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Creating a Successful Online Business

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Everyone who starts an online business hopes it will be a great success; however, for every success story, there's another one about an online entrepreneur who met with failure. In many cases, when you take a look at how these fledgling companies began, you'll find that the ones who made it had some basic concepts in common that ensured that they would survive the tough competition of the Internet marketplace. Keeping these simple rules in mind can be the key to your own online business success.

1: Think Long-Term. The era of overnight dot-com fortunes is long gone. Today's successful online businesses aren't built overnight. You need to have a solid business plan and solid financial backing. This doesn't mean that you have to have millions of dollars behind you or even six figures. You can start small, but you will need to build your business over the long term. Success or failure won't be measured over six weeks or even six months. Keep this in mind and plan accordingly.

Don't quit your day job and rely on turning a profit off of your online business within a few months unless you have a cushion that you can live on for at least a year. Have cash reserves for emergencies and unexpected developments and plan both short-term and long-term goals. Where would you like to be in six months, or a year? Realistic goals and careful planning are much more likely to lead to success than nebulous dreams.

2: Good Site Design. Online businesses make their first impression when visitors click on to their site. You won't get to impress them with your charming personality or winning smile. They will never see your swanky up-town offices, so you'd better have a kick-ass website that projects exactly the image you want every visitor to have of your business. This is one area where you simply cannot cut corners. Don't design it yourself; amateurish sites can be spotted immediately and give visitors the impression you can't afford "the real deal." That's not the message you want them to get! A professionally designed site tailored to your product or service is one of the best investments you'll ever make.

You don't have to have fancy flash presentations or pop-ups (in fact, sometimes these are annoying), but you do have to have great images or graphics that are attractive and appealing to the audience you're trying to reach. Remember, visual appeal is a must. Next is the text - readability is essential. Don't write the content yourself unless you're confident of your skill. A professional copywriter is a good investment in most cases. They can convey you message with style and flair. Be sure your site offers a total package and not just the product or service you're selling. Include advice, support and information that are valuable to your customers in addition to whatever you're selling. It's good customer relations and will keep them coming back for more.

3: Market Effectively. Advertising is always a part of getting the word out about your business, but marketing goes far beyond paid advertising. Take advantage of the many other opportunities on the Internet. Visit industry specific blogs and advice sites and post information and answers referencing your own site. Swap links with other sites that are relevant to your own business. Be generous with your expertise by offering to provide content to online industry columns and magazines where you can include links to your business's online business in the byline or at the end of an article. This kind of marketing can create lots of great "buzz" for your online business.

4: Find Your Niche. The good news is that the Internet has allowed anyone, anywhere to start their own business. That's also the bad news. There are millions of people around the world starting new businesses online every week, many of them competing with yours. You are a very small fish in a very large pond. To be successful, you should position yourself to be a very large fish in a relatively small pond instead. Find a specialized niche and position your online business to fill it. Become focused and strategically work to target that particular market. In time you can market yourself as the recognized expert in this particular niche and your business will be the success you always knew it could be.
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