An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Taking a Business Online

Just a few short years ago anyone moving to online trading had either to learn HTML or appoint a professional.Nowadays getting online has moved from being too difficult for IT amateurs to being too easy. It is not an exaggeration to say that an entrepreneur waking up at eight in the morning could, with a bare minimum of expenditure, have an online presence of sorts by twelve.And here lies the problem.A website is no more than a virtual store-front. An eBusiness is a business like any other. Behind that store front there needs to be a delivery process, the goods or services to be marketed through that store front, and an infrastructure to make everything work efficiently and profitably.Even if you are only moving an existing business online you need a credible Business Case
The business case describes your reasons for going online: indeed going into business in the first place.
It has to be ‘outputs orientated’ ie it says ‘we will provide this product or that service’ rather than ‘we will use this or that resource’;
It has to explain how you will respond to the market, how you will control your Business Risk.
How it fits with the rest of your business (if any);
How you will track the costs (time and money) and how and when you will measure the results Your business case must be transparent and comprehensive – not an exercise in self-delusion or self-justification, and if it has significant technical content it has to be comprehensible.Moving an existing business onto the net is one thing, starting a new business targeting an online clientele is quite another.The ease and speed with which a new commercial site can be set up from scratch disguises the fact that an online business is just that: a business that trades online. All the disciplines that need to be followed when setting up a bricks-and-mortar business are equally relevant when setting up an online one.Once you have an acceptable business plan in place the time comes to decide between:
The ‘nerd’s’ approach of building as site from scratch
Using a web designer
Opening an account with one of the many providers of commercial sites
Using a CMS to build an online community site.
Here on we do not deal with the first two options, valid though they are.We do however suggest that the new online entrepreneur consider options 3 and 4 seriously. Both are simple enough for a non-it-specialist to be able to get up and running in a few days once the various options within your choice have been explored. A search of the internet will provide alternatives enough, and whichever way you go there are a couple of really critical questions to ask of the package you eventually choose:
What will your site look like
On a lap or desk top
On a smart-phone
On a tablet.
How will it interface with, or provide
Your accounting package
Your order management software.
When you’re considering a CMS system you’ll have to consider the additional modules available with the core software to make that assessment.In most cases the decision will focus on one of the commercial providers though a CMS may be more suitable for:
A niche marketer
Clubs and associations
Some professional service providers.
In any case going online is not a simple yes/no decision. Many factors come into play and a few hours researching the options can be time well spent.Just as an aside there is a natural compromise to be made between ‘user friendliness’ and the capacities of a package. Easy at the onset can mean limited at a later stage!

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