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 disagree – because 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:
- The market potential of your proposed venture
- The level of competition in the market
- The international opportunities
- 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“