How to start an online business – part 5

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Hopefully this latest instalment of my blog series on How To Start An Online Business will show I’m just as real as the next person.

In my last instalment, way back in September 2011, I was on my way to Sydney to take my team to see Donald Trump, Robert Kiyosaki and Anthony Robbins live at the National Achievers Congress and I planned to go live with my new online business before I went away.

This proved a little ambitious as there was simply too much to do, but I did get some flyers and business cards prepared (see samples below) and handed them out through the 3 day event (which was incredible by the way).

Thankfully, as I outlined back on blog post 4, I had already established a Launchrock page so anyone coming to the website on the cards or flyers had the opportunity to give me their details, and I was building my database along the way.

The rest of 2011 to be honest is a blur. As always I got very busy with business awards ceremonies (both those I was representing myself in, and supporting others at), managing staff and projects; then a long summer holiday and then 2012 has been HUGE. The Creative Collective has taken my full attention with lots of opportunities, change and projects to manage, meaning poor old awardshub.com got sidelined.
BUT, I’m pleased to report that awardshub.com is now for you to see!

STEP 25: Minimum viable product (MVP)

Last year when I was speaking to one of my business advisors about awardshub.com he shared the concept with me of MVP – Minimum Viable Product and it was just what I needed to hear.

Given how fast technology is moving, many online startups are now launching with what they deem to be their ‘Minimum Viable Product’ – that is, they’re not focused on creating a feature-rich, pixel-perfect website, but rather they’re releasing a bare bones version to the world, and then pushing for user feedback to drive the direction it develops in from there. Having built hundreds of websites, I’ve seen this problem in action a million times over.

Clients worrying about every little item before flicking the switch to make their website live, and in the mean time LOSING MONEY because their online business is still not open for business.

Thankfully I’m not as precious as the next person, probably largely because I know the sooner you get your site live, the sooner it starts indexing on search engines, and the better it will perform.

In just a week of being live, I’m so excited to see I am ranking in number 1 position on Google for some of the business awards I am promoting on awardshub (go and search ‘Caloundra Business Awards’ for instance).

Whilst its indexing and I know my site is not perfect, I’m certainly not telling the world about it (watch future posts for when I get the marketing machine in action). Rather I am letting the site rank organically on the search engines, monitoring its progress and telling a select few via social media networks, as well as friends, family and key business contacts and asking them to tell me what they think.

STEP 26: User-generated content is gold

A valued business contact, serial opinionator on marketing, communications Andy Lark (currently CMO of Commonwealth Bank) told me late last year over a dinner at an event that one of the hallmarks of online business success is user-generated content and I couldn’t agree more.

awardshub.com is structured with feedback forms, comment boxes and social media links throughout the site. It may be stating the obvious but by making comments like; “We know there are plenty of business awards programs out there that aren’t yet listed on our site and we’d love your help in building our list! Simply complete the form below to offer your suggestion. We’ll review it and look to include it on here real soon!” my users are only too happy to provide their suggestions on what else they’d like to see on there. They are effectively building my site for me! In just one week of being live, I’ve had five business award programs put forward, and I’m now working hard with the developer to automate this process, so the suggestions are as good as unapproved listings. Rather than transfer the submitted web form, we’ll simply review it in the back end, and provided it is ready to go, we hit ‘enable content’ and we’ve just had a new page of content written by our users.

STEP 27: Getting a fresh pair of eyes

You know how it is when you’ve looked at something too long. You can’t see the ‘woods for the trees’. I knew I was getting to this point so enlisted the help of a work experience student to comb through the site looking for any issues she could identify after it was live. She wrote a great list and this week I’ll be providing her training on how to make the amends so she can assist me in managing the site long term. I’m also in the process of creating an operations manual with the motivation that if I document everything related to the management of the site, the jobs won’t all fall on my shoulders. I recommend you do the same with your online business too.

STEP 28: Build links

Over the next few weeks I’ll be encouraging the student to focus on building links back to the site which I know will help its rankings on the search engines to improve even more. And this will be happening on an ongoing basis as part of the weekly tasks of the person managing the site. I’d recommend you have a links strategy in place too.

STEP 29: Keep the conversation going on social media

We’ve also become much more active on the social networks we already established, namely twitter, facebook and youtube and have created a Linkedin Company page too. We’re sharing content from other business awards programs, letting people know of upcoming deadlines and congratulating people who have won.  If you haven’t already joined us on these social networks, love you to pop over and say hi.

I hope you got new ideas on how to start or grow your online business and welcome your feedback below.

Until next time!

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