Step 1 - Setting Your Business Goals

Why do you want to start an online business? To make money, of course, but there needs to be more to it than than.  Customers will not flock to your online business just because you want to make money.

A look at the headlines shows clearly why so many business fail: they focused solely on greed.  It takes many things for a business to be successful, but a key is that the business has a customer-focus; that the business is offering a product or service to the marketplace which is:

  1. a quality product or service;
  2. has perceived value;
  3. competitively priced;
  4. provides a sales experience and after-the-sale support that is positive, in the mind of the customer

We can add to that list social and environmental responsibilities, but in a small online business, that's more specific to the product than the business.

Your motivation?

But it does raise the larger question: why, besides making money, are you starting this business. Or to put it another way, what makes you think you will be successful, what skills, knowledge, passion, interest or other attributes to you possess that made you choose selling this particular product, service or topic?

If you want to blog about knitting, we would presume than you have been knitting yourself, and it is a hobby and a passion to you.

If you want to sell electronic products, it would be logical to expect that you understand how they work and you like using them yourself.

Specific Goals

Specific goals, besides making a profit, which is obvious to any business, are:

  1. To meet a need in the marketplace that is currently not being met, or is not met well.
  2. To offer a product, service or information at a more competitive price than is presently available
  3. To offer a better product, service or information than is currently available
  4. To offer a better customer experience than is currently available.

Examples

Let's look at a few examples of these goals.

Teaching others how to knit

Perhaps your hobby is knitting (it could be model trains, gardening, or anything else).  You're pretty good at it and friends and other people come to you for advice.  Have you thought about making a website to share your knowledge? Of course, it couldn't just be a haphazard collection of your random thoughts; an organized A to Z tutorial that helps newcomers learn how to get into the hobby, insider tips and tricks, etc. could be very popular. Even if there are other websites already offering this type of information, you could still do well; if your website is better (easier to use, better organized, more useful links, better tips, etc.)

A house selling website

Let's say you are trying to sell your house.  You probably found that it is difficult (well, impossible) to get a good idea of what your house is worth in the market right now.  House prices rise and fall unpredictably and there is no master list of prices.

However, if you could find a way to connect the most recent sales prices of houses in a neighborhood (if you could get that information) with a the features of each house that matter to the customers and factor in the sales price (size, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, exterior, etc.) and connect it to Google Maps, then you could probably build a website that  would be immensely popular.

The bottom line

The business goals are about determining what you have to offer to the marketplace and, from a high level, how you will offer it.

Next, we need to start our market research, to make sure your idea is a good one.  In Step 2, we'll look at

  • Deciding the value it has in the marketplace
  • Deciding what your costs and the value of your time is.
  • Competitors
  • Other factors to success or failure.