The process of planning and setting up an online business can be an overwhelming one. There’s so many aspects to think through – do you need to be on ALL OF THE the social media channels? Do you need to start off with a website? What do you even put on a website? How do you best describe and package your services? How do people find out about you? How do you find clients? SEO what? Do you need to build an email list too? What do you send your email list? Lead magnets, opt-in incentives, automation, sales funnels, WHAT?
Sometimes when you’re just starting out, it’s hard to see through the fog of all the “should’s” with regards to setting up an online business. Before we’ve even written a word for our own website, we bombard ourselves with posts on lead magnets, email lists, sales funnels, and six figure income dreams.
On its own, there’s nothing wrong with a fill of aspiration. However, when you’re getting started with your online business, it’s just distraction. In my own experience, and having seen clients in the past walk down the same road, I know how all the (excessive) information can be more paralyzing than empowering.
We’re all about the empowering bits here, people!
If it doesn’t educate and empower, it needs to be on its way out. In my own (ongoing) journey, I’ve realized there are six core elements that require focus, which then go on to separate the successful business owners from those that get burnt. What’s even more important is the order in which you tackle each of the elements in setting up your online business.
Before you can create realistic goals for your business, you need to know where you stand and where to start from. To help you pinpoint the most crucial element that needs your immediate attention, I’ve created the ‘Online Success Radar’, a cheeky and entirely empowering tool you can use to score and measure yourself across the six fundamental elements that sequentially add up to make the core of an authentic and profitable online business.
Step 1. Focus on your Website
To begin with, you need to focus on your website. If you’re just starting out, and are waffling on whether you need a website, here’s the short answer – HELL YES.
When a potential client considers working with you, you best be sure they will look up your business online. If you're a purely online business, you need a website so potential clients can learn more about working with you. If you have a website, you can control the “perception” of your business and brand – it’s like your own digital business card, an essential, and the best representation of you and your business.
A website also makes up the central axis upon which your online business revolves. YOU own your website, and the most effective business strategy is to make sure that all marketing and sales efforts always lead back to your website, which is where you should capture leads and promote your products/services.
Even your social media channels should work to drive traffic back to your website, because no matter how many social media followers you may have, you can’t directly contact them unless they’re on your email list, which you can build on your website (Step 4 in the process).
ACTION STEP: If you don’t have a website, stop. You need one pronto, so that’s the first thing you need to attend to. If you already have a website, use the ‘Online Success Radar’ to measure how well it’s performing / how happy you are with it currently. If you rate it among the lowest 2, you need to address it first before working on other elements.
Step 2. Start Blogging
If you’ve ever looked for tips and strategies to grow an online business, you know the most solid and unsexy answer is ‘blogging’. Creating valuable and evergreen content is the way to establish yourself as an authority in your field and to prove that you know what you’re talking about.
It is a slower process than say, advertising, but it is more organic, and any leads you get from your blog, will be the highest quality leads you can gather because you are assured of the fact that they ARE interested in the content you’re sharing. It also directly tells you that you’re addressing their primary concerns and problems. Make a note of this - it’s prime information for any products or services you offer later.
This also ties back to the importance of identifying your ideal brand persona and creating content that is most relevant to the people you’d most like to help and work with. Your blog, then, becomes the perfect platform to showcase your knowledge and give a preview of the experience potential clients will have when they decide to work with you.
It is your opportunity to dazzle by showing up consistently with outstandingly valuable content. Don’t just blog about your pet and your vacations, because while that may be nice now and then on a personal blog, it is not the best strategy when you’re blogging for business. Strategy, and not winging it, is what will lead to success.
ACTION STEP: Do you already have a blog? If not, make a content plan and start posting articles on 3-5 categories most relevant to your ideal brand persona. This step comes after you have built a website. If you already have a blog, rate it on the ‘Online Success Radar’ and if it’s within the 2 lowest (and assuming the website isn’t a problem), work on your blog first by reviewing your blog categories, revising the categories to best suit your ideal brand persona (if needed), creating content for each category consistently, and removing any articles that don’t fit within the categories.
Step 3. Work on a Success Mindset
You might have heard the saying ‘motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going’. Do you know what you need to build habits of success? A success mindset. It really is that simple and that difficult.
Many business owners (new and experienced) often forget the importance of mindset for being successful in business. Unfortunately, it takes a steady stream of overcoming setbacks and booking victories in business to begin believing in yourself and in the potential of your business. The most successful business owners use grit and persistence to move forward regardless of any hiccups.
Most people, on the other hand, aren’t that resilient at the start, and the first sign of obstacles, of which there are many in an entrepreneurial journey, is enough to make us overwhelmed and give up. This is where working on a success mindset can separate you from the struggling entrepreneurs and put you in the playing field of empire builders.
Is success reserved for the lucky few? Most certainly not. Everyone can build a success mindset. All it takes is daily practice, a gentle reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing and what it is that you want.
ACTION STEP: Before you even begin thinking of strategies and goals to grow your audience or building products, you NEED to prioritize working on your mindset, because that forms the basis of how much work you’re willing to put in and how far you get.
After the initial excitement of creating a website and writing fresh content wears off, it is habit and a success mindset that will help you to push on. Create a daily practice of writing down your goals for the day, why they’re important, and what your larger plans are for the business and why they’re so important. Repetition is key, so don’t skip this step.
Don’t be fooled by Instagram dreams of working at the beach. The mobile entrepreneur life requires a lot of grit and needs you to consistently show up, but if that’s your dream, it’s a goal worth working for.
To get you started on a strategic note, I created the FREE Blogging Blueprint workbook, which takes you through all the exercises you need to build the foundation for an authentic and strategic blog by identifying your ideal brand persona, strategically planning and organising information on your website and blog, creating basic brand style guidelines and templates, and building a social media plan by using my unique formula.
GET THE FREE BLOGGING BLUEPRINT WORKBOOK
Step 4. Build your Email List
Once you’re performing the first three steps well, you need to begin growing your email list. Why is an email list so important? Simple. It is the only way you have direct access to existing and potential clients/customers.
If you’re thinking “aren’t my social media followers just the same”, no, unfortunately that’s not the same. For one, social media platforms are owned by companies that have the right to alter terms and algorithms without your consent, which means you can never be sure to what extent you have access to those that follow you.
Plus, just because someone follows you, doesn’t mean they see all the content you post, because pesky algorithms. As we see increasingly on Facebook and other platforms, it’s becoming harder to reach your followers without resorting to advertisements or paid promotions.
An email list is YOURS and you have access to your audience’s most holy online asset – their email inbox – and it’s all for FREE. It is the perfect space to offer even more valuable content, special offers, and most importantly, it is an intimate space for you to be vulnerable and share your best tips and the ‘behind-the-scenes’ personal side of your business. This, and not a large social media following, is what leads to raving audiences.
ACTION STEP: Think of ONE blog post idea and content upgrade you can offer for free to kickstart your list building efforts. Make it simple – a checklist to accompany your blog post is often the quickest and most well-performing content upgrade to offer your readers. Better yet, offer a free email course on a subject you're most passionate about.
Once you have a free opt-in up on your blog or website, make sure to promote it across Pinterest, any other social media profiles you have, relevant business Facebook groups you may be a part of (be sure to follow the group’s promotion rules to avoid being kicked out, though).
Step 5. Be Strategic with Social Media
Once you have the first four pieces of the puzzle in place is when you can best focus on your social media strategy. Now I know this isn’t a popular suggestion, but it works. Why? Because when you’re just starting out, there is literally so. much. to. do!
In these moments, it’s our tendency to try to do ALL OF THE THINGS all at once, and that never works. Even though you’re an ultra-fly business ninja, I don’t recommend you try this at home. Slow and steady wins the race, remember?
Once you have clarity on your ideal brand persona, have your content and brand strategy in place, and have worked on growing a healthy high-quality email list, you can focus on social media strategy.
I always recommend following the principle of going an inch wide and a mile deep when it comes to everything, but especially so with social media. You can’t be on ALL the platforms and have high quality engagement on all of them all at once. Not unless you’re Gary Vee, in which case you’re probably not reading this anyway.
Start with ONE platform, set up your platform by learning a few practical tips and strategies, focus on really putting them to practice first, and organically grow your social media following.
It is a more intentional and sustainable approach, which will spill into all aspects of your business and will also naturally lead to high quality leads and increased sales. Without being ultra pushy, without the following-unfollowing drama, and without losing your mind. Sounds like a good plan, right?
ACTION STEP: Rate your social media activities on the ‘Online Success Radar’. If it’s among the 2 lowest, and none of the steps before it need work, start by picking ONE platform that is most relevant for your ideal audience and that you enjoy as well. Remember, there’s never any point picking a platform only because you think your ideal client is there. Social media is just that – social – and you have to truly enjoy it to make it work effectively.
Step 6. Create and Sell services or Products
Lastly, everyone’s favourite – monetization! I know first-hand how tempting it can be to jump the gun and try to create and sell services or products straight off but it just doesn’t work. Why not?
When you don’t have the basics in place, and certainly the first few building blocks in place, your online business won’t stand on its own. Everything does fall apart, and to save you from that fate, I highly recommend you build up to this stage, as opposed to trying to start with it.
I know in this seemingly “quick buck” economy of six-figure dreams this isn’t a popular opinion, but without exception, ALL the people who have achieved monetary and personal success always start with a solid foundation, even if they don’t always tell you that or if it doesn’t quite look like that. You don’t expect your house to stand up straight without a foundation, do you? So why would you expect that with your business?
ACTION STEP: Start with the first brick, your website, and build up to offering services or product creation and sales. Once you reach the final element on the ‘Online Success Radar’, the sky is literally the limit. If you have the first few elements in place and running systematically, you can focus entirely on services or product development, promotion, and automated sales funnels that keep your business growing. And isn’t that the dream?
SO WHAT NOW?
Build the foundation for an authentic and profitable blog by focusing on setting up your blog, creating the ideal brand persona, strategically planning and organising information on the website and blog, creating basic brand style guidelines and templates, and building a strategic social media plan by picking the ONE platform best suited for your blog.