How To Start An Online Business in 1 Easy Lesson

A reader left this comment on one of our posts here: “. . . I am interested in starting a marketing company based on a new product. . . . I believe in the product and would like to build a base from home on my own computer. How to do this?”

The answer to that question fills hundreds of books and is the subject of university business degrees. But even people who haven’t read much about starting a business and who have never gone to college have built successful businesses.

Our answer, in one short blog post, one easy lesson?

Worry about market and marketing more than you worry about your product. In other words, how are you going to communicate to people who are bombarded by messages (from competing companies with HUGE ad budgets) that they should buy your product instead of the others? If you succeed, and attract real customers who are willing to give you real money, then you have a business. (Until then don’t worry about the trappings that make people feel good playing entrepreneur—things like business cards and letterhead and elaborate business plans.)

Once you know you can attract customers then you need to worry how you’re going to buy product to resell, and how to buy ads or web space to make people buy. In other words then you’ll have to worry about financing and cash flow, not profit. If you hit a home run and your product is selling like crazy you can easily find yourself going growing broke. Don’t forget, you can’t pay suppliers and employees with (and you can’t eat) paper profit. Check out our companion site Finding Money Advice for, well, advice on finding money.

Can you do all this from home, from your computer? Sure, if you have a way of attracting customers to a website where they can buy your product and if you have a supplier that will drop ship to those customers so you don’t have to inventory product. Set up your website right, and orders that come in will be handled automatically—credit cards processed and order sent to supplier for fullfillment. Ka-ching! Untouched by human hands; you can spend your time marketing, and marketing, and marketing.

Look at the archives here under Home Based Business and Business Marketing for lots more advice.

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5 Responses to How To Start An Online Business in 1 Easy Lesson

  1. Carolyn Aubert says:

    I already knew it took a customer base more than worrying about the product??

  2. Tom Harnish says:

    Excellent! Um . . . then how can we help? I mean, what kind of advice are you looking for, then?

  3. Barry Dennis says:

    I hate your cart before the horse approach; a practically guaranteed way to go broke in one easy lesson. “How to fail in one easy lesson.”

    Many great product and service ideas have gone down the drain though lack of even preliminary evaluation and planning.
    There are short-form “elevator speech” type evaluations of the beginnings of evaluating ideas. I publish some “Know Your Customer” Marketing 101.
    Product Evaluation 101, Service Evaluation 101.
    To suggest “Shoot, Ready, Aim” in the context of a New Business seems irresponsible, to me.

  4. Tom Harnish says:

    Guess you didn’t read the post, Barry. You’re right, entrepreneurs are notorious for the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach you allude to, but that’s exactly what we recommend against. Until you know who your customers are and what your market looks like you don’t have a business, regardless of what wizbang product you might have.

    Business plans and financing proposals are often full of excruciating product detail for the next best thing, but lack even a cursory description of the market, how it segments, and how those customers are going to be convinced to buy.

    I think of it this way:

    Business decision
    • Is it real?
    — Is the market real?
    — Is the product real?
    • Can We Win?
    — Can our product be competitive
    — Can our company be competitive
    • Is it worth it?
    — Will it be profitable?
    — Does it satisfy other company needs

    Each of those second level issues then need to be individually evaluated to determine if the business idea you have will be viable.

    At the beginning a lot of the answers are squishy, so a yes, no, maybe answer is sometimes the best you can do. But if you look at the issue and the yes answers outnumber the nos and maybes then you may be on to something.

    Then prototyping is my favorite approach. Build one, try it on a small scale. Refine and adjust, try again. You might actually end up in a different business as a result, but you’ll know you’re on firm ground when you start to build.

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