Guest blog: how to build a successful online business

Getting rich online is easy, right?  Come up with a great idea. Build a website. Line pockets with cash from venture capitalists intoxicated by your idea. Build business. Sell business. Retire to Mustique.

Sorry, but it doesn't work like that. Not anymore, anyway. Online businesses require the same kind of dedication and commitment to work that any other business does. Although you can get an online business up and running within hours and at a substantially lower initial cost than 'traditional' businesses, success comes as a result of a passion to make it happen in the long term.

Follow these five tips to ensure you stay on the path to success.

Stick to one main idea

Because it is so easy, in theory, to start an online business, many fall into the trap of starting multiple ventures, rather like 'shotgun entrepreneurs'. I see a lot of people who follow this strategy simply fail. Nothing gets off the ground. Pick the idea with the greatest chance of success, the one that solves a known problem, has revenue potential and is scalable. Just one. Throw all your energy behind that (at least until you know it's a definite dud) before you start anything else.

Listen to your customers

Your online business will need to evolve before it hits the mark. The people who can tell you how it must evolve are your customers, or potential customers. Get close to them, and ask for their input. Social media is great for this - make sure you are visible on social media platforms that are suitable for your client base and use them for market insight. Don't fall into the trap of just telling people how great your product is, listen and then listen some more.

Invest in the user experience

The internet isn't new anymore. People have high expectations - they don't want to work hard when they're online. You must make it easy for customers to use your service. Marketers call this a good 'user experience'. Constantly test and review how your website works for people. Make sure the people building your online services understand what good usability is.

Delegate

This is an old chestnut that applies to any entrepreneur and one that took me years to fully embrace - delegate as much as you possibly can. Why? Because you need to be out there seeing what is going on in your market and focussing on the previous three points - especially talking to customers.

Prepare to ditch your business model

Success may be elusive. But the fundamental idea of the business may not be at fault, it may just be the business model. Nine months after starting my business I was getting a lot of positive feedback but the revenue wasn't there. Stubbornness set in and I said to myself "I will make it work". But I couldn't. So after some soul-searching I changed the business model - in this case it was from an advertising-led to a subscription-led one. It worked and I have never looked back. Stubbornness can be good when you just want to get things done but when it comes to strategy it can be deadly.

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