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Four Things to do When Starting a Web Business

bigstockphoto_Web_Address_39799871.  Finding your UVP

First of all what is a UVP?

It’s a Unique Value Proposition. A strong UVP makes potential customers want to use your product or service over your competition.

Often times for a start-up, it’s better to start small and work your way up.   At first, try serving the needs of a smaller group of people, and when you are successful at this, then you can begin expanding your presence in the market.  For example, let’s say you were going to start an online shoe store.  Rather than trying to go heads-up against a company like Zappos, you may want to specialize in oversized shoes or European styles and bring them to a U.S. customer base.

Something that makes you unique and has value in a niche area will help you to differentiate yourself from the other sites.  And most importantly for your survival as a business, this uniqueness will enable you to make sales.  If you aren’t unique or better in some way, then your business will be reduced to marketing reach and/or a price war.  This strategy represents an uphill battle for a startup that often ends in failure.

2.  Marketing Reach

There are so many ways to market your business online today.  Simple options, like Google adwords, as well as more creative strategies, like viral marketing, can be very effective ways to grow your web presence.  Anything you decide to do requires a good plan and the willingness to experiment.  One thing is certain: balancing the business with marketing and sales is an exercise that couples quality decision making with experimentation.  Not everything you try is going to work, but you have to be persistent in analyzing your returns.  This equips you to make the best decisions possible.  Go with what works, and toss what doesn’t!

3.  Technology & Getting Up and Running

This is a gray area, and it is very difficult for most people to understand.  All kinds of questions face the web entrepreneur:  Should you buy out of the box software and customize it?  Should you build custom software?  Should it be a combination of both?  How much will it cost?

This is not a simple topic and there is no cookie-cutter answer for these questions.  As a matter of fact, I will go into more depth on this area in future blog posts because there is just so much to think about.

Before you dive into a technology solution, you should consider your UVP and your marketing strategy.  These things will determine what’s important for you.  Then as you think about the features your website or web  application will need, you can make strategic technology decisions that integrate best with your overall goals.

Then you should define in as much detail what you want website to do.  I would even go as far as to hire a designer to make story boards that show the look, feel, and flow of the site.  Once you’ve gone through this exercise, you will be able to decide if the software package you need even exists (adequate for customization), or whether a better option would be to build your own custom solution.

One small suggestion from my early days as a web developer:  I wanted to plan for every feature that I could ever possibly think of that I might need.  This can be a daunting task.  And really, at the beginning it can also be unnecessary unless you plan on implementing it all right away.

I discovered that it was best to let the website evolve organically.  Once you actually create the first version of your website, you will learn lots of new things from seeing how people react to it, your success in the market, etc.  Usually at this moment, you discover that there is a big difference between what you originally thought you would need, and what the customers actually desire.  All that time spent planning for the fancy applications (that never got used) was wasted.  Therefore, at first you should narrow things down only to what you need to get started, and then just make a plan for meeting those objectives.  Your successes and failures will pave the way for your future.  You’ll figure out what to do when the time comes, and it will be based on much better information than what you had before.

4.  Capital and Longevity

A few years ago, I read somewhere that the number one reason businesses fail is that they didn’t have enough time to get off the ground.  From my personal experience I believe this statement to be true.

In the beginning you need to create a survival plan that allows you to have enough time to make the mistakes necessary for success to follow.  This means you should plan on spending more startup money, or be willing to live on less of a salary for a while so that you can get things off the ground.  Be prepared for the reality that you may open your website up to the public, but without the fanfare you were expecting on day one.

Don’t let this discourage you!  This is the rule, not the exception.  You have to keep working it until you find the right formula.  Having the willpower and resources to survive gives you the opportunity to experiment and play with your business model until you get it right.  Really, ultimately, that is the biggest secret to success with an online business.  And although it may seem easy at times, it will put you through a roller coaster of emotions.

This is the reality of starting a Web Business.  Welcome to Entrepreneurship! Do you have any stories or tips you want to share?

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