Traditionally, starting a business required a tremendous amount of startup funds, with a significant chunk going to the location of the building where the business would be located. These days, however, many entrepreneurs are finding that an online business can be just as lucrative – if not more so – than a normal brick and mortar business.

This is all well and good, as it can make it much easier to start your own business. But with the sheer number of online businesses people can choose from, how do you get yet yours to stand out from all the others available?

1. Find A Niche

Your niche is one of the most important factors in deciding what type of online business you should build. While it may take a while to find something fitting, it can definitely help you stand apart from the crowd.

Let’s say you’re passionate about sports, so you decide to start up a sporting goods business online. A quick Google search shows over 55 million results if you simply search for the term “sporting goods”. If you’re a small business that’s just starting out, it would be nearly impossible to be found in that kind of competition.

So you narrow it down. You love sports, but which is your absolute favorite? Which sporting equipment are you most familiar with? Find what you’re passionate about, narrow that down, and odds are you’ve found your niche.

2. Build A List

While finding your niche is one of the top factors in your online business, your list may be the number one factor in deciding if your business fails or succeeds. If you build a good list of potential customers, it will become the keys to your kingdom.

Some of the many list building methods out there include free newsletters (both online and print), forums and articles. E-books can also be helpful with list-building, as well as getting your name out there and creating social proof.

Internet marketers are always looking for freebies to give away with their products, and a good e-book on a niche topic can be a wonderful way to let people know that you’re an expert in a certain field; when those people are ready to buy a certain product, they’ll come to you – the expert.

3. Ask The List What They Want

This is one thing that many people who run online businesses often overlook. They make the mistake of offering only what they’d like to sell – and that doesn’t always match up with what people want to buy. Websites such as Pollcode.com and Micropoll.com can help you set up online polls for free where people can choose from pre-designated choices, and some even allow users to input their own answers.

Two way communication can also build a sense of community with your prospects, be it via email, replies to blog posts or even open webinars through sites like Freebinar.com and Dimdim.com. And just like any other relationship, it is definitely to your advantage to know what the other person wants.

4. Market An Affiliate Product

Affiliate marketing is a great way to get started as well as find ideas about what to do with your own online business. Most successful websites have affiliate marketing programs, and you’ll find plenty that will work well with and compliment your own business ideas.

These affiliates will pay you a percentage of the sales for marketing their products for them. You can do this however you want – again, with blog posts, forums, webinars, etc. Generally, you’ll provide a link to your list, and any sales that come through that link will earn you the pre-determined commission amount.

There are plenty of ways to find affiliate programs – a Google search based on a specific topic could probably keep you busy for days. There are also digital product retailers like Clickbank.com that can provide you with thousands of online affiliate opportunities.

5. Create Your Own Better Product

Have a look at the products you’re promoting. Find out which ones work best with your list, and more importantly, why they work. Then when you create your own product, implement the features that are already working; do information products work better than physical products, what type of upsells should you offer – these things will definitely give you a leg up on your competition. And if you use them correctly, they can catapult you to the top of your niche.

This system is the simplest answer to the question, “How do I start an online business?” For more in-depth information, check out the DVD from the latest Melbourne SEO Services Workshop here. Watch a video snippet from the workshop below:

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