Let’s say you’re a newbie to the world of online sales and are looking to make money online, but you’re starting with a small startup budget. With the blinding wealth of information available for new business owners, knowing how to spend your limited funds can be a bit intimidating.
Here is a five-step checklist to help get you started and guide you toward success.
1. Spend time getting feedback on what you’re selling before launching.
Don’t rely on affirmation from friends and family to validate that you have a unique and salable product or service. Chances are, these people are emotionally attached to you, and they’re more likely to think every idea you share is the greatest thing since Nutella. Getting feedback from people who are emotionally attached to you is a “disaster from the start,” says Adam Callinan, founder of BottleKeeper.
One way to get people’s feedback, says Sujan Patel, vice-president of Marketing at When I Work, is using customer insight survey tools, such as Qualaroo and Client Heartbeat. If you’re just starting out, surveys are a chance to find out what the customer is hoping the product/service will solve or do for him or her. If you’re already in business, surveys can ask how the customer found out about the product or service, whether the customer is willing to be a return customer and why.
2. Have a Website.
You must have a website, says Joel Widmer, founder of Fluxe Digital Marketing. Not only for the obvious—to have something to refer customers back to—but having a website builds your brand’s digital footprint. Keep your site simple and copy-driven with opportunities for email captures on every page.
Related: How to make money as an expert
3. Know your competition and customers.
Study up on both competitor and complementary brands (i.e. if you are selling a fire alarm, then look for “house safety” Websites). Widmer says your customers will be hanging out on websites for both competitor and complementary brands. He recommends using search tools such as SimilarWeb and Google’s related-search results (located at the bottom of every Google search) to see what sites your prospective customer may be visiting.
4. Create an action plan for sales and marketing.
To earn your first million in sales, says Patel, work backwards and put a number on what it takes in monthly revenue to get to a million your first year—meaning how many units, subscriptions or services must be sold. Create benchmarks to reach. Even if you don’t reach them, you have a blueprint.
One way to reach your goal is to figure out which marketing avenues to leverage. Given the wealth of social-media possibilities, start with one or two social-media outlets where you know your audience is. In general, for new products the best channels are Facebook and Pinterest, says Widmer. For expertise and services, try LinkedIn.
Also, two effective and free marketing strategies are blogging on your own site and guest blogging on complementary sites. This strategy helps build content and a digital footprint for your brand, says Widmer.
Should you guest blog, use the opportunity to lead users back to your site and capture emails, says Widmer. One way to do so is to use a “call to action”—where you offer the reader something of value, such as a free how-to eBook or a must-have checklist—that the user can get or download by going back to your website and providing an email address.
5. Do as much yourself as you can.
The DIY mentality will usually save you money if your budget is limited. Also, it allows you to control the process and brand, explains Callinan, who built his ecommerce site from scratch by talking to others who’d already done ecommerce sites successfully.
All startups are a gamble—but as Patel advises, whose company will hit $10 million in revenue this year, “Hone in on where your strengths are and double down.”
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editor.