Build the Snowball and It Will Run

Setting up your own online business can seem extremely daunting. Whether you've already got a business and want to sell products and services online or want to start from scratch with a new business, there is a great deal to think about.

However, despite the economic doom and gloom, there is real money to be made from web-based businesses. But where do you begin?

If you're starting from scratch, the first thing you need to decide is what you're going to sell and who you want to sell it to. The Web is a global marketplace, but that doesn't mean your business has to be international. Some of the most successful internet businesses target tight niches. When making the decision about what type of business to start you'll need to research the types of products and services that are in demand and the competition for supplying those to customers. The ratio of demand to supply will give you an idea of the likely profitability of any business idea. After all, there's no point in starting a business that's not going to make a profit, is there?

If you have expertise in a particular subject or area, then that's a great place to start. If there's a subject you're passionate about then start there. Focus on what you can offer that's unique. It's much better to offer something unique in a small niche market than try and compete with a thousand other companies in a huge market. Remember the bigger the market the more competitors you'll have. And on the Web, the chances are high that they'll all know more than you about the techniques associated with marketing and selling on the internet.

If you've already got an offline business that you want to promote on the Web, or have products or services that you want to sell on the internet, then you're a good part of the way there.

However, whether you've already got a business or have a good idea for starting one, there's a great deal to do to be successful on the Web. You have to come up with a domain name and register it, build a website (or get someone to build it for you), and find someone to host it. If you want to sell products or services directly from your site, you'll need to build-in online shopping facilities, and if you want to accept credit cards, you'll need a merchant account .

Then there's the promotion. It's all very well having a website out there in cyber space, but if no-one knows it's there, you won't get any customers. So you have to promote it, on and off-line.

How do you get visitors and how do you ensure they are in your target market? The most cost-effective way of generating targeted traffic on the Web is by ranking highly in search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN for keywords related to your business. Unfortunately there are thousands of Web marketing professionals out there who are intent on making sure their sites rank highly, meaning that the chance of a relative newcomer getting a top 30 ranking in a search engine is small. Without a ranking in the top thirty on the major search engines you might as well be invisible.

Finally, and most importantly, once you've got traffic, how do you convert a reasonable percentage of it into income? How do you build the kind of trust and credibility online that keeps visitors coming back and spending money?

Phew! If you weren't daunted before, you will be by now. Fortunately, none of the problems outlined above is insurmountable. It's hard work sure, but very rewarding. And you don't have to do all the work yourself, there are plenty of solutions which will do lots of the hard work for you, like the one I use.

The important thing, as with any project, is to start and then to keep going. Imagine your website as a snowball running down a hill. It starts off very small and has no momentum. It takes hard work to roll it and help it grow, but once it reaches critical mass it gains a momentum of its own, starts to roll by itself and grows exponentially very quickly. Your web business is that snowball.

Kenny Hemphill is a website owner and marketer. His current snowball is gaining mementum fast.

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