Most of my clients are people who have businesses set up and running already.
They come to me because they are wondering about the best practices of using their blogs to grow their businesses.
But lately I have been getting emails from women who are thinking of starting their own online businesses. They are wondering if it can realistically be done and if so, what, exactly, has blogging got to do with it.
So I am going to answer this question today.
If you are not totally clear on how to start – and run – a business, from your home, using mainly your laptop, then this blog post will hopefully set things straight.
If you already have a business, you would still benefit as it will help you to identify gaps in your own business online marketing strategy or discover areas that might use some tweaking and/or optimization.
Here are the essentials of starting your own Internet based business. Let’s dive in.
#1 Product or a Service
It is amazing that so many bloggers who consider themselves ‘professional’ bloggers don’t have anything to sell on their blogs/websites.
You see, they have got it wrong.
Their story might go like this: Initially, they discovered blogs that they loved, bloggers who were interesting and talked about topics of interest, and so understandably they, too, fell in love with blogging
Then they started seeing how successful (popular and lucrative both) these bloggers were or are becoming.
They thought, oh, if they can do it, so can I.
So they also started their blogs, on topics they were passionate about hoping to ‘make it’ somehow.
They had no clear idea of what they wanted to achieve, any concept of their business model and what ‘making it’ even meant.
They probably thought they would monetize by displaying advertising once their traffic got huge. Ha!
While this can work for some, in theory, this is not a business model you should rely on. You don’t have any control on this process, if you can even call it a process.
Like any legitimate business, you need a product or a service to sell. Period.
You need to make offers to an audience who has expressed interest, shown that they want or need what you are selling, and are willing to pay for it.
The only exception is when you have a business idea and you want to test it out first, test its viability before you release it. You start blog or a website with a clear plan of action and even though you don’t have a store now, or anything listed for sale now, it is coming soon…
Since you are pursuing something that can be done out of a home office, I am thinking it is either a service such as coaching, teaching, training, consulting or freelancing. If it is a product, it is an information product to be sold online (ebook, webinar, video tutorial, ecourse etc).
It might even be something that can easily made without having to rent space or incurring high manufacturing costs (handcrafted jewelry, printed t-shirts, specialty cakes etc). I am assuming you want to keep your running costs and overheads as low as possible.
The second thing you need is a website – the hub of all action.
You need to have some sort of a store that lists your products or a hire me page for your services. Unless you absolutely have no idea what you want to be selling and you want to kick things off with a blog instead (not a really good idea and I’ll explain in a minute).
You also need your website to do a few things for you:
- Establish credibility (testimonials, reviews, social praise, media coverage etc). To show that you are legit.
- Talk about who you are (about page)
- Create brand awareness (voice, colours, logo, your message, content, offerings etc).
- Sell your wares (sales pages, payment systems, copy)
#3 Promotion Plan
Ok, now that you are open for business online, how do you find the people to sell to (either now or in the future)?
You need to do marketing, of course.
There is where things get interesting. There are ways you can use to market your business with minimal costs. As you grow and your profits increase, you can then increase your marketing budget with confidence.
For now, you can use the following ways to promote your business.
Your blog is an excellent marketing tool for you because it does everything you need to grow your audience.
- It builds your email list. People are much more likely to subscribe to your list if you are publishing content that is relevant and useful to them instead of sending promotional emails only.
- It is much easier to promote your blog content (pre-selling) rather than your products or services (promotion).
- It builds your brand.
- It creates trust, credibility and authority.
- It attracts the right audience.
- It might even get you some search engine traffic.
- Traffic converts better from guest posting when you have a blog.
And this is why I say it is not a good idea to start a blog without having the slightest idea of what you want to be selling or what your business is going to be all about (unless you are doing it as a hobby, of course).
Unless you have some sort of business idea, it is very difficult to create a content plan, come up with the right opt-in incentive so that you appeal to the right people – people who will buy from you.
Guest posting is separate to blogging because you don’t need a blog of your own to write guest posts for industry leading blogs (many people don’t realize this).
People think you need to have your own blog first before you can guest post.
You can guest post and lead the traffic to your site, however, people who hang out at blogs do so primarily for the content. If you have relevant content on your site, they are much more likely to subscribe. The ROI from your guest posting efforts will be that much higher.
SOCIAL MEDIA PROMOTION
Social media promotion can be overwhelming to most small business owners. It seems like a huge time suck with no clear expectations of ROI.
What you need to realize is that you need to start with one platform that resonates most with you and your audience and build your following there. Invest time and effort there first before you think about being on all of them (you don’t even need to).
Your goal, however, should be to bring all that social media traffic to your main website/blog and get your followers on your email list (See point #4).
PAID TRAFFIC SUCH AS ADVERTISING
Once you have reached a point in your business that you are paying yourself a salary, or when you have money to spend on marketing, start with advertising.
I high recommend using Facebook Ads. They are cost effective, easy to set up and when done right you will get a big bang for your buck.
#4 Email Marketing
For anyone looking to build their business and creating a personal brand (so that you charge prices based on the value you provide), you must build an email list.
You need a mechanism in place to collect email addresses. There are many providers such as Mailchimp (free for first 2K subscribers), Aweber, Infusionsoft, Constant Contact etc) that do it for you.
You need an opt-in offer to attract the right reader and discourage freebie seekers and people who are curious about your topic.
You need to make sure you keep the list warm by emailing at least once a week. This can be a blog post, an email, a promotion. You don’t have to do a corporate looking newsletter, because you are not.
Make sure people understand from the beginning that you are a business and that they expect to receive promotions and offers from you.
Remember to nurture your list and develop a relationship. This is way more important that the size of your list.
That’s it. That’s what the whole process of an Internet based business looks like.
Starting a blog, hoping and praying like crazy that it will become popular one day and that you would magically come up with a plan to monetize it is not a business plan. That’s crazy thinking.
You have greater chance of succeeding at this business thing if you have something to offer (as in sell to an audience who wants it, at a price they are willing to pay for it, so that you remain profitable). Investing in free and low cost marketing strategies at first and investing more as your list (and business) grows.
So, do you have a business but not a blog? A blog but not a business?
Do you have both?
What do you do, my lovely reader? Leave a comment below.
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