How to Market an Online Business: Complete Guide

How to Market an Online Business: Complete Guide

You finally managed to escape the 9-5 grind by starting an online business. You’re on your way to making an untethered living and leading a flexible lifestyle. 

But there’s one final hurdle before the business starts making you any serious money – how do you plan to market the business online?

 But first, for the uninitiated: 

What’s an Online Business?

An online business refers to any business that handles all of its operations over the internet. They’re entirely internet-based.

Goods and services are listed, marketed, viewed, and purchased over the internet, with delivery organised after the order has been confirmed. 

A typical example of an online business is dropshipping. 

Why Start an Online Business?

Online business is profitable and straightforward. Plus, it can be comfortably done in the comfort of your home.

Also, unlike offline, brick-and-mortar businesses, online businesses don’t necessarily require a huge investment.

10 Different Types of Online Businesses

Below are the different types of online businesses that you can start today if you haven’t started already.

We’ve broken down these businesses into five levels, depending on their level of difficulty and the skills required to pull each one of them off.

Here we go:

Level 1: Novice 

This is an online business to try if you’re looking for some bear money – not ideal for eking a living with it.

It includes things like:

  • GetPaidto

GetPaidTo is as precisely as the name suggests – you get paid for doing random stuff online.

These are random stuff that anyone with a pulse can do. You don’t need any particular skill or qualification to earn from this. 

A typical example of GPT is earning from surveys (from survey sites such as Survey Junkie). 

You can also earn from research studies (from a research studies site such as Respondents). 

Pros and Cons of GPTs 

Pros

Cons

  • Mostly Free
  • Low pay and inconsistent workflow
  • No entry barrier – most of them don’t even require any skill or qualifications
  • Boring tasks 
  • They don’t require your full attention
  • Possible to spend more than you’ll be earning – so be careful
  • Flexible, with no tight work schedules
  • No skill-building opportunities – there’s absolutely nothing to learn from doing this

Are GPTs a Good Way to Make Money Online? 

GPTs are great for making some pocket change or if you have so much time on your hands and you’d rather use it to make a few coins on the side.

However, they’re not anywhere close to what we’d recommend you to do for a living. 

  • Contests

This is another viable money-making scheme for novice entrepreneurs.

All you’ll be doing is competing with other online users for cash prizes.

Here’s how the contests work:

A client posts a task that several contestants are free to give a try. The client will then go through all the submissions made and pick a winner. 

In which case, only the winner gets paid. 

You do upfront work, and the client has to decide which one they want. If they like your work and pick you as the winner, you get paid for the job done. 

Examples include a site such as SquadHelp, where you get paid for suggesting the right name for a business. And if the client settles for your suggestions, you become the winner, and you get paid for it. 

The Pros and Cons of Contests

Pros 

Cons

  • Suitable for building your portfolio
  • Some contest may require you to pay an entry fee
  • Some contests have significant prizes
  • Can’t make a consistent living from them
  • Flexible schedule – you decide when you want to work
  • Many of the people that participate in these contests next get to win any money

Are Contests a Great Way to Earn a Living Online?

The answer is no — they can make you some pocket money or bear money, but they’re not anywhere close to what we’d recommend you to do for a living –mostly because they cannot earn you a consistent living.

How to Market an Online Business Complete GuideHow to Market an Online Business Complete GuideHow to Market an Online Business Complete Guide

Level 2: Intermediate

Businesses that fall into the level two category require intermediate skills. They might still work with beginners, but they’re hard to scale. 

They include things like:

  • Remote Jobs

You work for a company, but remotely (usually from your home). 

You can either be employed as a full-time or part-time worker of a company, but you’ll be working from home. 

Some remote jobs have flexible work schedules, whereas some have strict work hours that you have to adhere to.  

Usually, you’re paid a salary, or on an hourly basis, depending on the company you’re working with.

Pros and Cons of Remote Jobs

Pros 

Cons

  • Steady income
  • You have a boss
  • Other benefits from the employer (insurance, overtime, time off, etc.)
  • It might take you months, weeks, or even years to find a reliable remote job
  • Less stressful than running your own business
  • Requires excellent skills, qualifications, and years of experience
  • You have to be really good at what you do
  • It’s a growing trend
  • One source of income. Should you get laid off, your income sources drop to zero

Are Remote Jobs a Good Way to Earn a Living Online?

Of course, yes. 

A Remote job comes with so many advantages that you might want to take advantage of – starting with a steady income. 

Plus, there’s no commuting and responsibilities like in managing your own business. 

  • Freelance

Working as a freelancer or contractor is like building and managing your own business. 

You need a specific skill or qualification to operate as a freelancer. Agencies and clients would then pay you for your output and time. 

Occasionally, you might hire other people or opt to do much of the work yourself. 

Examples include signing up with iTalki, where you’re to work as a language tutor. The only requirement for this job role is social skills. 

The Pros and Cons of a Freelancer

Pros

Cons

  • Easy entry. No skill or qualification is required. As long as you’re good at something, that should be enough to get you started
  • Feast of famine. Freelancing platforms such as Upwork, Fiverr, and freelancers are super crowded, making consistent work hard to find. 
  • You’re not limited to only working with one client. You can work for several clients. That means a diversified income stream
  • Essentially, you’ll be trading time for money. As one person doing the work, there’s only so much you can do until you decide to change your business model. 
  • Great opportunity to learn and grow your skill. The more freelance work you do, the more skill and experience you pack
 
  • Potential to Scale. You can start your own freelancing agency
 

Level 3:  Advanced 

This level of online business has a potentially higher earning. It, however, requires a significant investment of both your time and resources. 

  • Agency

An agency is what happens when you decide to take your freelancing career to the next level.

As an agency, you’ll still be working with clients. The only difference is that instead of doing all the work yourself, you’re to grow a team to help you out with everything. 

An agency can also subcontract the work. 

Pros and Cons of an Agency

Pros

Cons

  • Less day-to-day work
  • It can only be scaled to a specific limit. Very few agencies manage to clock $1 million in revenue
  • More potential to scale up compared to freelancing
  • This could become more complicated, the more your agency grows. You might be required to hire a manager for that
  • More social and fun. You’re not alone but part of a team
 
  • Can be a source of passive income if you put together a solid team
 

Is an Agency a Good Way to Make Consistent Living?

Sure – but that, for the most part, depends on your personality. 

How well can you manage a team, leave alone grow one? 

Many of the successful agencies you see started as freelance businesses that evolved to adopt the agency model following increased demand. 

  • Referral

Your job as a referral means you get to act as the middleman, the person to connect buyers and sellers. 

You’re not the buyer. Nor do you provide the end products or services provider. Rather, you only get to act as the bridge between the two. 

In return, you get to earn a finder’s fee or commission. 

A typical example of a referral program is where you earn from affiliate marketing. 

Another popular example of a referral program is Rank and Rent SEO

Rank and Rent is a business model where you create a website and then work towards getting it ranked or until it becomes visible in the search engine result pages, after which you’re to rent it out. 

The Pros and Cons of a Referral Business

Pros

Cons

  • Easy to scale
  • Requires a hefty set of skills to pull it off
  • Potential for passive income
  • Slow and sometimes expensive to start. You have to wait for months, sometimes years, before it starts to pay.
  • Little-to-no-customer support required
  • Quality control issues since you’re not the person producing those products and services
  • Easy to diversify
  • Full of scams and fake gurus
  • Can be easily scaled to a marketplace
 

Are Referrals a Goodway to Create a Sustainable Source of Income?

The right answer is, it depends. 

A referral does make a viable business opportunity, but we would not recommend it for the faint-hearted or beginners. 

Once you get to understand the fundamentals, referral businesses are one of the easiest to start. But tough to succeed if you’re kind of new to them. 

  • Resale

Resale businesses operate in the same way as referrals, considering you get to act as the middle person in both. 

However, with resale, customers view you as the product owner and not a mere middleman. 

Of course, you don’t produce or manufacture the products you sell. You simply buy and sell or even order and have it shipped directly to the consumer.

You earn from the profits you make.

The most common type of resale business is dropshipping. 

Dropshipping may not be as profitable as it used to be a few years back, but many people have seen great success with it.

Another common type of resale business is Amazon FBA, where you buy products in bulk and have them shipped to Amazon’s warehouse. These goods will then be resold on Amazon, and the proceeds send to you.

Here are a few resale businesses you can do:

  • Website flipping
  • Domain flipping
  • Reselling on eBay
  • Reselling digital products

Pros and Cons of Resale Business

Pros

Cons

  • You don’t need to produce, create, or manufacture the product
  • Requires experience and a particular set of skills to succeed
  • Quite scalable
  • Quality control issue, considering you’re not the one producing or handling the products
  • Potential for passive income, considering you’re not the one to hold the inventory
  • Customer service headaches
 
  • Lots of scams and fake gurus. Easy to get conned if you’re not careful

So, Can Resale Business Be a Reliable Source of Sustainable Income?

Yes, it can be – but only if you attain a certain level of experience. Beginners will have to give it time as they try to learn and understand a few things first. 

If this is your first business, and you’re looking for an online business that will work for you right off the bat, we don’t recommend resaling a business option. 

How to Market an Online Business Complete Guide

Level 4: Superior

This line of online business requires mad skills. 

Such businesses are highly scalable, with higher income potential. The problem is that they can be complicated, high risk, demanding, and quite expensive to start. 

  • Authority Business

Authority businesses are dedicating to holding online authority or attention, which can be monetised as a sustainable income source.

It’s simply a business of followers or subscribers. Brands will reach out to you when they want exposure, or they want you to put out a positive word for their products, services, or brand. 

Think of someone in the entertainment scene, an influencer, or someone inspirational enough to influence decisions. 

The most common example of Authority business is YouTubing. You can make a great deal of money as YouTuber. Think six-figure income should everything turn out successful. 

Another notable example of authority business is podcasting. 

Other types of authority business you can try:

  • Social media influencer
  • Email newsletter
  • Authority website

The Pros and Cons of Authority Business

Pros

Cons

  • There are unlimited options for monetising your business
  • Requires a particular set of skills to pull off. Not everyone is built to be an authority figure.
  • Can be a passive source of income
  • Fierce competition. You have to carve your own niche and be creative at pulling a crowd.
  • It’s more like a hobby. Doing what you’re passionate about for money.
  • Requires a lot of patience to grow an audience that pays off
  • If your authority business doesn’t revolve around your brand, you can sell it for a decent amount of money.
  • A lot of scams and fake gurus that want to rip you off with promises of easy and quick success

Is an authority business a great way to create a sustainable source of income?

The correct answer to this question is, “it depends.” 

You have to be willing to put in the work and observe a lot of patience, persistence, and consistency for the effort to pay off.

We’d suggest you give it a shot but lower your expectations. You also want to grow your income flow elsewhere as you steadily work on increasing your authority. 

  • Digital Product

Another viable online business idea is offering a digital product (and not as a service). 

Think self-hosted software program or informational product.

Consumers can buy the product directly from you by either paying a one-time fee, donating or subscribing. 

The video product can be anything, a PDF file, a video course, audio, and so on.

The most popular digital product people sell online is a digital course. 

Other digital products you can sell include:

  • Mobile games
  • Music or audio
  • Photos or videos
  • Plugins and add-ons
  • Website themes and scripts

Pros and Cons of Setting up an Online Business for Digital Products

Pros 

Cons

  • No inventory required
  • Easy to scale
  • No matter what products you decide to sell, there’s always a ready marketplace to list it (Codecanyon for themes and scripts, Amazon for eBooks, Udemy for courses, and Appstore for Apps
  • High potential for passive income
  • Piracy and illegal downloads
  • Requires a mad set of skills
  • Marketing your product is a challenge. You have to figure out how to make your product stand out
  • Scams and fake gurus promising overnight success

Can starting a digital product business make a sustainable source of income?

Of course, yes – but it’s certainly not going to be a comfortable ride for you.

First, creating a digital product that you can sell is a task in itself. Your customers expect a perfect product from you, and you’re not about to let them down. 

You then have to work on the marketing and sales bit of it. This is the most critical step of the whole process. 

Level 5: Distinguished

This is the most expensive, complicated, and challenging type of online business, but has massive rewards.

  • Physical Products

It’s simple: you’re to produce the physical products you decide to sell. You can then sell these products on your online store or any marketplace.

Your product doesn’t have to be 100% based online, but let’s not ignore the online component and how much potential it has. 

For instance, you can make handmade jewellery that you can sell on Etsy. 

Other examples of physical products you can sell:

  • Print-on-demand business
  • Licensing your idea of physical products
  • Private label products

Pros and Cons of Setting up an Online Business for Physical Products

Pros

Cons

  • The perceived value of physical products is higher compared to that of digital products
  • Less piracy and copyright issues than digital products
  • The thought of having a physical product you created or products makes great sense as opposed to that of dealing with a digital product
  • Requires mad skills to pull it off
  • Manufacturing a product from scratch can be stressful. Not forgetting you have to deal with storage, customer support, shipping, and so forth
  • Hard to scale
  • Scams and fake online gurus selling you overnight success

Is selling physical products a viable way to create a sustainable source of income?

Yes, but it’s tough and one that could easily backfire on you.

That’s because producing a physical product is more challenging and a bit of a headache compared to digital products. 

Plus, you still have the marketing and sales process to figure out.

20 Ways to Market an Online Business

So, after working on your idea of online business and setting everything up, how do you plan to market it online and reach the right audience.

Here are 20 creative ways you can market your business online:

  • Create a Website

This is where your journey begins. If you haven’t already, you should consider creating a professionally done website for your business. Think of your website as an online representation of your business, a place where users can find you every time they go online to search for you. It should, therefore, be user-friendly and welcoming to the visitors that come to check you out.

How to Market an Online Business Complete Guide

  • Capture Email Data

Your goal should be to get your site’s visitors to do two things when they land on your website. First, you’re to get them to place an order. 

And secondly, you’re to capture their emails and add them to your customer database. There are so many ways to use this data. The first one is by sending your subscribers a series of marketing incentives. The emails you collect will also be useful when creating Facebook lookalikes, and so on. 

  • Email Marketing

After collecting the emails, the next thing you want to work on is how to run an effective email marketing campaign. You can start by signing up for a free Mailchimp account and start sending your customers those emails. 

While at it, you want to avoid sending overly promotional email messages. Instead, try sending something useful. You’re to send them regular emails but in moderation (not bombarding them). Failure to do this will result in many of your subscribers hitting the unsubscribe button. 

  • Video Marketing

Videos are one of the fastest rising marketing tools at the time of this publication. 

You can start by creating a YouTube channel and setting up a simple vlog. After that, you’re to sit in front of your camera and say whatever you can, as long as it’s useful or entertaining to your YouTube users. 

Make it shareable, relatable, and marketable. After creating the content and publishing it on YouTube, you can also embed or upload it on your website and proceed to push it on social media. 

How to Market an Online Business Complete Guide

  • Post to Facebook

Your social media presence can either make or break your online business. 

Plus, it’s free.

We’re not suggesting that you sign up with almost any social media platform out there. Instead, choose a few that really matters and focus on them. 

Facebook is one of the social media networks that you cannot afford to ignore. And even though their algorithms have changed to the point that it’s now hard to gain organic visibility on the platform. Maintaining an active presence on Facebook by regularly updating your posts and engaging with followers should be enough to grow a connection with some of your prospects and get them to take action. 

  • Connect with Your Industry Expert on Twitter

Twitter is an excellent platform for growing your connection. Not everyone can pull this one-off. But it’s a great platform to market your business or brand on once you get to figure out a few things. 

First, Twitter allows you to connect and engage with anyone, as long as they have an active presence on the platform. 

You can reach out to industry experts and engage them. While at it, you want to respond to your customers’ feedback, retweet user-generated content and offer useful insights to industry discussions. In other words, your presence on the platform must be felt. 

  • Create an Instagram Account

There’s a lot your business can gain from Instagram.

First, it’s the visual presence. Second, it’s the ever-increasing Instagram userbase. 

While at it, you want to keep in mind that Instagram is a visual platform. For this, you want to be careful with how you create your Instagram content. In the end, you want to make sure everything looks amazing, unless otherwise. 

  • Generate Traffic with Pinterest 

Pinterest only works with specific types of websites. 

It’s your job to figure out if your website is one of them. 

Pinterest has one of the highest conversion rates. In addition to generating significant amounts of website traffic, you can use it to find out what your audience loves. 

  • Build a LinkedIn Network

Your next stop should be LinkedIn. 

You need a strong LinkedIn presence. This should help you with building your network. 

Plus, nothing changes – look around for the industry experts and connect with them. Spend much of your time engaging with them and offering genuine insight on their contributions and some of the discussions they have.

  • Publish in Google Plus

You read it right, Google Plus — Google’s little platform that failed to make it to the big league. It’s a platform that’s struggling to propel itself to social media stardom.

The odds are good that this might never happen. But let’s not forget that it’s a Google Product. And if you want to keep on climbing Google’s ranking ladder, then you should dedicate your life to keeping Google sweet. 

  • Publish Using Google Posts for a Little of Extra Exposure

You’re to publish regularly via Google posts. This allows you to share relevant content to what people are querying into Google’s search bar.

It’s also a great way to gain a little bit of extra exposure. 

  • Encourage User-generated Content

User-generated content refers to the content that your fans generate for your business (for free). When customers are excited by the experience they get from using your product or interacting with your brand, most of them can’t help sharing the experience on any online platforms and review sites. 

Typically, UGC content occurs naturally. But it always helps to give users a little nudging or more reasons to do it. You can begin by asking them directly to do it. Another approach would be to highlight the best user-generated content and feature it on one of your social media channels, say, once a week.  

  • Social Media Giveaways

Social media giveaways are a great way to generate new followers and increase engagement. Think of it as a nice way of thanking your customers and fans for staying loyal to your brand. 

It’s also an excellent way for your brand to reach new customers. 

  • Engage with Social Media

Identify the influencers in your industry and make a point to reach out to them. 

Here’s how this works:

You find an influential figure (particularly those with a huge following and high engagement rate on social media) and offer to pay them to promote your brand or products. 

The influencer will then share your marketing message or product on their newsfeed or timeline, thus exposing your business to an even bigger audience. 

Keep in mind that popular influencers have astronomical charges. 

How to Market an Online Business Complete Guide

Google Search Console is an excellent tool for finding out what search terms people use to find your site on Google search pages. 

It’s also a great tool for indexing new pages. This allows your webpages to show up in the search engine’s result pages even quicker. 

You also have to submit an SEO-boosting XML sitemap of each page on your website to help search engines to crawl your website. 

  • List Your Business on Google My Business

List your business on Google My Business if you haven’t done so already. 

You also want to go through your GMB information and update everything. Make sure your information is accurate. 

Do the same with other local listings as well, including Yahoo and Bing. Remember to also work on your Google reviews as they also help to boost your ranking.

  • Ask Your Customers to Review Your Products and Write Your Business Some Testimonials

The point is to make sure your business has as many testimonials and reviews as possible. 

Single out all the available testimonials and review sites, including TrustPilot and Google Reviews, and make sure customers have something positive to say about your business or products. 

There’s no harm in asking them to do this. Often, customers do this naturally. But some of the users could use gentle prompting. 

  • Review Google AdWords

Running an effective PPC campaign (especially here in Singapore) is not easy. 

There’s a lot to learn on the subject and perfect on. 

If you’re already running the campaign, then you might want to take some time to review everything and make the necessary adjustments. 

Just sparing a few minutes to review your campaign and make necessary adjustments could save you from wasting a lot of your campaign money

  • Optimise Your Metadata

You’re to optimise the SEO titles and metadata of every single page and post on your website.

Remember: this information should be exciting and enticing to the user since it’s what search engines display in the result pages. 

  • Mark-up Your Site with Schema

Mark-up allows you to label your site content so that search engines can easily understand it. It also helps search engines in providing more detailed results pages.

There’s no evidence on whether schema mark-up improves your ranking. But it does make your listing more attractive and clickable. 

 

 

 

 

Author Bio

Tom Koh is widely recognised as a leading SEO consultant in Asia who has worked to transform the online visibility of the leading organisations such as SingTel, Capitaland, Maybank, P&G, WWF, etc. Recently he was instrumental in consulting for a New York-based US$30B fund in an US$4Bn acquisition. Tom is a Computational Science graduate of the National University of Singapore. In his free time he performs pro-bono community work and traveling.
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