These days, the idea of creating an online business that would prosper independently of the current market situation seems more tempting than ever. Obviously, building and scaling a thriving online business is not a piece of cake. During the years of leading a digital agency, I have observed many successful as well as failed online companies, and today I will share with you the lessons learned.
1. Know your customers…
No business operates in a void. You must always bear in mind your potential customers and evaluate how your offer responds to their needs. Customer research is crucial to deliver an appropriate product or service adapted to your target audience. Of course, flawless customer service is of great importance as well, but it won’t be enough if your value proposition misses the point.
2. …and gather their feedback
Remember that customer feedback is a true gift and can be of great value when growing your business. Your customers can be a source of inestimable insights that will contribute to improving your offer. Let me recall the Minimum Viable Product concept from Lean Startup by Eric Ries: releasing a basic version of your product (it works with services as well) will allow you to test and improve your business idea thanks to the possibility of analyzing customer response and feedback.
3. Be strategic
Target audience and value proposition mentioned before are important elements of a marketing strategy, along with market positioning, competitor analysis, and the choice of the appropriate promotion tactics and channels you will use to reach your customers. A well-thought-out strategy helps to keep your marketing activities consistent, purposeful, and on the right track.
4. Build a bulletproof brand
Building an online business implies that your customers will rarely interact will with your brand offline, so you should put an increased effort in your online brand recognition. This doesn’t mean that you have to expose your brand message in every online channel and social media platform possible. The insights gathered during customer research will give you an idea where on the Internet you’ll find your clients, and how to deliver your brand message to them.
5. Equip yourself with the right set of tools
A carefully picked marketing stack will help you achieve the goals defined in your marketing strategy. There is no universal set of tools for every online business because the choice depends on the type of business and tactics used. E-commerce, finance & insurance, consumer goods or science & tech will need different tool stacks. On the other hand, there are tools essential for every type of online business: these that provide customers with a convenient way of contacting you (a live chat widget, for instance) and allow you to communicate with them in multiple channels (e.g. a marketing automation platform).