Ever thought how to start an online business?
The past week I’ve attended a couple of networking sessions and in one of those events we were talking about the lessons we’ve learned in our business careers so far.
The chair lady asked each of us to quickly share (in less than 2 minutes) what we will do if we had to start over from scratch. Since she knew I had online business, she asked me specifically to explain how to set up an online business and attract clients via your website.
I actually smiled, because starting an online business and attracting clients via your website is a process. It takes time.
It is not something that necessarily happens overnight.
There is no quick fix or magic bullet for getting started and getting more clients. However, I also know that when you follow a process and a step-by-step plan, you can reach that point of getting clients and making money in your business much faster.
So, I stood up and this was my answer.
Here is exactly what I will do today if I had to start all over again.
Step 1: CHOOSE my audience
I will first of all choose and make a decision on a target audience. I will…
- Decide who I would like to work with;
- Find out what problems they have…. that I can solve;
- Craft a marketing message so they understand how I can help them and then
- Position my business in such a way to solve those problems for them;
Step 2: Identify where to FIND them
After I know who I want to work with and what I will say to them, I will start looking for places where I can find them in large numbers and inexpensively. This can include social media groups, forums, networking events, trade shows etc. I will ensure that I am consistently present in those places – either in person or via my marketing materials and will create a varied and continuous marketing outreach strategy to inform prospects how they can benefit from working with me..
Step 3: Set bait to HOOK them
I will direct all my marketing efforts (from Step 2) to my website. So in Step 3 I will create a website and use the marketing message (from Step 1) to attract my ideal clients (the bait). I will put 1 or more valuable free resources on my site that addresses the specific needs of my target audience (the hook). This will provide me with an opportunity to capture the contact information of ideal clients that are interested in what i have to offer.
Step 4: Follow up to KEEP them
This is the important part. Having people in your client pipeline or on a list means nothing if you don’t create a relationship with them. So, I will use systems to stay in touch with them on a regular basis and continue to deliver value. The truth is: you never know how long it will take someone to become ready to work with you. When you follow up, stay in touch, and send them great information that they can use, your prospects won’t forget about you. It furthermore gives them an opportunity to really get to know and trust you. When they are ready and need the solutions you provide, you will be the first person on their mind.
Step 5: Have something to SELL them
The truth is, you do not have a business and you cannot make money if you do not have anything for sale. Also, you need to ask for the sale in an authentic way. So, I will deliver a service and/or create a product or program that addresses the specific needs of my target audience (from Step1). This will be available through my website, and I’ll have a varied and continuous marketing outreach strategy to inform prospects of it and how they can benefit from working with me..
Step 6: Monetize and EXPAND
In this step, I will enroll clients into my business, enjoy my income and start expanding my business by better leveraging my time, money and knowledge.
In a nutshell, these are the 6 steps that I will take if I had to start from scratch. Obviously it sounds over simplified, but this covers the total process any online business can follow to grow and expand their client base, from scratch.
Email marketing is still one of the most effective marketing methods today.
It all starts with incorporating an irresistible free offer on your website that invites your site visitors to give their name and email address in exchange for it. The process adds their details to your subscriber list and allows you to stay in touch with them via email on a regular basis.
Here are 4 simple steps to get started:
Step 1: Getting Email Marketing Software.
The first thing you need is email marketing software. This software allows you to put a form on your website to collect email addresses and other details from visitors in exchange for something you offer for free. It is similar to the one opt-in form on my website where people can sign up for free training. Companies like Aweber, ActiveCampaign, Convertkit, and Mailchimp are great when you just start out. Simply choose one that fits your budget best.
Email marketing software enables you to set-up and schedule a series of automated emails and/or once-off emails, to all your subscribers. It also provides basic to detailed statistics to keep you updated with how many people open and read your emails.
Step 2: Develop an Irresistible Free Offer.
Your irresistible free offer is all about giving your website visitors a ‘taste’ of something they could not go without. It’s giving them something irresistible that THEY want in exchange for something YOU want ….their contact details.
The free offer can be anything from a PDF report, a small e-book, audio CD, workbook, e-course, checklist, video, consultation etc. Its purpose is to get your visitors to take notice and sign-up.
The moment your web visitors sign up to receive this free offer, they enter your client pipeline. People understand that by signing up, they are giving you permission to send them e-mails and to stay in contact with them. This is when the process for email marketing kicks into action and where you can (on a regular basis) provide your subscribers with valuable information, special offers and promotions via email to help build trust and credibility.
Tip: When you develop your free offer, put yourself in your ideal client’s shoes. Ask yourself what type of information would attract their attention and get them to sign up.
Step 3: Develop a Series of Auto-responders.
An auto-responder is an email that is send instantly/automatically to a subscriber who signs up to receive your free offer. It can be only one email or a series of emails that are delivered over a period of time.
Your first auto-responder will typically introduce you and your business, letting your audience know the type of information they’ll be receiving and how frequently you will be sending e-mails. It will also contain a link to your free offer or explain how the subscriber could access the offer.
Send a second, third and fourth auto-responder email our 2 or 3 days after the previous one. These follow-up emails typically contain valuable and useful info. It could be a tip that will help them solve a problem or a tool that they will find useful.
Tip: Auto-responders are excellent time savers. You set it up once and then basically forget about it. The first 3 to 4 emails are really important since they build the initial trust with your audience. So they should contain high value content your ideal clients can use.
Step 4: Create an On-going Email Marketing Plan.
The value of an email marketing plan is to build a great relationship with your list by sending top quality content to them on a regular basis.
The purpose is to stay in-front of your potential clients on a frequent basis. As much as we would like to think that our subscribers are always thinking of us (wouldn’t THAT be nice?), it’s unfortunately not the case. So, repetition is necessary to remind them of you, your offerings and your expertise.
Tip: Establish objectives and build a plan for the year. Start by mapping out what type of content to send on a regular basis. What type of information or topics you want your subscribers to receive? What promotions or campaigns you want to do and when you want to do it? This plan will help you reach out to your customers at the right time with the right information.
The truth is: You never know how long it will take somebody to decide to work with you. When you do not make use of an opt-in process on your website and email marketing, you lose the chance to:
- Capture contact details and build a database of people who are interested in your services;
- Regularly connect and provide additional value and
There are a couple of things that are not as glamorous when you start working from home – many challenges you have to deal with on a daily basis.
And although not everybody will face the same challenges, here are some of the more common ones…
1) Self-discipline / Self-management.
Do you also find it is much harder to stay on task in a home office when there is no one watching over your shoulder?
It is easy to get distracted – even with the best intentions. A friend can show up unexpectedly; or you need to run to the shop for bread and milk; or there is a party coming and you need a new outfit; or the washing is piling up and you need to attend to it; or you lose yourself on the Internet and in social media.
There are so many things that can test your self-discipline at home.
If you also struggle with this type of self-discipline / self-management, possible solutions can include to….
Plan your day and set some rules – mostly for yourself.
Show up at your “office” at the same time each morning. Block out the times you will work and then stay focused on the tasks at hand. When you are in your office, you work.
When you know you get lost on the Internet, set a timer and limit yourself to the set time frame to search the Internet or to work on your social media.
Schedule specific breaks for times when you need to do the washing or other household tasks, and limit trips to town for weekends and after hours when your “work day” is over.
Another big challenge of working from home is that…
2) You’re “always” at work.
This is the one challenge that I struggle with the most. I often allow the temptation to work too much sneak into the picture. It is easy to quickly check some email while cooking dinner or run to the computer when you have a few minutes, or take work with you everywhere you go…
Technology even allows me to take my work on vacation (much to the frustration of my family).
Possible solutions when you feel “always” at work:
The easiest way to separate work from family life is to set rules and to have SPECIFIC working hours as the first wave of defense. But do it in such a way that it fits your lifestyle, because that is the only way you will really stick to those rules and working hours.
A schedule that works for me is to mainly work in the mornings. The afternoons are usually occupied by my daughter, and playing “mom’s taxi”. I rarely get to do any work during the afternoons and early evenings when the whole family is together. But, at night when everybody goes to bed and the house is quiet, I can return to my office and put in another 2-4 hours of working time.
If you are like me, one of the reasons we started a home business is to be more available to the family, right?
So we need to create some balance – even when it is difficult. Apart from setting work hours and rules for yourself regarding your business, also create a rule to “be in the moment” with your family.
Train yourself that when you are in the office, you work. But when you are with your family, you are fully present with them – not thinking and worrying about uncompleted work still waiting for you. Simply have fun as a family and create time to talk to each other.
The third big challenge I see all around me is…
3) Staying professional.
Working from home inherently lends itself to feeling less professional than when you have to dress up and go to a more formal office environment. And to add to this, many of our clients – especially when we work with corporate clients – sometimes also struggle with the idea that we can still be professional working from home.
Things that can diminish the professional image you want to portray are the way you answer your phone, or your appearance when we have a video Skype session with a client. Also a lot of background noise when you speak to a client on the phone or via Skype – noises like children playing and shouting in the background, the dog barking outside the window, the TV or radio playing.
Possible solutions to remain professional can include…
To have a dedicated workspace, preferably in a room with a door you can close to block out background noises.
If space is a problem, be creative to find somewhere you can put a desk away from the noisiest areas of the house, and or schedule client appointments at times that you know the house will be relatively quiet.
When you answer your phone, do it in a way that instills trust. Don’t just say Hi or Hallo. Always include your name as well, so that the caller knows he’s talking to the right person.
And when you have a meeting with a client – even if it is via Skype, dress up and apply some make-up. When you feel good about yourself, it boosts your confidence levels, shows you take your business and clients seriously and might even help to clinch the deal with a new client.
Lastly, one of the biggest challenges with your own business is you have…
4) No fixed income.
Many women start their new business to be in control of their financial destiny. This financial destiny can be very rosy, but it can also be disastrous for some.
Working from home inevitably means that you do not have a fixed pay-cheque every month. Your income varies from month to month and especially in the beginning, it is difficult to earn the same you’ve earned while working in corporate.
A possible solution can be to…
Evaluate your situation before you start your VA business. Are you the sole provider for your family? Do you have a savings fund that is big enough to pull you through six months without any income from your business? Do you have a spouse that can take care of your day-to-day living costs for an indefinite period until your business is sustainable and profitable?
If not, consider not quitting your job immediately. Rather start your VA business part-time because you need to live first. It’s quite stressful living off your savings and seeing it reach a point where you are forced to take up employment again.
When you are already in business and feel that your financial situation is not what you expect it to be, try to improve on your marketing, and take a different approach if your current marketing is not working. The only thing that will turn your financial situation around is to get more paying clients.
I’m curious. What are some of the challenges you are facing when working from home and how do you deal with it? Share them with us in the comments below.
To Your success
PS: If the challenge of “ no fixed income” is something your struggle with, then here is a free resource and a very effective “get-more-clients-strategy” that might help you with getting new clients. Check it out, here.
The purpose of a lock is to keep something secure.
If you have valuable belongings, you keep them locked up – you put it in a safe or in a bank vault or even in a locked wooden box under your bed.
Locks are also used to prevent someone or something to get in or out – like a yard, prison or a safety den….
But sometimes, the success of your business is also securely locked up.
In principle there are basically 2 kinds of locks.
There are locks that require a key to open and then there are locks that require a combination.
Although both locks have the same purpose, they are quite different.
For the one, you only need a single item, a key, to successfully open it. For the other you need a combination of numbers to successfully unlock it.
So which of these 2 are keeping your business success securely locked up?
You often hear people say: “I found the key to unlock my business success. It’s ….(a shinny object or the newest fad)”.
I however believe that in business it does not always work like that.
It is seldom just one thing that is needed to unlock your success. You cannot ONLY deal with a lock and key – one aspect of business. You most of the time have to deal with a combination lock – many different aspects of business – to successfully unlock your success.
But, here’s the problem with combination locks…
They require different numbers, and if you only have 1 or 2 of the numbers to a 3 number combination lock, you might spend endless hours trying different combinations to unlock it – often without success.
And even when you have all the numbers to the combination lock, you are still unable to unlock the damn thing. Why?
Because it’s not enough to have all of the numbers…
You need someone to give you all the numbers AND in the right order!
It is the same with business.
You cannot only rely on one aspect of the process or only have some of the elements required, because you might then still end up spending too much time trying to unlock your success.
You need to work on all the different elements and implement them in the right order, if you want to stop the struggle and find the success you rightfully deserve.
If you are tired running around in circles and are frustrated with not getting the results you want, it’s perhaps time to get the correct number combination for YOUR business and put it all in the right order to unlock your business success.
To Your Success
PS: Contact me today for a personalised Business Breakthrough Session. Let’s spend some time together to work on your combination lock and see if we can move your business forward a little faster this year.
I was doing some research recently on internet usage – specifically in South Africa – and found some interesting stats that blew my mind!
And I realised if you are living in SA, there are 9 billion reasons why investing in and building a website is a good idea.
What? You can’t even count that far? Well, me neither!
But it’s true…, there are 9 billion reason to invest in a website, because 9 billion rand is the amount of money spent PER YEAR by business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce in SA.* In other words, people buying products and services via the Internet!
This is serious money. Spent by serious people…
And if this is the amount of money spend in only ONE small country, think about the money spend globally!
But let’s focus on South Africa as an example of some more mind-boggling Internet usage stats.
According to Internet World Stats* (2014), there are 23.6 million Internet users in South Africa – almost half of the population.
The biggest single age group is 30 to 49 years old – representing 42.9% of the online population. 18.6% is older than 50 years and about 30% is between 20 and 29 years old.
Thus, more than 60% of the Internet users in South Africa are part of the economically active population!
…and with an online spend of 9 billion per year they certainly have money to spend. (Whatever country you are in today, the stats will probably have the same trend.)
So in my humble opinion, I’d say there is some disposable income in there with your name on it!
BUT, if you cannot be found online, and if you do not have a website, you might be missing out on that income.
Apart from these mind-boggling stats – and before we get too overexcited about all these big numbers), here are 8 more practical reasons why you need to consider having a website for you business.
# 1: Your Clients / Potential Clients
Will potential clients use the Web to look for information specifically about you?
Yes, they will. Potential clients may hear about you from a friend or see your business card; perhaps read an article you’ve written or follow you on social media.
When people are curious to know more about you, they’ll probably do an internet search or try to find your website before they decide to contact you. Will they find you?
Will potential clients randomly search online for the specific services you offer?
Yes, they will. Doing some quick keyword research will reveal that tens of thousands (even millions) of searches monthly are done for the specific services or products you provide.
Will they be able to find you?
If you do not have a website, the chances are they won’t and you’ll have to pass this potential client opportunity on to a competitor who is online
Do your potential clients or target audience have web sites themselves?
If they do, they will without doubt consider the web to be an important business tool and might find it strange if you don’t have an online presence.
# 2: Your Own Business
Do you want to reach a wider client base?
A website is not geographically bound and can extend your reach. It helps you to increase your business footprint to attract potential new clients locally, nationally or even internationally?
Even when you have a purely services based business and only work with clients locally, a website can serve as a platform to diversify your income and or add additional passive income streams to your bottom line.
Do you want your business to project a professional image?
Off course you do…even when you work from home (and sometimes in your pyjamas – who needs to know 🙂) .
A well designed web site can project a professional brand to the world – no matter your office location or your clothing preferences.
Are you running on a tight budget and want to optimise marketing costs?
Creating a website, can be an initial capital outlay. Thereafter, continuous online marketing can be cost effective.
When you use your marketing efforts to drive traffic to your website, you can implement an effective lead capture strategy on your site, to trigger more business as well.
# 3: Your Competitors
Do your competitors have web sites?
The Internet opens up the availability of choices and many people love to “research and compare before they commit”. If you don’t have a website, but your competition does, potential clients cannot include you in their comparisons or decision making processes, and will probably go with who they find online. So you are losing out on potential income.
With a website you are on equal footing with you competitors and can inform and pre-sell interested prospects with all the reasons why they should rather work with you.
If your competitors do NOT have a website, you immediately differentiate yourself when you do have one. Plus it gives you the opportunity to attract web visitors (and potential clients) looking for those things you offer.
Are your competitors longer in business?
If you’re just starting out, a web site can help you to level the playing field. A well designed website gives the appearance that your business is well-established already and provides an added layer of trust.
So, this is what I want you to take from this article:
If you do not have a website yet, then evaluate your business and start taking action towards getting one in place.
If you already have a website – think about how you can refine and update it to help you stand out and attract more of your ideal clients.
To Your Success