The internet has continued to define the way businesses are run. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see businesses whose models are purely online driven. With the aid of web tools and applications, business transactions have become seamless, eliminating the need to move from one place to the other or having to interact face to face. As exciting as that sounds, it is quite easy to make certain mistakes that could cause your online business to go down the drain in no time. What startups need to understand is that, just because you have a website, blog or social media account doesn’t mean that you’re going to find success online. Here are seven mistakes you should avoid if you run an online business.
1. Solving An Unimportant Problem
Paul Graham says, “by far the most common mistake startups make is to solve a problem no one has”. In other words, one reason why most online businesses fail is that they offer a product or service that doesn’t really solve any significant problem. Every serious business solves a problem, from accounting to jewelry design. But the problem is that a lot of new online business owners are not clear on what exactly they’re trying to solve. If the problem your business solves is important enough, you won’t even have to look for customers. Just imagine if you had a cure for cancer. Identifying the specific problem you want to solve also helps you understand who needs your solution, who else is solving that problem and what larger conversation you are participating in. So before you launch an online business, you need to ask yourself these two questions: does it solve a problem? Does it add value to people’s lives? If your product or service doesn’t meet the above criteria, then you are selling what people don’t need.
2. Not Being Unique Enough
If your answer for a startup is simply ‘we do it better,’ then you will need to go back to the drawing board, because your target audience won’t see why they should choose you over your competitors. The internet is huge and like you, there are a lot of people looking for opportunities online. The chances of your business having competition are extremely high unless you’re in some kind of unique market, you will likely get competition from every angle. You need to be creative; think of ways to be unique, you need to consider what you can offer to the market. Avoid replicating everything your competitors do, focus more on the reasons why your potential customers should buy your products and not from your competitors.
3. Not Having A Plan
Starting and building an online business is not based on guts feeling or trial and error experiment. If you don’t have a clear plan from the start, you won’t have a focus or clear direction for your online business, and will probably end up wasting a lot of time and resources. A business plan is like a blueprint that will specifically help you define the purpose of your business. The plan doesn’t need to be a full-blown 20 page document. But it does need to reveal in detail, your goals for the business and a road map of how you’re going to get there.
4. Not Knowing Your Target Audience
Everyone cannot be your target customer, don’t get trapped by the idea that you’re limiting yourself by defining your audience; that is false scarcity thinking. There’s an adage that if you’re marketing to everyone, you’re selling to no one. Many new businesses overlook this, thinking they just need to build the business, customers will come. While that strategy did work a few years ago when online businesses were just starting to take off, the field is too saturated today. It’s just too hard to get ‘found’ if you don’t have a strategy. Identifying your consumers will enable you to focus on them by marketing to them directly. An important part of your strategy should involve understanding the demographics you are selling to. The more you know about your customers and audience the better you will offer them solutions that meet their needs better.
5. Doing It All By Yourself
Just because it is an online business does not mean you should handle everything. You cannot possibly want to be the web developer, social media manager, graphics designer, sales representative, customer care representative and still be the delivery man all at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, you can attempt to do all these tasks alone, but the problem is that between the time, various skills and stress involved, you will burn out too quickly, overdo in some and underperform in others. It is good business practice to outsource at least a few of these activities while you channel your energy to the important tasks.
6. Dismissing Negative Feedback
Businesses generate revenue by acquiring and keeping customers. Without them, your online business will not exist. When launching a new online business, it is tempting to listen to your fans and ignore your critics. There is nothing bad in having confidence in your product or service but dismissing negative feedback or criticism simply as “haters” is never the way to go. Consumers use online feedback in a surprising way; 88% of consumers put as much trust in online reviews as they do personal recommendations. By addressing negative feedback, you demonstrate you care about the customer’s experience with your service or product and want to improve that experience. The difference between a successful online business, which expands and grows and one that remains at the same level is that the former takes negative feedback as a weakness which needs to be corrected. Use negative feedback to become a better business.
7. Trying To Conquer Every Social Media At Once
There’s no doubt that social media is an amazing platform to promote your business. Most people think it’s as simple as uploading a picture on Instagram once a day and posting on Facebook. Well, that’s just one small aspect of social media. First, you have to create the content, and needs to be really good in order for people to engage it. Content including but not limited to pictures, videos, infographics, ebooks, podcasts etc. You also have to engage with your audience in order for the algorithms from these social media platforms to actually show your content to users. If you just upload a picture a day without any engagement they will think your account is a spam account. Social media isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of thing. If you receive comments or messages you want to answer them right away, you also should comment on other profiles from your niche and of course, you need to grow your followers base. All these take a considerable amount of time, so instead of trying to focus on all social media platforms at the go, decide on one or two platforms that are the most important to you at that moment and get them working before rocking the next one.
We live in a time of incredible opportunities. So If you have an idea for a business, run with it by launching your website, social media, email accounts and immersing yourself in best practices. Make a plan of what you want to accomplish, get to know your competitors, research your industry, figure out what you can do differently to stand out and add value to your customers’ lives. Keep in mind that learning what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do. Surely, you are going to make mistakes, but again, there’s no need to make these common ones.
Daniel .A. Ogiku is a social media influencer and a digital marketing strategist. Follow him on twitter @daniambitious_ & Instagram @mister.ambitious.