You’ve done your legwork to start your new online business, including testing your products and services with your prospective customers, registering for all of the necessary licenses and permits, raising startup capital, and securing your business number (BN).
Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty: starting your online business. While you may already know you need a website to market your products and drive sales, there are lots of other Internet business tools that can help you run your business, including web hosting, email marketing technology, and e-commerce platforms.
So, where should you start looking for the best tools for your online business? You’ve come to the right place.
The experts at LendingArch have compiled a list of 5 steps you should take to start an online business. Better yet, this list includes must-have technology tools to help you launch and grow your online startup. Take a look.
1. Pick a domain and hosting provider
First things first: an online business needs to have a website domain name and a web hosting company.
What is web hosting? In a nutshell, it is a service that provides the technology needed in order for people to actually see your website on the Internet.
Websites are hosted – or stored – on a server. When Internet users find and view your company’s website, their computers are connected to your web hosting company’s server – allowing them to see your website via their web browsers.
While you may be able to find free web hosting, it’s often not a good option for an online business as you’ll need a high-quality provider that is reliable and offers excellent customer service.
Keep in mind that you will need to own a domain name before finding a web hosting company. With this said, many web hosting providers offer domain buying services.
You might want to start by checking out Bluehost and GoDaddy, two low-cost web hosting providers that also sell domain names (and offer website creation platforms as well).
2. Choose a website company and content management system (CMS)
A content management system (CMS) is a platform where your web content and all of your web pages will reside. In case you’re wondering, CMS platforms are typically one-stop shops for all of your web-based publishing and formatting needs. This would include your blog and website page content.
Some popular website and CMS platforms include WordPress, Squarespace, Wix and Weebly. All of these companies offer a wide range of pricing plans to create your web presence – from free sites on up to about $37 a month (depending on the design tools and functionality you want and need).
WordPress makes website design easy and has a number of plugins that help with search engine optimization of your websites content. Being found easily online is a big key to your business success.
As a side note: WordPress now powers 32% of the Internet making one of the most used online business tools, so you may want to start there.
3. Select an online store and website provider
Although WordPress does offer shopping capability, it isn’t an ecommerce company. So, if your online business will be a shopping site with a large catalog of merchandise, you may want to consider a website provider like Shopify.
Shopify is a one-stop shop for e-commerce businesses. You can use Shopify to buy your domain name, host and design your site, and launch your online store.
The singular unified platform allows you to add new sales channels in seconds, manage your product inventory, fulfil orders, track sales, and accept credit cards directly.
If Shopify sounds like a good fit for your online business, you can try it out for free for 14 days. After that, the plans range in price from about $30/month for the basic plan on up to about $300 a month for the advanced plan.
4. Start a blog
Regardless of the nature of your online business, a blog is a great way to engage with your audience.
You can use your blog to provide educational resources, write expert articles, publish shopping guides, or even as a marketing tool. You can generally start a blog using any of the CMS platforms listed here and you can even add a blog to your Shopify site.
Not sure what to start writing about? Here’s a pro tip: Use BuzzSumo, a tool that analyzes content that is most likely to interest your readers.
This, in turn, will help you pick topics that will keep your audience engaged. You can try it out for free by going to the BuzzSumo website and entering in a few keywords or domain name in the search bar.
You’ll then see top performing stories from the Internet, including the number of shares. This should give you plenty of ideas and get your creative juices flowing.
If you love BuzzSumo and want to use it regularly for content ideation and unlimited searches, monthly plans start at about $79.
5. Get an email marketing provider
Once you start creating content, you’re going to want to share it with your customers, clients and audience. You can do this easily via email marketing.
Email marketing technology is used by more than 80% of B2B and B2C businesses, according to Neil Patel, co-founder of Neil Patel Digital.
The top email marketing providers give you the tools to create visually dynamic emails and promotions, build and segment your email lists, and schedule your emails to be sent to inboxes and to all of your social media channels.
Some of the popular email technology companies include MailChimp, Constant Contact, and ConvertKit. While you’ll have to pony up cash (after free trials) for even the most basic monthly plans on Constant Contact and ConvertKit, MailChimp is free with no strings attached for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.
Because it will likely take you a while to gain more than 2,000 subscribers, MailChimp is our top pick for new online businesses.
Now that you know what you’ll need in terms of technology business tools, it’s time to start your new online business.
While it can seem overwhelming at first, remember to refer back to this guide for our top tips and online business resources. From there, you can start to create your web presence and begin a new chapter in your entrepreneurial career.