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Launching an online business can seem either simple or simply harrowing, depending on your perception of the internet. Depending on your internet savvy, launching your online business will be either easy or you will need more help and guidance.
There are basically 10 steps you need to follow to initiate, cultivate and launch your internet business.

By reading this article we can assume that you have already thought about starting your online business and therefore the motivation exists. But, are you ready to invest the time and money needed to realize your vision?
You have to have the right mindset and a list of goals that you plan to accomplish, step-by-step.
First you have to gather the support of those who will be closely involved with you in your endeavour. In most cases the people most influenced by this decision of yours is your spouse and/or children when working solo from home.
Starting an online business is not for the faint hearted and a lot of work and dedication needs to be put in before you start to see results.
The problem we have in Nigeria is that most Affiliate programs are designed for the overseas market and are difficult to employ in Nigeria.
Therefore, I am not going to waste time on affiliate sites etc.
If you want to start an online business you must start something that will appeal to the Nigerian market.
Therefore you need to do market research. Seeing as you are planning to start an online business, you need to do online market research.
The places where you can do this research is:
E-bay (Even though this is an American site, you will get valuable information about what people are looking for)
Google Trends (We either hate or love Google, but you need Google for any online business)
Amazon Movers and Shakers (A great way to establish popular products)
Keywords (These are the words that searchers use to find a product or service)
After you’ve done your market research you can start with your business plan. It doesn’t mean if you want to start an online business, you don’t need a business plan. This is usually where most people go wrong! Aspiring Online Entrepreneurs that an online business does not need the same attention to detail that a brick and mortar business needs. But the reality is that it might need more attention initially and will demand a lot of study and learning if this is a new avenue for you.
Your Online-Business Plan
The business plan is placed under the motivation part of this book, because it will keep you motivated when you feel down and want to pull your hair out and when you start wondering why you started this business in the first place.
Along with the plan you need goals to be set, but keep in mind not to bit of more than you can chew!
Setting your goals:
1. Make sure the goal you are working for is something you really want, not just something that sounds good.
2. A goal can not contradict any of your other goals.
3. Develop goals in the 6 areas of life:
Family and Home
Financial and Career
Spiritual and Ethical
Physical and Health
Social and Cultural
Mental and Educational
4. Write your goal in the positive instead of the negative.
5. Write your goal out in complete detail.
6. By all means, make sure your goal is high enough.
7. This is the most important, write down your goals.
On the internet, your growth rate can be much quicker than with a brick and mortar business because your audience is global and not restricted to your immediate area. Just make sure that you are equipped to service a global market. People using the internet are people who want instant gratification and are not usually willing to wait because you are unable to deliver.
These are only ideas of what I’ve seen and have thought about starting. You can add any ideas. Internet is not discriminatory. You can sell/promote anything you wish.
2.1 Property – Yes there are a lot of property websites. But maybe you can offer something different than what they are offering. Have a look here:
2.2 Cars – You can start your own “selling cars” business without ever buying a care. You can get people who want to sell cars, to place them on your website and you can either charge and advertisement fee or a percentage of the selling price.
2.3 Careers – Start a career website. Get people to post CV’s on your site and even offer them video streaming as a preliminary interview. Income can be generated by getting people to advertise jobs on your site.

2.4 Niche markets such as bridal, photography, sport, hobbies, crafts.
2.5 You can start and run an online forum about certain interests. Your income here will be generated with banner advertising. (More about this later)
2.6 You can write content for business websites. There are a lot of businesses with websites out there that feel that the websites are a waste of time. And the only reason is that nobody visits the sites because there is never fresh content on the site. Fresh content is the most important ingredient for a successful website.
2.7 Auction site – you can offer an auction site for people that have white elephants lying around their house.
2.8 Online shop – this will be much the same as the auction site, with the difference that products will be sold at a set price. You can generate income by claiming a percentage of the selling price.
2.9 Sell second hand books. There is a vast market for second hand books out there! You can canvass for people who want to sell their second hand books and sell it for them here
2.10 Online classifieds. The market is open for these types of sites. Gumtree is currently the biggest classifieds site in Nigeria but it only caters for certain areas.
2.11 Selling ebooks. An ebook is a book that people can download and print or read on a pdf reader. These are very popular because they are usually concise and filled with a lot of interesting facts.
These are only a few ideas. I’m sure there are a lot of other ideas out there.
Let your imagination loose and think of something you might be interested in. Chances are that if you are interested, there are other people interested in the very same.
I cannot stress this too much!! When I started with the internet, I spent hours and hours on it, achieving absolutely nothing. I spent my time on forums, social sites etc and then one day I just decided that if I wanted to get somewhere, I should start somewhere.
Starting an online business is a big learning curve. And it is not so complicated as everyone would want you to believe.
You do not need to know HTML, Java, PhP or MySQL at all. You can make use of people who know these languages. I know you might think that it will be expensive, but it needn’t be like that! You can visit http://www.webkudi.com and see what they have to offer.
 is a Nigerian Site made with Nigerians in mind. Our packages are more than affordable and you can be sure of after sales service.
Hosting packages start from as little as 1,000naira per month and the setup of a basic website as little as 5000naira
Why am I putting this at time management?
You want to start an online business. You do not want to create the tools to start an online business. You can spend your time on doing further research and getting your content ready for your site.
Make use of the people out there who already have the expertise. Apply your expertise to your business.
You must make sure that by the time your website is launched, that you are familiar with how it works and that your backup plan is in place.
If you are planning to do this part time, make sure that your online business is fully automatic. You don’t want to lose clients because of their impatience. Ask your web developer to set up auto responders on your website. People want feed back, and they want it yesterday.
Make sure that you check your e-mails every day and answer each one of them promptly.
I have found that in Nigeria, companies who do have websites, don’t bother to answer online queries. And that is defeating the purpose of a website. Your website is the welcome mat to your business!!
If you are planning to do your online business on a full time basis, you need to set out time for research, upgrading your site and keeping abreast of new things in your niche market. Do not stay behind, because if you do, no one will visit your online business. And all your efforts will be wasted.
Having an online business gives you the freedom to work in your pj’s and in your bed. No matter where you work from, it is important that you reply, research and keep your customers happy!
Think back and try to remember a store where you do not like to shop. The reason most probably was “the lack of structure”.
And so it will be with your site. Your site needs to have a logical structure. Your customers must find it easy to navigate your site.
The basics things your site needs are:
4.1 Homepage (landing page) – this page is the welcome mat of your site. Important information and ticklers should be placed here.
4.2 Services/Products pages – these are the pages where you tell your customers more about your service and/or products. It should be interactive, in other words, your customer must have the option to request more information.
4.3 About us page – this is where you place the information about your business structure, your mission, your vision and accomplishments.
4.4 Contact us – this is most probably the most important page of your site. Contact details should be clear and easy to find. Your customer must be able to contact you straight from that page.
It is better if you write the info of these pages yourself. You know your business way better than any one else. Your web developer can upload the info for you.
All graphics should be optimized for web use. Customers do not want to wait for a page to load. I have found that if I struggle to get a page to load, I do not return to that site.
Basic tips:
• Do not use too many colours and weird fonts. People do not take sites seriously when they are over decorated.
• Do not make use of large photo’s, graphics that slow down your site.
• You need to have your own domain name with e-mail addresses from that same domain. People don’t want to visit a site like www.yourdomainname.com and then receive emails from you@hotmail.com. It is not professional. You can grab a domain name here http://www.awoof.us Please keep in mind that your domain name must be easy to remember and must not contain wild cards like *()%$ #@!
• Test your website in firefox, IE and google chrome to make sure your site is not distorted on the different browsers.
Try not to make use of “free sites”. These sites are riddled with advertisements and are very irritating to your customer and more important, will distract their attention and lead them away from your site.
Content is not just there to educate your customer. No, it must be used in such a way that your customer will be convinced to use your service or buy your product.
Put testimonials on your homepage. Many browsers like to see what a difference your service/product made in other peoples’ lives.
When you work on your content, work with the 5 W’s
Who: Who will benefit from the product/service. Who are you?
What: What the product/service is all about, bonus material etc
When: When does the offer expire?
Where: Where can your customer reach you if they need more information.
Why: Why do they need your product more than any other similar product on offer.
Your content will play an important role in your search engine placement. Therefore you will have to learn to write for search engines. This is where keywords become important for Search Engine Optimization. If you are making use of a web developer, you don’t need to worry about this.
Content is not just confined to your website! Email marketing is a very important part of your online business.
The content to your customers should be professional with a balanced blend of relationship building, soft sell and hard sell copy.
Off course you cannot send out emails if you do not have any emails to send to. That is why you need to have a “subscribe to our newsletter” opt in function on your site. No site should be without such a tool!
The more know term for this is SEO. SEO is very important to you online business. In addition to previous tools mentioned, there are several other tools you can make use of.
Steps in SEO
6.1 Get the right keywords (You can help your web developer by brainstorming keywords for your online business here: http://adwords.googlecom/select/main?cmd=Keyword9jabook
6.2 Linking. Search for online businesses that would compliment your service/product and add their links to your website.
6.3 Fresh content on a weekly basis
So how will you do all this if you are not a web developer? You must make sure that your web developer gives you a step-by-step guide on how to add fresh content to your site.
Therefore it is better to make use of a content management system on your website than a normal HTML site. HTML sites have to be changes and reloaded every time you want to add something to your site.
With a content management system you will be able to post new news from the backend and it will be published in your frontend which is your actual website.
With a content management system, you can retain control over the content of your site. This is very important as you are in the end the one that has to market your online business.
Without advertising your online business doesn’t stand a chance! And because it is an online business, it doesn’t mean you only have to do online marketing.
Successful marketing starts offline!!
The other day I met a wedding dress designer at a networking event. I asked him if he had a website for his business. He replied that he did, but never got any business from it.
By asking a few more questions I realized that he hasn’t marketed his website in any way. And he could not understand why he should!
Many people believe that the internet is some magic wand that creates customers for you! Do not be fooled! You cannot launch a website and then sit back and wait for customers to “accidentally” discover your online business!
You HAVE to put out the word that your website exists!
And this is how you do it:
7.1 Advertise in local media and make sure your website domain name is shown prominently.
7.2 Put your domain name on ALL printed material.
7.3 Use your dedicated e-mail address (ie admin@9jabook.com)
7.4 Create a signature for your e-mail with your domain name and make sure the domain name is on each and every e-mail you send out! Your signature should include:
• Your full name
• Your domain name
• Your e-mail address
• Your phone number
• Your fax number
• Your tag line or Slogan
• Your company name
7.5 Place an advertisement in publications from your industry.
7.6 Your domain name must be listed on each article you write and if it appears on a website, it should be linkable.
7.7 Networking. Yes I know, we Nigerians see networking as a four letter word ? but what I mean is … everywhere you go, talk about your online business. Hand out your business cards with your domain name. Talk, talk, talk and yet again talk about your business!
Online marketing
Online marketing can be divided into two categories namely, free and paid.
If you have time and no money – go the free way.
If you have money and no time you can visit this link and have it done for you:
The free way.
This method is very time consuming but definitely worth the trouble.

Off course it is easier to secure a client than actually keeping a customer. And usually we don’t keep a customer because our customer service is not up to scratch!
I had a surprising call yesterday. I stumbled upon a website in my search for a specific business I would like to start. And I filled in their contact form, not really expecting them to call me. Because I’ve done this numerous times on different sites and never even received a response until yesterday when I received a call from Barcelona. I nearly fell off my chair!
And this is exactly what you want. You want to shock your customers by giving them superieur service! Service they expect but don’t really believe they will receive!
You must be willing to listen to your customer. Nigerian online business owners have this strange notion that they are invisible and therefore they never need to react. If you don’t react to customer complaints and enquiries, you will become invisible!
If your customer has a legitimate complaint you need to thank him first and foremost! Yes, I know it goes against our grain, but in the end, this customer has saved you a lot of embarrassment and future mistakes! And keep your customer updated on how you are fixing the problem.
Why is this important? One word – internet!
The internet has given the normal off the mill customer the opportunity to lodge complaints on public sites and smear your company. Just visit Facebook or nairaland to see what people are really capable of doing!
No matter what the situation, you must always be courteous and friendly when dealing with your customers.
The biggest ever complaint is “slow response”. Combat this by staying in touch!
I know we all feel that one marketing campaign is enough. But is enough ever really enough?
You have to keep at it. Spend at lest an hour a day researching new and innovating ideas on how to market your online business. Keep on posting advertisements, and yes, on a daily basis.
There are so many places to place online advertisements that even if you do it on a daily basis, you can never deplete the supply of online advertising sites.
Thank you customer for using your service or buying your product by sending him/her a special thank you e-mail and follow that up within a week with a newsletter stipulating other product that they might be interested in.
This is where your auto responder comes in handy. It sends out an automatic reply to your customer, promptly and on time. What more could you ask for?
Send your customers interesting titbits about your service/product by alerting them about articles you’ve come upon. Customers always appreciate this and they will know that you are on the ball and up to date in your industry.
This is also a great way of getting fresh content on your website. The e-mails you send about your industry can be placed on your website thus keeping it fresh and up to date at all times.
I sincerely hope that you have learnt something about how to start and manage your online business.
You can visit http://www.webkudi.com for more information on various subjects and also our blog here where you can find other interesting articles about online business.

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