Our last post featured advice on “How to Start a Business With No Money.” As pointed out in that article, many people dream of owning their own business and working from home, but do not have the funding or investors to get their business off the ground. Listed in it is many resources, ideas and free tools which can help an entrepreneur to get their business started with no money. But once you have followed that advice, and gotten an online business set up, where do you go from there? How do you get a solid foundation built underneath your business?
After researching some of the most successful startups, it became clear that their reputation spoke for them more than any other type of advertising. Whether you are an online writer, have an online store, or offer one of the millions of other online services, the hardest part of getting started can be creating a market for your product or service, and letting people know who you are. When you are first starting out, what you have to offer may not even truly exist yet. So how can you sell a product or service which is actually just an idea? How can you make sure the “you” that people see is the “you” that you want to portray?
Website, Networking and Emails
In our last article, we listed building a website as a step to starting your business. Most everyone reading this article will have already done so. Maintaining a professional looking and up-to-date website is vital to reaching out to new customers and selling your brand. Once your website is set up and ready to show off, you will of course want to monitor it’s performance and availability. A terrific example of website monitoring service is Monitor.us. Both a free and paid version is available to keep track of your website and ensure that it is running smoothly and opening quickly.
Now that you have a website and can be sure that it is always available for your new and potential customers, it is time for social networking. No matter what your new business will be, it is vital that you can stand out from the crowd. Even for those who have a fairly fresh idea can soon find that they have more competition than they anticipated. Building your image is very important to building your business, so get a good idea of who you are, and who you want to present yourself as to the public. You may choose to promote yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and many other social networks. Many choose a combination of several of them.
Once you have built up connections via social networking, send out emails letting them know who you are and what you offer. Make your tone sound friendly, but professional, and don’t get too spammy. For some businesses and services, offering a weekly or monthly email newsletter or update is appropriate, but you will want to give your contacts the option to opt out. Remember, you want to attract consumers, not push them away.
Getting to Know Other Entrepreneurs
This step often leads back to social networking. While many see Facebook, Twitter, and such as ways to keep up with their friends and family, these and other social networking sites can also be used as a very valuable resourcing tool. By joining various groups on Facebook, and LinkedIn, you can connect with other entrepreneurs… both in your niche and out of it,… with whom you can bounce ideas, brainstorm, share advice, and share failures.
For those who have no idea where to go from where you are, there are many resources available from those who have blazed the path before you. Never be afraid to ask other entrepreneurs for advice or help. This is another area where social networking comes in very handy. It is vital that you join groups and forums of other entrepreneurs, even if they are not in your niche, because the knowledge that you can gain from them can be very beneficial. In any social networking platform or online setting, always be professional, and friendly. Remember, your reputation is very important for your business.
It is also very helpful to read the blogs which have been written by other entrepreneurs who have succeeded in the path before you. Christine Comaford, author of the New York Times bestseller, “Rules for Renegades” is one very successful business woman who has blazed a path not many will ever see. An online search of her name, or reading her blog on Forbes.com can lead you to many ideas and methods which could be beneficial for your business. She also gives away free online tools and resources from time to time. Sites such as Entrepreneurweek and Renegade Entrepreneurs also offer good advice for those who are starting or maintaining their own business. Listen to the words of those who have made it happen, hear their stories, and apply their knowledge. In today’s internet world, it actually is possible to learn from another’s mistakes.
Ads, Pages, and Video “Commercials”
Aside from being a useful tool to connect and network with other entrepreneurs, social networking sites are also a great way to advertise. Sites such as Facebook offer both free ways to sell your product and paid ads as well. You can make your own business page on Facebook for free and invite anyone on your friend’s list. In turn, they can invite others and so forth. Anyone interested in your product or service may find your page via an internet or Facebook search and your network will grow. Of course, if you pay for the Facebook ads and let the site push your page, it may grow even faster. Remember, with any social networking site the number of fans or followers you have is not as important as the quality of the interaction that you have with them.
LinkedIn also featured ads, which can be used to help sell your product or service. By creating ads on LinkedIn, you can turn another social networking site into a marketing channel. You might also choose to look into Google Adwords, which is a pay per click advertising program. While it can cost a bit more than you may have wanted to pay, this is one of the more effective ways to attract your target audience. By using keywords, you can direct traffic to your own site. If this interests you, you might want to learn how to set up a Google Adwords campaign.
There are also several options available on the internet for making your own “commercial” or video ad. Of course, as most know, there is YouTube where you can upload a video that you have created. That video can in turn be posted to your personal site, social networking site, or most anywhere else on the net. Vator.tv is another choice for uploading short video pitches, perhaps a better choice since it is geared just for entrepreneurs. Industry news and information about specific companies is also available on Vator.tv.
Live the Hype
In summary the most valuable asset and foundation of your online business is you reputation and how you market yourself and your product or service. Knowledge, experience, and skill are important, but these can all be learned or outsourced of need be. Your reputation takes a while to build, and can be damaged very quickly. A good reputation is also vital to “word of mouth advertising,” which is known to be the most effective marketing strategy for entrepreneurs. It is important to remember that no matter how good the reputation that you have built is, it will mean nothing unless your product or service meets the hype. Honesty, integrity, generosity, dependability, and professionalism are all building blocks of this foundation of reputation. Without them, it is likely that your business will fall.