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Starting an Internet Business - Step by Step

Your internet business may be small - but the Internet lets you think big. Whatever product or service your internet business offers, the Internet levels the playing field and lets you compete with bigger businesses, reaching customers around the world who can conveniently buy from you 24 hours a day.

But in the competitive world of the Web, growing your business and increasing your profits online requires some careful planning. For every successful internet businesses, there are dozens that fail by not addressing basic risks and pitfalls along the way. So to take full advantage of the internet business opportunity, make sure you base your internet business on a solid foundation that covers every element of a successful internet business:

First Step - The Ideas and Startup Plans

This is the most important step! Without a good concept, a good product, good services or good content, anything else you do is a waste of time. So what should you look for here?

If you already have a business offline means in the real world, this is the logical place to start. So many businesses launching websites as just another place they need to advertise. They simply copy their print advertisements and brochures to the web sites. While these sites are not totally worthless, but they fail to take full advantage of the supreme opportunities afforded by the new technologies online.

The Internet is becoming the busiest business area the world has ever known. However, having a web site should be more than reproducing existing advertising. It should mean taking full advantage of the Internet's capability of interactive shopping and globally convenient access. Your web site can be the perfect showcase for people to obtain information about your company and products, an efficient way of communicating with your present clients, potential customers and an international marketplace to sell your products and services.

If you do not have an existing business, you should still look for ideas first in areas where you already have some expertise. If your current expertise does not seem to lend itself to an online business opportunity, your next plan should be to spend some significant time learning about the businesses already operating online. Once you have an understanding of what is available, look for ways to do the same things in a better way or look for a market niche that has not been serviced well. Keep in mind that there are almost always ways to improve upon existing services and products.

Clearly, converting your ideas, expertise and skills into an internet business is a big job, but it's too important to do it for a successful career and for financial independence. TelePk.Com can help. As the leading provider of internet business and internet marketing services for individuals and small-businesses. TelePk.Com offers a complete set of solutions that help you easily handle every step of the internet business process..

If you have not yet developed your Business Plan, I strongly recommend you do so before moving on to the next step. Even if you are starting a very small company with one or two people, you will benefit from going through this exercise. Business plans are much more than simply a homework assignment for MBA students or a project for large corporations. They are a critical first step as well as a continuing process for any business, which plans to succeed.

Second Step - Your own Domain Name (Web address)

The first step toward internet business is selecting the name of your site. Your Web address (also called a URL - Uniform Resource Locator - or "domain name"), tells customers who you are and how to find you on the Internet. It is the core of your Internet identity - your online brand. And because no two parties can have the same Web address, your online identity is totally unique.

Selecting a domain name is an important part of developing an Internet business. Even if your company already has an established business name, it may not be in your best interest to use that name exclusively on the Internet. You may even benefit by using two (or more) domain names, one with your actual business name for customers who would look for you online by typing your company name in their browser (like microsoft.com) and one for people who are looking for your product or services and would look in a search engine (like software.com). Many people have learned that an easy way to find a product or service they want is to type the name of the product into their browser. The chances are good that they will find something useful using that method. See what happens when you type in www.toys.com or www.flowers.com

Although it is true that virtually every word in the English language is already owned by someone else, there are many clever ways around the problem of finding a good domain name. For example, if you are a travel agency and can't get travel.com, you might be able to reserve something like JJ-travel.com. You can also reserve a name with a .net, .org, .biz, .us or many other extensions, but the "dot com" is still the most well-known and accepted extension for business domain names. If you would like to register a domain name for your internet business, I suggest to register domain through TelePk.com which is an excellent registration service for only Rs 399/- per year. Network Solutions at www.networksolutions.com is currently still charging $35 per year for the same service.

Registering your own domain name is a must for your business. This will give your business an internet established presence. Too many businesspeople skip this crucial step. Rs 399/- yearly fee is a small price to pay for professionalism. If youíre serious about your business, donít skip this step.

When registering a domain name, please keep this point in mind: Donít use unusual words, phrases or ellipsis in domain name. Choose an easy-to-remember name that also describers your products, services or expertise.

Never use free domain and free hosting (with a lot of banner-ads or popup-window ads) for your business. They donít leave good impression on your web site visitors about your business and professionalism.

Third Step - Selecting a Web Host

There are some basics you need to consider when selecting a web hosting company:

        Reliability - This refers to the percentage of time the hosting server is working and displaying your website. Unfortunately, these percentages are often reported only by the host company, so their accuracy should not be taken at face value. A good rule to verify their reliability is to check existing web sites hosted on their servers or ask their existing web hosting clients about their hosting services.

        Access to support staff - All hosting companies probably have support staff. The important question is how easily can you get in contact with them and how soon can you get help with your problems.

        Server hard drive space - An average web page is 10K to 100k. Pictures and other graphics usually range on size from about 1K to 500K. This means that if you have a 10 to 15 page website with 2-5 graphics on each page, you will need 3 Mb to about 10MB to save your website on a server. Even if you have a much large website with many more graphics, your website should be able to fit comfortably onto about 25MB of hard disk space. When web hosts offer you 500 Mb or 1,000 Mb of hard disk space, they do so knowing that the vast majority of users will not come close to using all of that space. Therefore, in most cases, offers of more than 10 - 50 MB of space are made mostly to impress prospective customers who really do not understand how much they need. It just sounds good.

        FTP or other access - There are many ways for you to upload your web pages to your server. However, the quickest and easiest is by using an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program.

        POP accounts - These allow you password-protected access to mail sent though your website email address. You may want to set up separate POP accounts for each major department in your company. Ask how many POP accounts your host allows you to have without paying extra.

        Included software - Some web hosts include no software; others include a large number of software tools to help you run your site more easily. Examples of programs, which you might expect to have available are: Auto-responders (to send automatic replies to your customers), site statistics (to monitor your visitors), webmail (check your emails using web browser) etc.

        CGI-bin access - If you want to run your own programs on your website, you must have CGI access. Your CGI capabilities must allow you to read, write and execute on your server. Many hosts do not allow such access. This may not seem important when you first set up your website. However, as your site develops and interactive capabilities are needed (like quizzes, contests and surveys), you will find your company needing this ability.

        Domain name hosting - At a minimum you need your host server to allow you to have your own domain name. Since you can now register a domain name for only Rs 399/- per year, every company should have their own. Some hosts will allow you to have more than one domain name on your site; others will not.  

Fourth Step - Designing a Website

If you already familiar with HTML, Microsoft FrontPage or Macromedia Dreamweaver, a graphic designing program like Microsoft PhotoDraw or Adobe PhotoShop and using FTP, you can design, maintain and update your web site yourself. But keep in mind that it should be professional-looking in design and contents.

With a domain name and web hosting in place, you're ready to start building your internet business online presence. But before you begin, take some time to plan.

Plan Your Site Carefully First, identify clear marketing goals for your site, such as generating leads, building a database of potential customers' names and e-mail addresses, or putting a product or services catalog online to save the time and expense of printing and mailing. Quantify your objectives - such as increasing sales - so you know whether or not your internet business is successful.

Then, figure out what your potential customers need to know before buying your products and services. This might include:

        An overview of your company, its products and services, and their effective use.

        Complete product or service descriptions, including features, key benefits, pricing, product specifications, and other information, for each product or service

        Testimonials or success stories so customers can see how similar individuals or organizations have worked with you

        An FAQ section that anticipates and answers customers' common queries

Plan the structure of your site, focusing on making it easy for customers to learn what they need to know, make a purchase decision, and then buy quickly.

Internet Business Site Design Tips Following these basic guidelines will help make your site not only attractive, but also easy for customers to use - and that means easy to buy from you.

        Carefully examine your own favorite internet business sites. Creatively adapting the most compelling marketing and design techniques will enhance your site's effectiveness.

        Your home page is your site's and your business's online front door. It's essential that it make a good first impression on visitors. Make sure it clearly presents the following basic elements that customers are always likely to look for:

        Your company name, logo, and slogan, prominently displayed. Take full advantage of the opportunity to showcase your brand identity.

        A link to an "About the Company" page for customers to quickly learn who you are and what your business offers.

        A site menu listing the basic web pages of your site. Keep this menu in the same place on every page throughout your site to make it easy to navigate.

        A "What's New" section for news, announcements, and product promotions. Frequently updating this area will encourage customers to return often.

        Contact information. Don't make it difficult for visitors to find your phone number, e-mail address, mailing address, and fax number.

        Your privacy statement, clearly describing your business's policy for protecting customer's personal information

        Make it easy for customers to explore your site. As you build your site, try to minimize the number of clicks it takes the customer to go from your home page to actually being able to click "buy" and checkout. Four to six is a useful rule of thumb. Make sure links make sense, so customers know what to click to find what they're looking for.

        Keep things simple. Don't fill up your site with graphics, animations, and other visual bells and whistles. Keep the color scheme and fonts same to all pages of your web site. Ensure that images and graphics serve to enhance, not distract from, your marketing goals. Make sure your text is easy to read - black letters on a white ground may not be terribly original, but they are easier on the eyes than orange type on a purple background.

        Keep download times short. Test pages to make sure they're not too overloaded with graphics that slow load times - and minimize the size of your images when possible. Nearly half of online shoppers surveyed said they left sites when pages took too long to download. Effective Web pages take anywhere from 3 to 15 seconds to load, depending on the user's modem and Internet connection (remember: many internet users surf the net from home using slower connections). Most users click away to another site if a page takes more than 15 seconds to load, resulting in lost potential income.

As soon as you've completed this step, you're ready to put your site on the Internet.

If you do not have the time or the skills needed to design and maintain your own website, you will either need to hire someone to work in-house or hire an independent design firm.

Fifth Step - Test, Test and Test

You may be eager to launch your internet business web site, but take time to review and test your site thoroughly before going live. You will only have one chance to make a first impression on each new visiting customer, and broken links, incorrect email address, and grammatical or spelling errors don't leave a good impression to your web site visitors about your professionalism.

Sixth Step - Promote your Internet Business

Now, you've established a compelling and easy-to-use web site for your products and services. It's time to let people know about it. Your website is useless if no one visits it. Generally, your goal should be to generate traffic that will result in increased business, but paying for advertising that does not deliver targeted traffic is not an effective use of your advertising budget.

Here are a few tips for driving traffic to your site.

        Register your site with search engines. Over 85 percent of Internet users search one or more of the top engines to find what they need. Make sure your business is part of the results when customers look for the products and services you offer.

        List your website in the top 10 - 20 search engines, because top search engines generate 80-90% of web searches, so paying for services that claim to add your site to thousands of search engines is probably a waste of money. Manually submitting your site to search engines and directories can take countless hours every month, so try www.inktomi.com (A Yahoo! Company) for paid inclusion in SEs and list your site manually to www.dmoz.org a human-powered directory that provides its data to more than 100 SEs.

        One of the most important marketing tools for your website is located right on your own site. That is, the keywords and description you use on your site (in the Meta Tags, document headings, paragraphs, title, image alter text etc.) have a huge impact on your placement in search engines and the traffic you get from them.

        Use pay-per-click search engine (like www.overture.com or Google AdWord) rather than pay-per-impression.

        Since search engines often do not index pages past the first level (link from the index page), you should put links to most of your key pages on the first page of your site. The more pages a search engines indexes from your site, the greater the chance that your site will be found. Don't forget to include keywords and description meta tags on each of those pages that are appropriate to the content of those pages.

        Pay only for visitors who buy products or services from you! In the meantime you will get free product branding and free traffic by setting up your own affiliate program. Once you have experienced the high cost of advertising online, you will realize that affiliate programs are generally a much more cost effective way of selling online, unless you sell a service or product that can only be delivered locally. This is really a GOOD DEAL!! You can set whatever commission structure you want. I do not recommend that you select payment per click, however, since you will end up paying your affiliates for traffic that may never buy a thing. The best system is to pay either a percentage or a flat rate - only if a sale is made!

        Put your domain name everywhere. Brochures, advertisements, business cards, and even hats, jackets, and t-shirts can be effective ways to promote your site and establish your corporate identity. Don't forget to include your domain name in your press release, too.

        Write articles for Internet newsletters - If you write well, you can get articles accepted in many online newsletters. When the article runs you will essentially be trading content (your article) for free advertising (your web address and email on the article).

        Advertise. Placing a banner ad on other well-trafficked sites can attract huge numbers of prospective customers - and doesn't have to cost a fortune.

        Your Newsletter - the most important tool for your lasting business.

I've listed these few promotional tips in brief. In my next articles I will cover each and every aspect in details.

Seventh Step - Making Your Site Interactive (and current)

One thing you do not want to happen when someone visits your website is this: You do not want them to feel that they could have had essentially the same experience as if they had received your company literature in the mail. The Internet offers such awesome potential for creativity and multi-level communication with potential customers that companies have a responsibility to take advantage of it.

Email
You need to give your visitors and potential customers something to do, some way to interact with you and your website. Of course, the minimum and most common way to do this is to provide an email address so you can be contacted by email either directly or through a form. Amazingly, some websites do not even make that small gesture.

Surveys or Contests
You can make your site interactive with online surveys or opinion poll, which give your visitors a reason to stay longer and perhaps look around.

Auto-responders
If you are not able to answer each email you receive immediately, a carefully-worded auto-response is significantly better than no response at all. Auto-response programs can also be individualized to include information (like the person's name), which was entered on a form. You never want to create the impression that you have an unattended website. This is the same reason it is critical that dated information is always kept current. An announcement for an event that ended last week is a sure sign that you are not actively involved with the visitors to your website. If you cannot keep your information current yourself, hire someone who can do the same for you.

Groups and other active content
Depending on the content of your site, you may want to consider letting your visitors join interest groups or submit content to your site. I strongly caution against adding an unmonitored guest book, chat room or bulletin board, however. If you have anything on your site to which visitors can add their own words before you have a chance to edit it, you will find your site used by people selling their own products or services or to express any manner of thoughts that you will probably not want to be associated with your business.

Learn from others
Look at other websites (but don't copy), be creative and make your site an experience that people will want to share with their friends! Recommendations, references, links and re-visits all represent traffic for which you do not have to pay. That's the best kind!

Eighth Step - Building Your Customer Base

Gathering information
Every website you own should include a form where visitors can give you their email address. Of course, only a small percentage of visitors will share that information, but those who do can be developed into future customers and repeat visitors. On the top of each page in this website you will see a form used to establish a mailing list.

Privacy statements
Every website you own should display your customer/user privacy statement. It is important that you keep your word to your subscribers. That is, if you say you will not sell or distribute your email list to others, your MUST NOT SELL OR SHARE these email addresses. If you respect the privacy and wished of your subscribers and provide useful information in your emails, your reward is that you will have repeat visits from them and will have a ready audience for important announcements you need to make about your business. Unless you are a news service, I do not recommend sending emails or newsletters to your list more often than once a week. Sometimes once a month is even better!

Tell a Friend
Offer incentives to your current customers to tell their friends and business associates about your site in any way that is appropriate to the content and purpose of your site. You may need to try several different incentives before you find one that works. An inexpensive, yet effective incentive is to give them more chances to win in a contest you are running for every friend they send to your site. Another is to give them some kind of priority access to your services. It might be something as simple as offering a 10% coupon on products they purchase on your site after they have sent a few new customers. To get a free "tell-a-friend" script for your web site, please visit www.recommend-it.com

Ninth Step - Generating Repeat Business

Once you have customers using your services, you need to be creative about finding ways to keep the relationship going as well as encouraging your customers to send others to your site. This can be accomplished in many ways. Some examples are:

        Contests and coupons

        Affiliate programs

        Partnership/associate relationships

        Newsletters

Tenth Step - Start Selling

With an online identity, a Web host, an eye-catching, professional-looking Web site, and the right promotions, your internet business is ready to succeed in the competitive world of the Web.

In the light of the above-mentioned nine steps, you should have an idea or plan what to do. Then register a domain name for the same and get a web hosting package. Why have I recommend you to get domain and hosting in first steps? Because, I know, it will automatically motivate you to start earlier and as soon as possible.

Your web site development and web site promotion is not a one-time job. It needs continues research and work to keep your web site contents updated and promote it in as many ways as possible.

 

 



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