An easier way to go about this process is to start a crowdfunding campaign on a site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo which allows you to gauge public response to your product.
Build a website on a custom domain
A lot of online businesses operate using Facebook pages or WhatsApp groups. While effective, this is not the best way to go around selling products online. Building a website creates a digital footprint which is vital for digital marketing – something you'll definitely have to do for making your business successful. You can drive all incoming traffic to the site, giving you the chance to build a customer base and gain extra income through advertising. You can easily set up a website using a content management service like WordPress or Squarespace. But don't build the site on a sub-domain like ‘example.wordpress.com’. Instead, spend a little money and use a hosting service like GoDaddy to create a site with a custom domain ‘like www.example.co.in’.
Create a thorough marketing and sales plan
As I mentioned earlier, marketing is an important part of selling online. An effective marketing plan involves identifying the right target demographic, selecting the right social media channels for spreading the word about your business, and setting realistic sales targets for your business to achieve. For example, a business selling photography equipment can target people interested in travelling and use Instagram and Facebook for social marketing whereas a business selling resume building services can focus on recent graduates and use LinkedIn to promote itself.
Do it yourself
Starting an online business takes a lot of effort, and it can be quite tempting to outsource some of the more menial tasks to freelancers. However, this is a needless expenditure that can be easily avoided. In the earliest stages of your online business, when sales are still intermittent, it's best to do everything yourself. From building the site to social marketing, there are online tutorials that you can use to learn the requisite skills in a short period without spending a single rupee. Once your business becomes profitable and you start generating a steady revenue, you can then hire freelancers to help scale it.
One thing you need to keep in mind while starting an online sales business is that it may take a while before you start receiving orders. But the only way to make sure it happens is to not get disheartened and keep at it until it finally works out.