Step 7: Stress testing your online business idea

So you’ve finally managed to whittle down your list of ideas for an online business down to one or two potentials. First things first – well done you! Just getting to this stage is an achievement in itself!

Now the *really* tricky bit: digging a little deeper to see just how viable your online business really is. In other words ‘stress testing’.

Stress test to avoid a mess (er, later on)

How complicated or easy is your idea to explain? You’re customers are likely to be stressed, time-poor and have the attention span of a goldfish thanks to be being bombarded with scatter-gun, non-targeted and irrelevant interuptive ads. Every. Day. Of. Their. Waking. Life. (I’m one of them, clearly). With this in mind, you better make sure your idea or ‘proposition’ is as easy to understand as a Jack and Jill story. If it takes you five minutes to explain what you plan to do, then you need to think again.

Cashola. Moola. Dinero.

The real biggie is cash. How much money can you really make from this idea? If you’re selling smartphone covers, you’ll know that this is a highly competitive market to enter. The cost of making them will be low, but the profits will be too, given that the high level of competition will probably drive down your prices, meaning you’ll not make that much money – unless people buy lots and often (unlikely – if someone needs to replace their phone cover three times a year, something’s probably not right with the phone covers you’ve been selling them – meaning they won’t buy from you after the second one).

Repeat fees

Talking of buying lots and often – just how many products do you think your customer will buy from you? Just the once or will they repeat purchase? If you can figure out how many times a customer might buy from you, it’s then possible to work out how much each customer is worth over time. Is it worth your time and effort if each new customer only spends £5 a year with you? If so, that low level of income per customers means you’ll need to attract 000s of customers a year to make any decent money. Marketing is expensive and you can’t sustain a business if it costs you £5 to get a customer to spend £5 on your website. On the other hand, if each customer is likely to spend over £100 over the course of a year, then you could be on to something.

If you want to find out more about setting up a blog, improving your social media campaigns or how to drive more sales online, get in touch.

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Step 6: What are you selling online?

Why not just sell on eBay?

For those selling goods much like a traditional high street retail store, starting out on eBay is a good way to to get used to selling a product. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also explore developing your own ecommerce website. Given qhat we know about many different users prefering many different platform options, why not try doing both and use one platform to promote the other?

EBay rocks and is the go to website for some of your potential customers. But having a branded, bespoke, fully ecommerce-tastic online store of your own (on your own terms) will speak volumes when it comes to perceptions about your business.

But you must get it right.

While there are many examples of professional looking eBay stores, there’s an equal amount that look a little less professional. You know the ones – early 2003 designs, busy product packed pages – the list goes on.

As well as having more control how your website looks, there are also advantages when it comes to investing in digital marketing and SEO ie making your website stand out from your competitors (more on that later).

What are you selling exactly?

Depending on what you sell, you may have no choice but build your own site – for example, if you’re selling downloads, software or services.

When selling software there are tonnes of third-party apps which let you upload your software product for distribution. There are some which also let you set up trials and registration key systems much like the big boys (and girls).

Ongoing billing

Retail websites are usually based on a one off fee being paid in return for a shipped product (be it pysically shipped or downloaded). But what if you want to sell online software, services or an online magazine which require an ongoing subscription being paid? The good news is that there are plently of ecommerce tools which let you handle all of the complicated processes and challenges involved when it comes to ongoing billing. Be aware, you will probably need to pay a monthly subscription yourself to use these tools but given the alternative – building your own bespoke payments system capable of handling new sign ups, cancellations etc – it’s very much worth it.

If you want to find out more about setting up a blog, improving your social media campaigns or how to drive more sales online, get in touch.

Step 5: Coming up with a business idea

Coming up with an idea for a business is really, really tough isn’t it? Nearly everything you look at has been done before. Or it looks too hard to set up. Or it’s too costly (why are franchises so expensive?!). Hopefully this page will help kickstart your thinking. And on that topic…

Think, think, think

When trying to come up with business ideas, it might be a good idea to start with looking at something that you’ll enjoy (I know this sounds really obvious, but isn’t job satisfaction one of the reasons you’re looking at this blog in the first place?).

Try to figure out what you enjoy. What interests you? what really makes you tick?

Love food? Love a specific food item (jams, smoothies, snacks) or food in general (want to run your own restaurant, cafe or foodie tuk tuk!).

Do you love watching films? Can you provide a unique spin on film reviews? Perhaps you love the nostalgia part of cinema – so how about something to do with posters, t-shirts or movie props? Love just one film and can’t find anything decent fanboy websites about it – why not look at how you’d make money from setting one up? How long would that take and how would you make money from it?

Are you creative? Like making things? Could you sell fabrics, art, pottery – or how about setting up something which helps people realise their own dreams of making art? Is there money in that?

Love reading? Try something related to books – perhaps selling them (be aware there’s lots of competition) or something on how to write them (not so competitive but that’s because it’s hard to do!).

Love people in general? Love chewing the fat? Love helping people face to face because you love the immediate hit of satisfaction and happiness that you get? It might sound daft, but why not think about services which involve talking to people while helping them out. Mobile barber service, where local people book appointments online? Are you an expert in a topic? Are you sporty? If so, could you set up an exercise club and help people get fit? How would you charge for that? How would you make money?

When the going gets tough – the tough go shopping

Not sure what you’re good at? Why not make notes the next time you go shopping? It sounds daft, but why not get really picky and think about what could be done better when you see a shop, go in, look at products, pick them up, try them out or on, how you buy it, what the customer service is like. Notice anything during that process that could be done better?

For example, I’m a busy parent and my kids are invited to birthday parties pretty much every weekend. Life is manic at the weekened and I don’t always have time to buy a birthday card, go to a different shop to buy a birthday present and then go home to wrap it. Why doesn’t my local newsagent sell ‘pre-gifted’ birthday cards ie a card with a gift already inside? Imagine buying a card that has a certificate or token of some sort already in the card and ready to go? Okay it’s the kind of lazy present only a dad would buy but hey – everyone loves a gift token right?

Pin the tail on the donkey

Well not quite, but if you’re really stuck for inspiration, why not open up a dictionary at a random page and see what word comes up? Can you somehow turn that into business? How about doing that with a history book? There are a million books on how to set up a business, but why not focus on autobiographies of successful entrepreneurs? You may not invent a cutting edge piece of kit in a Californian garage, but why not look at how key players stumbled into their field of work?

Still stuck for ideas? There are loads of out there like this ‘Business Idea Generator’ quiz.

If you want to find out more about setting up a blog, improving your social media campaigns or how to drive more sales online, get in touch.