5 Tips for Building a Successful Online Business

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••• Andy Ryan/Stone/Getty Images Prestige

People who decide to ditch their ‘9 to 5’ job in favor of starting a blogging business, e-commerce website, or finally writing and publishing a book on Kindle are almost always well-intentioned but may lack a true understanding of what it takes to be successful in business.

Of course it is good to set big goals and dream big, but surprisingly many business people at various stages of business development either don’t or can’t grasp what's fully required to hit their goals.

Sure, generating a million dollars within five years from start-up is an admirable goal. However, do you know what it’s going to take to get there and ensure that you don’t become today’s “flash in the pan”?

With that in mind, here are five success tips that if followed will make you and your business stand out and help you reach your goals:

1. Be Yourself!

Your business is an extension of you, no matter how big or small it is at the present time. It will succeed or fail by how others perceive your brand, and ultimately how they feel about doing business with you. All aspects of your business (customer service, product creation, back office) should respect your values.

The old adage that people like to do business with people they "know, like, and trust" is even truer today. Even with the largest companies, people want to the see the CEO come out to represent the company and speak on behalf of it.

Authenticity is the key. You’ve got to be you, whether it’s the smooth, sophisticated type or the person with rough edges and an attitude to match. Only you know what works for you and your target audience, but the one thing that can guarantee failure is not being authentic.

2. Over Deliver

Set benchmarks for yourself with your products and services, and try to exceed them, simple as that!

This is especially important with your initial offerings, because a strong first impression may mean a host of customers for life. Just imagine the glee on people’s faces because they feel that they have cheated you! It’s your reward for having given so much value at such a low (or reasonably low) cost. Certainly, expectations will constantly be high, but that’s the way it should be. 

Over-delivering means going beyond the call of duty at all times to become not only a viable business but a market leader that all others admire and envy.

Remember the purpose of a customer is not to make a sales, rather the purpose of a sale is to get a customer. Make their first purchasing experience with you a great one and they'll continue to buy your products over and over again increasing the lifetime value.

3. Focus on Serving, Not Selling

“You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” is a famous quote from the legendary Zig Ziglar (1926-2012) and it’s more than just a quick phrase to throw around at cocktail parties. Teaching and coaching are known as “giving” professions, but in the 21st century, more businesses will have to adapt their techniques in order to earn customer trust and ultimately sales.

Learn how to identify your target market’s problems, concerns and issues to better create and position your offerings as the best solution in the marketplace. The better you can relate and speak to them with effective copywriting the more they'll realize you truly are the solution to their problems.

“How much money can I make for myself?” Answer: As cliche as this may sound, don't even think about the money. As a business person, real money always follows from demonstrating the benefits of your services and products to the ideal customer.

4. Meet Your Customers Where They Are

Thanks in large part to social media, the world is transitioning from a corporate-dominated, sales-based economy to a trust-based economy. In the past, dominant companies could count on “blind” brand loyalty from customers to guarantee steady profits, even if their products and post-sales service were severely lacking.

Not anymore. Today, there is truly global competition across many industries, and the smallest glitch or weakness shown by corporations are quickly exposed, spread virally by consumers through the Internet, and exploited by ruthless competitors. The auto industry is a great example. No matter how big the company (e.g. GM, Toyota) individuals have the power to make them fall to their knees if they fail to deliver. Social media generally isn't friendly to the airline industry as well, but the dangers are worse for smaller businesses who don't have the time or money to invest in online reputation management.

On the plus side, when used properly,  social media marketing and Facebook provides a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

5. Have an Attitude of Gratitude

It so easy to forget the people who gave you advice, introduced you to key suppliers, or simply served as a sounding board for your crazy ideas. Quite frankly, many of them wouldn’t take it personally that you are not contacting them anymore. They know that you are busy and have time-consuming obligations.

However, part of what makes success stories stand out is paying attention to little details, and calling your mentors to say ‘Thank You’ really goes a long way. So what if a teacher, former employer, or business coach has retired to Florida and isn’t part of the scene anymore. They’ll appreciate your gesture that much more because it will remind them that they helped someone achieve their goals. This could also lead to opportunities for them to feature you to their audience, use your success as a case study, and potentially drive more traffic and sales into your business.

On a more practical note, keeping contact with key members of your inner circle gives them a reason to continue following your progress and helping you even more in the future. This could be done on a one-on-one basis or even facilitated through an email newsletter.

Follow these five simple steps and you'll surely be laying the foundation for a long-term, sustainable, and profitalbe business.