13 Stages for Launching and Growing Your Online Business
What stages are there in launching and growing your online business for it to be successful? What should you avoid to succeed? When is the best time to invest in product improvement, website improvement, ads, or SEO?
Find the answers to these and many other important questions below from a real-life business owner with 16 years of experience in launching and growing online businesses.
- 1. Make the first test
- 2. Describe the main idea
- 3. Make it ten times easier to launch
- 4. Create the first version
- 5. Launch and attract the first visitors
- 6. Gather & analyze feedback
- 7. Improvement and new launch
- 8. Grow your conversion rates
- 9. Increase investing
- 10. Build a sales pipeline
- 11. Remember the income formula
- 12. Keep gathering feedback
- 13. Hire the best specialists
1. Make a test first
Testing and checking stand separately among the first tips to start and grow your online company. That’s why try to sell your idea (any kind of product or service) to people you don’t know (not your friends) at least three times - before you invest in the development of anything.
At least three because one successful outcome could be an accident, while three merits are enough to realize people are really interested in your idea.
2. Describe the main idea
Describe the main idea of your business and the reasons why people should buy it from you. Moreover, we recommend doing it on paper. Write down what should be developed and how your product should look to be good or just 10% better than your competitors.
3. Now make it ten times easier to launch
Great job! Now you’ve finished a detailed description, that is useful and necessary, and helps you understand how your future business should look. At this stage, it is crucial for you to minimize costs as much as you can. Put all spending to a minimum that is enough to launch and test - even if the initial product is going to be far from perfect.
This will save you hundreds of thousands of dollars if you go the wrong way and develop a product that people will not use. That’s because whatever you make, you’ll have to improve it continuously.
You’ll have to gather feedback and implement ongoing changes to make people like your product and use it. But it’s very important that you implement what they need based on their actual feedback, but not based on your thoughts.
You might also like: What 11 most expensive mistakes do people make before, during, and after a business launch making them fail?
4. Create the first version within one to three months
Now let’s move closer to how to start an online business step by step.
Simplify your initial business idea so that you can create it within just one to three months and spend not more than 10%-20% of your budget at this stage. Everything should take around this time, not more, at least on paper. That’s because:
1) In fact, it will take three times more than you plan anyway;
2) You’ll need most of your money in the next stages. So, launch the initial product by yourself, find those who can help you with it, or find investments - many people with money will want to become a part of your business if you:
- Have the first real sales from the first launch, or if you can clearly explain and prove why your idea should work;
- Are eager to work by yourself and have a team or can create it;
- Are smart already and are learning something new every day. Because only those who improve themselves all the time can really reach their goals.
5. Launch and attract the first visitors & customers with a minimum budget
Do it quickly and easily with paid ads such as Google Adwords, Facebook, and Bing. It’s not high time for SEO investments yet; they pay off better but take longer.
At this stage, genuine customer feedback is what’s the most important. Don’t save a few hundred bucks on ads even though your product still looks very raw and your landing page conversion rate may be quite low; it’s not so important.
Your goal at this stage is not to get mass sales or make ads pay off. No, you need to get the first feedback before you continue to improve your product or service to make sure:
- People are going to buy it at all - at least one from 1,000 visitors should purchase your product, or at least five from 1,000 visitors should be interested and ask some questions;
- You understand what you need to improve - based on what clients say they need, but not on what you think they need.
The worst way to spend your time and money - is to develop and improve something for years and then find out nobody buys it. So, spend from $300 to $3,000 on ads to see how many actual customers you can get. This budget is enough in 80% of cases to test the first conversion rates - the most important thing which you should track and focus on during your entire business - no matter how old it is.
6. Once you’ve got the first sales - gather & analyze feedback
If you want to accelerate business growth, it’s essential to collect and analyze the feedback. Thus, you have to do it right:
- Talk to your customers and find out what they need, why they have bought your product, and what it is lacking. Ask them many questions. But do it by yourself, don’t delegate this to anyone.
- The reason is that if someone talks to your consumers, not you, they will not bring you what clients have said; they’ll bring you their interpretation of what consumers said. You’ll lose 80% of feedback if you delegate it to your manager.
- Moreover, your manager won’t ask customers additional questions which you would - and those additional questions are most important.
- Also, bear in mind that only 10% of clients provide feedback. Most people will not tell you anything at all.
- And those who do - 50% of what they say will be quite useless. People don’t care about you and your business, so don’t expect them to help you much. They don’t want to spend their own time on that. So be patient enough to ask them again and again, and be smart enough to give them some bonuses for their feedback - to save your own time and get what you need.
- Find the right questions and learn to listen to not only what customers say but to what they think and don’t tell you.
- Check how they behave on your website using Smartlook to understand the reasons why they don’t buy and change something and improve UI & UX.
7. Improvement and new launch
Improve your product or service and your website to increase conversion rates, then launch another small campaign. Or launch an ongoing advertising campaign with a small budget (while it doesn’t pay off). Nevertheless, you will need to get new ongoing traffic to:
- Keep gathering new feedback after implementing further improvements;
- Keep tracking your customer behavior on your website to improve UI&UX;
- Keep tracking and increasing conversion rates on all stages (CTR, conversion to lead, conversion to customer).
If ads don’t pay off at all, but you have time to wait for traffic, an alternative at this stage - is to invest in SEO. It pays off slower but much better - if you do everything right. Hire an SEO specialist or outsource your SEO needs to professionals.
Three most important things that you should do in terms of SEO:
1) Well-done on-page optimization;
2) Creating more content on your website (any single page has very limited opportunities to get high rankings because it can get ranked only for a small group of keywords, so you need to have many pages to have more rankings and more traffic);
3) Off-page SEO - you should get as many quality backlinks as you can and as many as you can get or buy. The best backlinks are those which are placed within unique, relevant content. Ideally - they should be posted on a new web page - because such a backlink looks the most natural to search engines.
But remember that SEO usually takes from three to six months to see some results. And six to twelve months is what you need to see significant results. And in one to two years, you can get amazing results.
In 30% of cases, SEO effort starts to pay off already in the first three months, in 70% - after six months, but the longer you invest in SEO, the higher is your ROI. With time, $1,000 spent on SEO per month will bring you $10,000 of income per month. But that’s only possible with time when you’ve got more and more backlinks and also more and more pages with unique and well-optimized content on your website.
8. Grow your conversion rates
Increasing your conversion rates - is one of the most important stages most business owners fail in. To grow conversions, improve your website the following way:
- Create a great landing page with good copywriting - it should sell well, and it should provide a lot of info about your products and services (most people won’t read them all, but they will be able to find the info that they need!);
- Make a stunning and engaging headline;
- Add a sign-up form while it’s a must - its goal is to collect leads (the form should be on the first screen of your landing, and it should have just one or two fields (name and email, or just email));
- Add reviews from happy customers - they should also be visible on the first or second screen on your landing.
Increase CTR for banner/text ads and in SERPs. Keep improving and testing your conversion rates until you get ~10% conversion rate from visitor to lead, from 1% to 5% conversion rate from lead to customer - depending on the price and type of your product/service. (The more it costs, the lower will be the conversion rate from lead to a customer, which is average on the market for your niche. For most online products and services, the average conversion rate from lead to a client is ~3%.)
These are just several most important rules for high conversion rates. Finally, become a professional in increasing your business conversion rates. First of all, this is one of the most vital online business requirements. Secondly, because it’s quite difficult and very expensive to hire those who have real, actual working experience in doing that.
9. Increase investing when ROI comes closer to zero from big minus
Growing an online business can sometimes be a hard nut to crack. You have to keep various things in mind. And leveraging your investments is one of them.
If you have investments, don’t wait for ads to start paying off well; keep investing. First of all, 80% of ads don’t pay off for 80% of businesses for the first several years after startup launch. That’s because for many reasons:
- Low conversion rates in all stages;
- The low value of a product/service;
- Not enough customer base to cover expenses;
- Not enough quality because there is not enough investing;
- Low quality of ads and bad CPC optimization;
- Low quality of marketing;
- Weak sales texts, weak sales staff;
- The best selling message that should be everywhere, starting from ads to the one on the landing page, in control panel, in emails, in sales texts, remarketing ads, is not even found yet or is not used on all stages which customer passes and sees.
That’s why as soon as your conversion rates allow your advertising to pay off at least -10% (i.e., you spend $1,000 and you get $900), start increasing your ads spendings (if you have investments, of course). These investments in ads will pay off with time and start generating more profit, thanks to returning customers.
At this stage, you can start using not only the most popular and simple advertising tools (such as Google Adwords) but also other ways to increase your website traffic. If you don’t have enough investments, then you have to improve your conversion rates to make those ads pay off and bring you some profit which you can then reinvest.
10. Build a sales pipeline to better track, analyze and improve your conversion rates
Always find your bottlenecks - the stage of your conversion pipeline where you lose most of your customers and most of your money.
Ask yourself a question every month: which of these conversion rates are the lowest and should be improved first of all? Focus on increasing the weakest places of your pipeline because the Pareto rule says: “20% of efforts bring 80% of results,” whereas “80% of the rest of efforts & investments bring just 20% of results.”
So, don’t focus on increasing just one type of conversion rate. Change your focus to the weakest part of your business and improve it.
11. Remember the income formula
The six most important numbers you need to remember are those abbreviations below. It’s a formula for your business success:
People * CTR * CTL * CTC * LTV * Margin = Your income
Let’s see this formula in more detail:
- the number of people who see your website (in ads or in organic search) multiply by
- percentage of CTR (Click Through Rate), multiply by
- percentage of CTL (Conversion to Lead), multiply by
- percentage of CTC (Conversion to Customer), multiply by
- LTV (average Life-Time Value of a customer, which depends on the number of repeating purchases and customer lifetime in your business), multiply by
- percentage of margin of your business = your business income.
Now, the most important thing about this formula - if you increase each value of the formula by at least 15%, your income will DOUBLE. It’s much easier to increase every value for 15% than one separate value for 100%, isn’t it?
12. Keep gathering feedback from your customers and making ongoing improvements
From now on, this is not a stage anymore. Yet, feedback collection should become an ongoing process in your business, as well as always tracking and increasing your conversion rates at every stage.
13. Hire the best specialists for that money that you can afford
You shouldn’t hire all at once. Take each step one by one, starting from the most important roles. People are the most important part of your business. That’s especially essential for your growth stage company.
25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more. And we want you to be among these successful entrepreneurs!
See what steps you have to make to create and launch your company. Don’t forget to be really attentive and consistent at this stage. Also, use these big and small business growth strategies to take your business to the next level.
Optimize your business processes and always analyze your success and failures. Remember that it’s very important to take care of your SEO when running an online company. So, use reliable SEO services to rank higher on SERP.
And now, here are a few questions for you:
Did you like the article? Was it useful for you? If yes, please write in the comments what you liked and what would you like to know more about?