Avoid the following 8 online business mistakes and you’ll be setting yourself up for early, prolonged success:
1. You’re planning to fail…
Not literally, but by consequence of your failure to plan. This is a common stumbling block for most new business owners, or for those who’re taking their offline business online for the first time — failing to recognize that the online business animal is a completely different one than they’ve ever ventured into before.
However, you can cast away the 30-plus page formal business plan that you’d need to show the bank or investors in order to get a loan. Just make sure you know your product inside and out, who you’re selling it to, and how many greenbacks you can squeeze out of those customers for said product.
Financials are also important; know how much you’ll need and how much you have access to.
2. Getting bogged down in every minute detail…
Whether micromanagement or analysis paralysis, this is one of the biggest online business mistakes you can make. If you’re not a web designer, hire one. If your business cards look like crap after printing them out on your home office printer, take head to Staples or Kinkos and let the pros dazzle you with what they can offer on the cheap.
Don’t get bogged down in the trenches with the small stuff. Concentrate on the big picture items, like your products and how to market them most effectively in the online space.
3. Thinking the money will start flowing like a river right away…
A decade ago, you could slap up a blog or ecommerce store on a free platform, selling whatever, and start making money right away. Millionaire were made quickly during the early years. Many of them faded as the FDA and other governing bodies swooped in and passed regulations on online selling.
Nowadays, you need money to make money. You also need to know what your cash burn rate is going in, so you can secure funding from other sources as the business grows. Online marketing takes time to get eyes on your website and products.
Wait until you’re under the gun and you may find yourself completely stifled just as you start to gain traffic. Not good.
4. Undervaluing products…
Sell your product/service at a price that ensures you make back what you put in — and make a profit at the end of the day. Too often, online business owners try to compete with the competition rather than setting themselves apart. Your price has to make just as much sense for your bottom line as it does to the customer paying for it.
If you can’t realistically set the value at a price-point that makes sense, find another product!
5. Being dismissive of the customer service aspect of your online business…
If people have a good experience with your online store, they’ll come back. They really will. It’s sketchy buying stuff from unknown online entities. When you get good service and the product is as advertised, it can make a customer for life.
I get great discounts on name brand shoes through a site called The Last Hunt — they’re awesome. Last years shoes at 40% MSRP. The site loads slow as molasses, but the service is great: confirmation and followup emails and surveys, excellent packaging, reasonable shipping. They’re awesome.
Keep in touch with customers throughout, and after the sales process. Also, monitor social media and review site noise for valuable negative and positive feedback about your service. When smart improvements are suggested by customers, make them!
6. Getting caught up in the giveaway mentality…
You know, free ebooks, webinars, video walkthroughs, fee swag mailed at no charge to subscribers, etc., etc. Every expert out there is telling Internet entrepreneurs to “give it away and they’ll be a customer for life!” There has to be limits though.
Whether it’s content or physical products, these things can get expensive and burn a hole in your already empty pockets. Give them something for subscribing, maybe send a free newsletter every month. But don’t overdue it to the point that you’re working/spending for zero or little return all the time. That’s called being a schmuck, not a business person.
7. Not applying the right social media strategy for your specific business…
You have to put your eggs in the right basket or the bottom will fall out of your business plan. Facebook and Pinterest are always great for sales. Twitter is good for branding. LinkedIn is super for networking. You have to find and capture the interest of your customer base.
Just read this Kissmetrics blogpost on how to identify the right platform for your business, then split test for optimum conversions.
8. Reading too many blogs and watching too many vlogs…
If you’re addicted to online marketing forums or obsessively watch YouTube videos when you should be working, that’s a completely different problem than what I’m referring too. I’m talking about the whole “what works for them should work for me” mentality, especially if you’re a newbie.
Listen to what other online business owners are saying, but don’t follow them into the pits of hell thinking just because they’re successful using a certain strategy, then you’ll be too. Fact is, things are always changing and many site owners lie — about their success, about their strategy, about whatever.
Listen with skepticism and follow proven strategies that actually work, such as creating a smart financial plan, split testing products and marketing approaches, and documenting all your successes and failures so you can refer to them again and again as you continue to refine how you run your business.
What’s the worst online business mistake you’ve ever made?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
Main Image Credit: twitter.com/mattwi1s0n/Flickr