5 simple steps to starting an online business today

Small Business Advice 21 February 2017

It’s no secret that a strong online presence can lead to more sales. After all, there’s billions of potential customers waiting to find you online. So where do you begin? We’ll guide you every step of the way, from buying a domain name to setting up a card payment solution. Thanks to improving technology and lower costs, starting an online business has never been quicker or easier.

Prepare to go online

Choose a domain name

Your domain name is your own unique address on the internet – it’s your piece of intellectual property. Ideally your domain name should be short and memorable, this can increase the chances of your website being discovered. Get started with a domain name search on popular domain registration sites like GoDaddy, 123 Reg and 1and1. Shop around a bit to get the best deal. You can pay as little as £10 to £30 depending on the popularity of the domain name.

Find a web host that suits you

Everything you see online needs to be stored somewhere – this includes data, text and images. That’s where web hosting comes in. Web hosts store your website and its contents for a monthly fee. Think of it like a warehouse for your website’s furniture that can be pulled out in milliseconds.

If you’re looking to set up a simple blog or business website, a low cost web hosting package will work for you. On the other hand, if you sell products from your site, you’ll need something that’s more specialised for eCommerce. The web host you choose will be responsible for keeping your site up and running, so it’s important to read reviews weigh up the pros and cons of each before you make your decision.

While you evaluate your options, look at the tech support each web host can provide for your online business. While the cheap and cheerful option can cut costs in the short term, in the long run it could leave you with a site that crashes or runs slowly, making life difficult for your customers.

Create your brand new website

When it comes to creating a website, you have two options: build it yourself or hire an expert.

If you’re on a tight budget, perhaps take the DIY route – there are plenty of off-the-shelf options suitable for first timers. Most low-cost website builders offer you basic templates that you can use as a blank canvas, uploading your own images and written content. From Wix to Creative Market and Squarespace, you’re sure to find something to your taste.

If you want something more bespoke, it’s worth calling the experts and finding yourself a web designer. There are lots of ways to do this — take a look around your local area or ask your network for recommendations. If you can’t find any recommended contacts, you can try hiring one through an online freelance marketplace such as Upwork, People per hour, Freelancer and Fiverr. Always remember to read the reviews before committing and make sure to provide very specific briefs of the type and amount of work you are expecting to be done. This will not only help the freelancer to better understand your requirements but will also protect you from getting under-delivered products. 

Set up online payments simply and securely

When it comes to payment, it’s important that your customers have some peace of mind. As the UK’s leading merchant services provider, that’s where we come in.

At Paymentsense, we provide businesses with safe, simple and affordable merchant services — from a secure payment gateway that lets you process online card payments, to SSL encryption that protects your customer data.

We even supply a ‘Pay Now’ button for your website, helping you maximise revenue.

We get you up and running in just 24 hours. Find out more about how our online payment gateway can work for your business.

Tell the world about your online business

Now that your customers have a secure, simple way to pay, it’s time to spread the word. The first step is appearing on the world’s three biggest search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo!) – ranking in search results can help direct traffic to your website. Then it’s all about creating lots of exciting content, from social media to blog posts to podcasts to boost your visibility online and bring in those potential customers. Consider your audience’s pain points, answer their questions, this will help you truly engage with them.

Build a social media presence

Social media marketing isn’t just about posting, you need a clever strategy to be successful. Who do you want to reach on social media? Focus on networks where your customers hang out. By creating and then neglecting profiles your business might look inactive. There’s a good possibility that you’ll create accounts on popular networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.

Content is king when it comes to social media. Keep your customers interested with useful, engaging content – this can help form a lasting relationship with your audience. Vary your content – try posting videos, infographics and articles.

Be attentive, interact with customers and industry influencers. Answer their questions when possible. You shouldn’t always expect something in return – help instead of sell. This can help earn you a lifelong follower and a potential customer. Remember, be human. Use a specific tone of voice that resonates with your audience.

Sign up visitors and turn them into customers

Your email list is arguably your biggest asset – it can provide a large portion of your landing page traffic and help boost conversion. There are several ways you can ask for email addresses, such as pop-ups, sticky top bars, homepage banners, subscribe boxes, surveys and newsletters.

You’ll need a direct call to action and a reward. Entice your audience with something valuable, perhaps something free, in exchange for their email address. It’s important to ask for emails politely. You’ll inevitably disturb your customer’s experience, so it’s important not to put up a content barrier/banner.

Increase your income through back-end sales and upselling

Around 36% of people who buy from you will buy from you again…if you reach out to them. Use back-end selling and upselling to get them to come back to you. Send them electronic vouchers for their next visit. Suggest related products on your “Thank You” page after they purchase. This rewards your customer’s loyalty and encourages retention, meaning more return business for you.

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