Online Business, or Offline, or both?

How to Start an Online Business icon

Though my focus here at Shrewdies is online business, I love all forms of business.

Whenever I talk with business owners (actual or wannabe), the subject of websites always crops up. People want a website for their business, or they think they should have one. They turn to me because I know websites.

Then they often turn away, as I discuss the purpose of their business, what they want to achieve, how hard they are prepared to work, and other non-website issues. “Just gimme a website,” says the look on their face.

But it does not work that way.

A website is a good way to bring customers to an offline business, and it might bring opportunities to add new revenue streams. For me to create a website to support an offline business, I need to know what that business is all about. If that does not happen, the website will never help your business reach it’s full potential, and it might even detract from it.

So, if you want me to help you create a plan that will bring you extra revenue, I need to know about your business, your existing market, and your attitude towards reaching out for new revenue streams.

Before we start, you need to know that I will talk about websites here, because that is the business I am in. From our early discussions, we may decide that a website is not the best way forward. It might not be the best thing for your business, or it might be something to consider later. Either way, your focus now should be on describing your business to me. When I understand it better, I will be able to tell you all about the advantages and disadvantages, so you can decide.

I’m going to give the example of a home baker who wants a website to help expand their celebration cake hobby. Don’t get sidetracked by the product. The principles apply to any home based business, from supplying hand crafted gifts, to providing services such as cleaning, maintenance or typing.

Your Offline Business

Can you describe your business as if you were seeking investment? This is not a sales pitch for your business, but a description that allows me to understand what you do. I do not need lots of technical information, but just an overview of the goods or services that you provide. If you have a price list, that is useful.

For example, if you want to expand your cake making business:

  • How many cakes do you sell?
  • What is your maximum per week?
  • Do you have special cakes that you are well known for?

Looking at it from a different angle. When I put my ideas forward, I will assume that there are no limits to your cake making talents. I will look at the top cake supply websites and assume that you can do everything they can do. If that is not true, the sooner I know it, the less time we waste.

Your Market

  • Who are your customers?
  • What percentage of them are on social networks?
  • Are you restricted to a certain geographic area, or can you go global?

When I ask about your customers, I’m not asking for a list of them. Just a feel for how many customers you can serve each week. Are they all close family and friends, or are you well known to a wide circle? Do you just sell one birthday cake, or do they keep coming back for more whenever there’s a celebration?

My questions are only a guide. Just tell me enough to make a start and we can expand the numbers later.

Your Attitude to Expansion

You want more cake making jobs, but do you want more diversity? The Internet brings opportunities, but you need to decide from the start if you want to try new business ideas, or just stick with what you know.

  • You’re clearly an expert. Would you like to teach others?
  • You use equipment and services. Would you like to recommend them?
  • You visit cake websites. Would you like to review them?
  • You’re involved in celebrations. Would you help people plan their parties?
  • Are there other expansion ideas that you have thought of?

For every product or service you supply, there are lots of opportunities online to make money from your knowledge, and related goods and services. Do you want to put the hours in to exploit those opportunities, or do you just want to stick to making cakes?

There is no right or wrong answer. It is important that we know this from the start, otherwise my suggestions will be meaningless for you, and we both waste our time. To put it another way – do I focus on selling cakes, or focus on the celebration market?

Your Next Steps

If you want me to help you develop a website that will support and grow your offline business, please tell me about the above. You can use the comments below, but they are not ideal for long text. If you have a blog or existing social media account, perhaps you could write about your business there, then link to it in the comments below.

If your only option is email, please follow Shrewdies on Google+, and when I add you back, you should be able to see my email address in the About tab. If you do send anything by email, I need to point out two important facts:

  • I assume I can use anything that is sent to me in anything I write for my websites or elsewhere. If any of your message is confidential, please make it clear, and I will respect that confidentiality.
  • Please comment below or through Google+ to let me know to check for an email. I get thousands of unsolicited emails, and most of it simply gets binned. I can only flag you as important if I know you have sent me something. Your name and the subject of your email is sufficient – please don’t reveal your email address in public.

I will normally reply to you in public, on my website, Google+, or Facebook, as appropriate. If anything I need to tell you is confidential, I will send that privately, and include a note on my public response.

Do you want some personal help with your offline business? Ask in Shrewdies Make a Website Group, or Shrewdies Website Help Chatroom.

If you are fairly certain that you want an online business, either to support an offline business, or as a standalone, please see How do you Intend to Start your Website? and Stop trying to make money!.

One Reply to “Online Business, or Offline, or both?”

  1. I will post some benefits of joining the Shrewdies team in a separate article. Basically, you get access to private online support, rather than using public comments in the Google+ and Facebook tabs.

    If you would like to become part of the Shrewdies Team, please ask in the Google+ Website Support Forum tab, or the Facebook Website Chatroom tab. Please tell me what you expect to achieve, and why you believe it’s important to work with Shrewdies.

Leave a Reply