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Do you dream of founding an online business? It’d better be good. I don’t say that to discourage you; I just want to put things into perspective. Starting a web-based business is an ambitious feat, if just because millions of entrepreneurs plan to do the same thing to get a slice of the ever-expanding online market. Online businesses are becoming increasingly specialized and specific in the services they provide and who they target, but that doesn’t mean that it’s getting any easy to start one up.
As you might imagine, keeping costs low is one of the biggest issues facing would-be web business owners. Every penny counts when you’re starting an online business because it might be a long time before your enterprise earns you any money. You want to spend just enough capital on your business to give it legs in your desired market, but you certainly don’t want to splurge before you can gauges it’s potential for success.
In the spirit of keeping costs low, I’d like to offer three tips on how you can optimize the business model of your online enterprise without spending a single penny. Let’s take a look at your options.
Analyze trends using free online services
First, set up an account with professional, social, and interest-based networking services so that you can keep track of the trends that dominate your market from every possible angle.
Social networking services like Twitter can help you get a feel what actual customers are looking for from a business like yours—if you want to start an online record label, you can check out trending musicians on Twitter to get an idea for what sounds are popular. Professional networking services like LinkedIn will help you gain insights from an insider’s perspective; you can build a network among peers in your industry and put your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in your field.
Interest-based networks are your best friend in keeping track of market trends. Sites like Pinterest aggregate and rank products, media, and general web content based on how many people show an interest in them. If you build a business around a popular interest, then your online business is guaranteed at least a running start.
Get a feel for your target market through blogging
Rather than passively observe trends through various online networks, you can actively engage potential customers and industry experts through blogging. Blogging for your business is a bit of a cliché now in the realm of online business, but it’s actually a sound strategy for optimizing the direction of an enterprise.
Starting a blog allows you a platform to ask questions and make commentary about your industry. If you’re a decent writer, and if clever with your SEO tactics, you might have a chance at reaching a fairly large group of readers. If you cultivate a loyal readership, you could have a direct line of communication between your business and potential customers. A simple question to your readership about the nature of your business could yield invaluable responses in the comments below. If anything, blogging forces you to stay involved in the goings on of your business’ industry, so why not start one up?
Study the strategies of similar web-based businesses
You know the old adage: know thine enemy. If you’re trying to set up a successful online enterprise, you might as well study up on the outfits in your industry that are already well-established. Study their success and their failures to get an idea of the where your business could fit in. Try to find a noticeable void within the market, and make it your business’ mission to fill that void and satisfy an untapped consumer demand.
How do you optimize your online business at low cost? Let me know!
Carol Wilson is a freelance writer and blogger that specializes in topics related to the business world, including marketing, entrepreneurship, small business ownership, and even business insurance. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.