One of the few positive aspects of the 2008/2009 global recession was that, often through necessity, many formerly employed workers were moved to seize control of their own future and start a business. If the many entrepreneurial success stories of recent years have convinced you to strike out on your own and set up online: congratulations, there’s no time like the present. But before you cut the red ribbon on your new custom HTML5 or WordPress magnum opus #1. What is my unique selling point? If you can’t articulate the point of your business in a sentence, it’s time to sit back down at the drawing board, because it’s going to be a long night. Online, more than anywhere, it’s critical to understand your market, what it’s looking for, and the parameters by which it’s defined. Otherwise you’ll be lost in the maelstrom of companies who have rigorously considered their place on that Matrix-like shelf of products that expands, infinitely, threatening to chew you up and spit you out into oblivion. #2. What can I learn from the competition? Regardless of how unique your product is, it’s crucial to sniff around those who are enjoying success with something similar. Imagine that your site sells rare china teapots in the UK. A quick search online limited to the UK will reveal exactly how many immediate competitors you have. You can gauge how risk-averse they are (or adventurous) with a director search. If your company happens to be B2B, this can also be valuable in your evaluation of prospects. Search a little more on AdWords and you can gain an idea of who ranks best for the phrases directly related to your business. Scout around their website to identify obvious chinks in their teapot-selling armor, like pricy shipping fees, shonky product shots or lackluster copy. #3. Is my proposition SMART? ‘A goal is a dream with a deadline’ once posited American author Napoleon Hill. Just because you have a superior idea, its realization will only be fuelled by some pragmatic boundaries. Proof test every proposition against SMART objectives to avoid getting carried away by grand notions you might not be able to fulfil. Like chocolate teapots, for example. #4. Have I optimized my website? You could have the most singular teapot proposition in the world, but if you don’t optimize your teapot website for search, your extortionately priced, teapot-purveying competitor will prevail. Stamp your industry authority and gain visibility by starting a blog with witty, sparkling copy, pictures, and relevant information. Update this regularly. There’s a hierarchy of media you can use, with video content always scoring high with search. Which is all the more reason to get to work scripting your short, teapot-oriented heist movie that you’re sure will prove to be a viral hit. Don’t be intimidated by the competition, use them as a foothold to push for improvement. With a solid brand, consistent vision and intuitive copy, you’ll give yourself every possibility of getting the world to buy into your offer, one click at a time. Images: ”How to start an online business text on a blackboard/ Shutterstock.com“ __________________________________________________________________________________ Connect with Tweak Your Biz: Would you like to write for Tweak Your Biz? Tweak Your Biz is an international, business advice community and online publication. Today it is read by over 140,000 business people each month (unique visitors, Google Analytics, December, 2013). See our review of 2013 for more information. An outstanding title can increase tweets, Facebook Likes, and visitor traffic by 50% or more. Generate great titles for your articles and blog posts with the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator.