So, you want to start an online business? It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling lava lamps, tuba lessons, or web design services: you need a plan of attack. It’s easier than ever to toss up a website and set up shop—which means that for every bona fide brand out there, there’s an impostor who’s all talk and no follow-through.

Here’s how you can make your business stand out:

1. Do your research. Chances are there’s already a business out there similar to yours. Size up the competition, and see if there’s something unique you can offer. Learn what problems people are having with related products and services. Then, build your business to meet a real consumer need.

2. Define your products or services in detail. An awesome business idea is no good if no one understands what you’re selling. That’s why you need to write unique, compelling descriptions that speak to visitors’ needs. Check out Copyblogger for tips on writing must-read sales copy.

3. Create a plan for online sales. There are different factors to consider in building an online shop vs. a physical storefront. For example, how will you manage leads, sales, and fulfillment? How will you follow up with buyers post-sale? How will you handle unhappy customers?

You can always modify protocol over time, of course—but planning for problems will save stress as your business grows.

4. Build an awesome website focused on your customers’ needs. Create informative, entertaining content (including text, photos, and video) that shows visitors how your product will improve their lives. Explain services clearly, and offer a call to action to convert visitor traffic into sales.

Create an easy way for customers to reach you, like a contact form. You can use a ticketing system to organize and answer questions, or a CRM to manage communications across your business.

5. Decide how you’ll find your customers. Selling online is a combination of getting your name in the right places (through SEO, pay-per-click marketing, and social media) and in front of the right people (through thought leadership and email marketing to existing clients). Figure out what channels are best for your business, and put yourself out there.

Don’t know where to start? Try out different strategies, measure your results, and see what works.

6. Grow—and maintain—your reputation. Show potential clients that you’re the real thing. Maintain a regular blog and try guest posting on industry-relevant sites. Build a social media presence. Sign up for programs like Yelp and Google+ to enhance credibility.

7. Whatever you do, don’t set it and forget it. Building an online business takes time and effort. And these days, it also requires significant upkeep. Continually improving your business isn’t just good for SEO—it also forces you to keep up with changes in the marketplace. And it shows your clients that you care.

Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to a budding online business. Now, all you have to do is sell.

Need help getting your business off the ground? Atomic can help you build a web presence that rocks.


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