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5 Considerations Before You Launch That Online Start-Up

One of the most encouraging trends to emerge from recessionary times is the surge in interest in entrepreneurial activity, especially as regards online start-ups. Many of those who were previously settled in salaried jobs, finding themselves without a job or with the option of redundancy, decide to branch out on their own, liberated by the thought of doing something for themselves and fulfilling that long-suppressed entrepreneurial dream.

There are, however, some considerations to keep in mind if you are planning to make the leap to the world of start-ups and entrepreneurship.  In this article, I will explore some of these. Let’s discover how you can examine them and turn them to your advantage, and perhaps even get the edge on your competition when you do decide to turn that business dream into a reality.

# 1. The right attitude towards competition

Years ago, my friends and I used to spend idle hours bouncing potential business ideas around. One of these would invariably be the ‘next big thing’, and would inevitably lead us to fame and most certainly to riches. That said, however, the most oft-heard cry when someone would put forth a new brainwave would be; ‘it’s already been done’, or ‘that’s out there already’ – and a click of the mouse would confirm it.

Likewise, as a would-be entrepreneur, you can have that Eureka moment when you believe you’ve got a fantastic idea (and well you might have) – only to quickly discover that someone’s beaten you to the punch. This, however, can very often be a positive discovery, and is by no means cause for dismay. This can be especially true if your competitor appears to be making a success of the idea, curiously enough.

  • Rather than be envious or disappointed be happy and encouraged that the idea is indeed viable and that it validates your own take on the idea, or your plans for launching your own similar venture!
  • All you have got to do is find a way to do what they are doing better, or tweak the existing idea.
  • What’s more – you can study their business model, their approach, and see the possible areas they have overlooked that you can capitalise on. Not to mention avoiding any notable mistakes they may have made!

Competition is validation.

# 2. Passion must equal profit

Being passionate, loving your idea, and being able to expound upon its virtues is a really important quality for an entrepreneur or would-be start-up founder to have. Some go as far as to say it is essential for an entrepreneur.

I would disagreebecause passion is not profit:

  • Let’s face it, passion is a must insofar as getting your show on the road – but passion does not feed your children or keep you from the homeless shelter. However, profit does!
  • Ideally, you will have both passion and profit – the two go nicely hand-in-hand as it happens. But never confuse having the passion to make your idea a reality with the intrinsic viability of an idea, or the ability to make it a real runner.
  • Passion is the oxygen of an entrepreneur, and a large part of what makes a start-up founder or CEO tick. However, despite what some might tell you – it is not strictly a mandatory trait (being innovative is, but that’s for another day), and be sure not to put it before profit – unless you have already made your millions of course.

This brings us to our next point – testing the viability of your new business or venture.

# 3. Testing the market

One of the significant advantages associated with researching the feasibility of online businesses in particular is the sheer volume of information available online – free of charge – which will help you to determine whether your idea is realistically viable. The level of access we have to insights around customer activity and trends online is unprecedented.

Tools such as the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, Google Insights for Search and Google Trends, allow you to virtually read the minds of hundreds of millions of searchers at home and abroad.

This priceless information then enables you to make informed decisions around:

  1. The market potential of your proposed venture
  2. The level of competition in the market
  3. The international opportunities
  4. Seasonality and variability as it relates to your idea

It is not just Google which provides these advantages, however. Twitter and Facebook are only becoming a richer source of data and insights for business. Being savvy enough to regularly use Twitter Search and to browse Facebook business pages related to your idea can serve up consumer insights, nuggets of information, and avenues of niche market opportunities than even the most well-funded focus groups or market research teams could only dream of unearthing.

Of course, there is one big disadvantage around setting up an online business (which is also interestingly an advantage!). Because the barrier to entry is so low, and the set-up costs close to zero in some cases – there is far more competition online than there can be when it comes to bricks and mortar businesses – making it trickier for you to stand out.

This just means, however, that you need to be savvier than your competitors when it comes to online marketing. Which conveniently leads us on to the next point – beating the competition.

# 4. Beating the competition

If you’ve reflected on all of the above, and more – and you’ve decided to launch that online business, here’s one way to beat the competition online:

  • Simply review and analyse every single visible facet of what your competitor is doing in their online business.
  • Then, for anything they appear to be doing really well, find a way to tweak it, or do it just that little bit better. This could be a different approach to handling customer requests or leads, taking a different angle when it comes to branding or PR, or experimenting with unusual special offers and incentives.
  • Then, for areas they are not doing so well in – and, depending on the business, this could be anything from social media engagement and search engine marketing to customer service or product delivery time frames – resolve to do it at least three times better so that you stand out from your rivals and the rest of the pack.

This will get you credit – simply because it will always get people talking. People just love to brag about a great deal they they got, and they will generally remark on excellent service. Increasingly this will happen online, and especially if you are the new kid on the block.

# 5. Have fun

Self-explanatory to a large extent – and a moderating counter-point of sorts to the note on ‘passion and profit’. It is easy to forget sometimes that life is not all about business and making money. Rather, it is about pursuing your dream, being passionate, and believing in yourself – as well as believing that your new start-up could be that great idea that might just change the world – or just make people’s lives better, easier, and more enjoyable.

Indeed, in the online world, the actual costs of starting your venture are often so low that sometimes it really is a case of just following your passion and getting out there and making it happen. If you don’t, who will? What are your top tips for those about to begin their entrepreneurial journey? What is the best advice you have ever gotten?

Image: “Ecology concept. Rising sprout/Shutterstock

Anton McCarthy is an ex-Googler, online marketing specialist and entrepreneur who is passionate about helping businesses get more out of their web presence and excel online. Anton has over 8 years experience in online marketing and product management, and has successfully delivered online marketing campaigns for various businesses, in addition to launching a number of online ventures.

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  • Hi Anton, as someone who is directly and indirectly involved with a number of internet start-ups, this is some great advice! I particularly agree with what you had to say about competition. Thanks for taking the time to put this together & welcome to Bloggertone 🙂

  • Thanks for the comment Niall, and for the welcome! I think I put the point on competition first without even realising it – simply because it is probably the most important. It’s often easy to get a bit discouraged when seeing an idea that is already out there – but if more people could start to see it as a motivator instead, and not focus on the perceived uniqueness of ideas – maybe we would have even more great start-ups and innovation!

  • Great article! #3 (testing the market) is very true, however having access to so much information and insight can sometimes be a bad thing. As in it can lead to ‘paralysis by analysis’ where one gets so wrapped up in analyzing the competition and marketplace that they fail to take action. I am extremely guilty of this – I am a great researcher, but sometimes I have an issue with pulling the trigger and taking action.

    As long as you realize that you may suffer from this ‘condition’, then you have a fighting chance of stopping the research and getting on with your business!

  • Anonymous

    Welcome to Bloggertone, Anton.  “Tweaking” is a great concept on the Web — and it’s what makes a difference in niche markets.

    – Anita

  • Good work! I think what you say about competition is very, very true. Although I do know a breed of entrepreneur that this wouldn’t work for – the guy/lady who gets their kick by being a first mover with radical new ideas. funny what you say about riches and fame – so true. The key is to focus on what you want to offer, not what the offering will give you back in return. 

  • Great to see a well thought out and well written piece on this topical subject. Much of what you say applies to semi- or non-internet businesses too – even mine!

  • Welcome to bloggertone Anton, as someone who took the step into an online business some time ago, this is all a good reminder of what I need to do every now and then too – all this research needs to be done again and again really doesn’t it? 

  • Hi Anton, enjoyed the post. Big fan of aiming to beat the competition – if you’re lucky enough to have only a few in your sector it’s often quite easy to spot a weakness before they do and work it to your advantage before they even know what they’re doing wrong.

  • Thanks Marshall! Totally know what you mean re over-analysing, having access to all that data can be a double-edged sword even though you may not realise it at the time. I think a useful way of combating this is to think of the numbers as useful and pretty accurate trends rather than absolute exact figures to get hung up on – after all, the former is really what they are. 

    Research that isn’t backed up with action won’t get a start-up off the ground, and in the meantime someone else could be hatching their own plan…! 

  • Thanks for the welcome Anita!

    It is truly a great concept, and the versatile nature of doing business online (along with the relatively low costs and the sheer ease of access to information) means that the opportunities for doing so are limited only by your imagination.

  • Cheers Connor! Yes I know what you mean – and sure aren’t we always on the look-out for that really radical and ground-breaking new idea that we can move first with…

    Great way of putting it – focus on what you want to offer – it means you will really seek to provide real value and that will bring a whole host of more satisfying rewards on its own merit.

  • Thanks a lot Gill! And absolutely – I think it’s more about a mindset as opposed to a checklist for any particular sector or medium. Glad you liked it!

  • Cheers for the welcome Lorna! 

    And yes, definitely an ongoing, never-ending process – but of course that is what keeps us stimulated and challenged…sure we couldn’t have it any other way 🙂

  • Thanks Debbie! Yes me too – and I think sometimes being naturally more passionate and seeking to constantly improve in your particular area or niche is what will make you stand out from the rest of the pack.

  • “Passion Must Equal Profit”

    Very strong words and something people should really consider.  If you are not passionate about your business you will not find the same level of success.  

  • Great article Anton, I think you’re spot on the money. I’ve consulted with a number of on-line start-ups now and the one other thing I’d add to the list you’ve outlined is that yes do your research, really think about what you can do better, and how you can stand out from the crowd. 

    Plan how you will execute your project (can’t stress this enough) and then focus on getting to market as quickly as possible. You don’t need to have everything perfect from day 1 and you don’t need to have programmed for every eventuality. The market will be quick to tell you what you are doing wrong and it’s customer feedback that will help you achieve success, NOT having everything perfect from day 1.

  • Naturally, you should weigh up the risks but also weigh up the level of personal sacrifice required to ensure that it becomes a success. Make sure you know how much time and money is required to set the wheels in motion!

  • Thanks Neil. 100% agree with your point on getting to market fast. ‘Fail early, fail fast’ and ‘fail fast, fail cheap’ are great mantras for a reason and are not negative sentiments, but rather the opposite – they get across the idea of getting stuck in and testing the market as soon as you absolutely can.

    The expression ‘move fast and iterate’ was my first experience of hearing this philosophy formulated into words, via a reasonably big search company which has since done pretty well… 🙂

  • Thanks for the comment! Absolutely – passion is so, so important, and is what will help send you on your way towards achieving your big goal.

  • Bravo Anton – a first and exceptional blog post!
    What you discuss here is the ‘healthy balance’ for an entrepreneur. Passion can only take you so far, but teamed with a strong, well-though idea (plus ofcourse, excellent execution) – the sky is the limit.

    The best advice I can give is to seek professional advice early on from a marketer, mentor, other entrepreneurs. They will provide you with the keys of success and help understand areas that you may not have considered or have experience in.

    The best advice I’ve had is to let mistakes happen and learn from them. That is always easy – but it does help you as you continue your journey.

  • Thanks Christina! Good advice re seeking advice early on. I think one thing that stops people from doing this in many cases is a perceived fear over their idea being ‘stolen’ – which really isn’t that big of a concern in reality, since what ultimately matters is the execution of an idea, not the idea itself.

  • Love this article. I especially like the piece on having the right attitude to competition. 

  • Thanks very much, glad you like it!

  • Elish Bul-Godley

    wondering how we can as tyb gang develop our instagram personality as a new account

  • Hey Niall,

    Thanks for the excellent roundup. What I love most? The April’s Fool viral write up. Haha!

    Thanks for making me smile on a Saturday (working day) 🙂

  • Hi Reginald, I’m gald I could bring a smile to your working day & thanks for the comment.

  • Cheers Adam, I was delighted to share another superstar post from you & UK Linkology.

  • How many round-ups so far? Time to celebrate a milestone? 🙂

  • About 20 or so I’d say, we have some special #TYBtop10 s on the way.

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    but have some new ones to check out now too. Thank you for sharing look forward to your next post.

  • Thanks for the post, Annie. I think one of your suggestions that is easy to forget about is in blogging. What you said is important, pick a schedule and post regularly. I have seen a lot of blogs that don’t follow that rule.

  • Great post. I find that most businesses let the website go. As you stated it’s important to keep it up to date. Thanks.

  • Steven Scheck

    Terry, what Tesla invented in 1893 was primarily wireless power. However, we have discussed about wireless internet and its history here. Nevertheless, thanks for the info, mate.

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