Imagine a teacher who expects her classroom to operate smoothly and her students to learn all of the objectives needed to move onto the next grade but has no plan or strategy on how to accomplish these things. Crazy, right? Success comes with planning and strategizing, not by chance. This is especially true in business. If you want your business to get started on the right foot then creating a plan and implementing a strategy are two essential first steps to a successful business. Let’s dive deeper into the planning and strategizing portion of starting an online business.
The essence of your online business is what you’re selling and product research is one of the most important aspects of the planning and strategizing phase. The questions below will broaden your perspective and guide you down the path of determining which products to sell while considering your target market and other operational items.
- What specific products do you want to sell?
To answer this question it’s best to aim towards a niche or specialized product to rise above your competitors and set yourself apart. Develop a plan for what colors and sizes you’re going to offer for each products based on your target market and the demand of the industry. Research, conduct surveys, and talk to people within your target market to ensure you can answer this question with full confidence.
- Who is your target market?
Knowing your target market will determine almost everything else. It will help you decide what kind of marketing you’re going to do, who your competitors are, the environment of your online store, and more. Be very specific about who your target market is so you can make a specific plan as to how you’re going to reach them.
- How will you handle manufacturing, purchasing, shipping, and receiving?
Part of the planning process includes considering the costs of these backend elements. These elements can seem daunting but researching and creating a plan of operation will prevent much stress as you move forward. Once you determine an estimate of the costs for these items do some comparing amongst your competitors to see where you stand.
Having a thorough understanding of your internal and external environment allows you to structurally build your business in a way that is going to bring success and returning customers. Taking the time to answer these questions as detailed as possible is essential to a well-rounded business.
- What kind of business do you want to be?
Doing an internal environmental analysis is a great way to begin the process of building your brand and deciding what kind of business you want to be. Answering this question might involve you creating a mission or vision statement for your business. This statement then becomes the heartbeat of your company and everything you do aligns with it. The experience your customer has determines whether they will continue to choose your store over others. Now is the time to think about policies, procedures, and protocols as those will be the foundation of day-to-day operations.
- Have you performed a SWOT analysis?
Recognizing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats allow room for improvement, goals, and success. Once you’ve recognized all four of these areas, the next step is to develop a strategy to use the results advantageously and for your success.
- What does your external environment look like?
This requires acknowledging the demographics of your target market, understanding and knowing who your competitors are, and more. Gathering this information will lead to strategic results that will provide a firm foundation for you to build your business upon.
Define SMART Objectives
Having a vision for your business is very important and defining objectives is a great first step, but remember the most important part is developing a plan for implementation. Use the acronym SMART to focus on objectives that are obtainable.
- Have you defined SMART objectives?
- S – Specific: Objectives should be as specific as possible because the more vague they are the more difficult they are to measure.
- M – Measurable: Objectives should be quantifiable.
- A – Achievable: Try not to overestimate targets in order for you to actually achieve your objectives.
- R – Realistic: Ensure you have the resources, budget, and time to make your objectives happen.
- T – Timely: Give yourself a time frame and complete the object within the specified amount of time.
Create a Marketing Plan
Aside from a business plan, which is critically important in this stage, next in line is a marketing plan. All of the items discussed in this post would be included in a marketing plan plus the answers to the questions below. Knowing what to market is one thing but knowing how to market is another.
- How are you going to market your brand?
If you’ve taken the time to answer the above questions then you’ve completed a big chunk of your marketing plan. However, planning how you’re going to market your brand is the most important part. Answering this questions requires consideration to social media, advertisements, campaigns, public relations, and overall marketing costs.
- What marketing tactics have other online retailers used?
Researching how other online retailers have marketed their brands and products provides insight into how you can market as well. Determine what will be best for your business and create a plan of action to achieve it. A marketing plan becomes the backbone of the structure you’re building through your business, brand, and products.
- What are your long-term goals?
Knowing where you want to be helps you have a better understanding of how to get there. Planning and strategizing now, will help you tremendously in the future. Establish your goals, create a detailed plan of how you’re going to achieve them, and reap the benefits.
The answers to these ten questions provide valuable information as to what steps to take after a business idea comes to mind. Planning and strategizing is a tedious task but it’s crucial to success. After reviewing these items you can take a sure-footed step forward towards starting your online business. We’ve helped hundreds of startups build a successful business, you could be next! Please contact us if you’re ready to build something great together.
Rachel is the team lead of Client Services at FarShore. She works closely with her team members to ensure every project is a success by overseeing the day-to-day operations of the project and managing the relationship between our team and the client. When she’s not working you can mostly likely find her with a cup of coffee and a good book.