The concept of a remote business is fantastic, its the dream for many people. Generally people who are working towards remote business are aiming for: Selling some sort of product or service through an automated process, sitting back on the beach with a laptop watching the money roll in. I have good news, such a business is possbile, however its not as easy as it sounds. You need to be prepared for the hard slog, you need to be prepared to learn and continue learning, and you need to be prepared to cough up a little cash.
I have put together 7 steps for starting & setting up a remote business.
1. Find product or wholesaler.
This may seem obvious, however its extremely important. Some products or services cannot be remotely sold, or rather cannot be sold by an automated website. Some bad examples are a home made object such as natural bath soap. I’m sure the soap is fantastic, however if it requires you to manufacture it, how can you sit by the beach at the same time?
A good example is any form of online software, such as billing software or marketting software. Online Auctions or classifieds, Telecommunications, Booking systems, website templates or images, basically anything that you can be the middle man for. Do research on the product and potential suppliers or wholesalers. See if there are other businesses that offer the product.
If there is already competition (which there generally is):
- this can be a good thing because it proves there is market for the product or service
- this can be a bad thing if the competition is massive and will out muscle you. Eg. if you were looking to develop your own Operating System in competition with Microsoft and Windows, you would need very deep pockets.
2. Business Plan.
Yes we all hate them, however if your serious, you MUST do one.
A business plan contains the following:
Basic explanation of the business. Include things such as your products, who your customers are, what does the business look like in the future. This is what you will tell people when they ask you what your business is, it needs to be short enough to remember easliy.
Mission Statement. This is broken down to Goals and Objectives, objectives being milestones on the way to Goals. For example a goal might be to have a healthy sustainable business who is a market leader in customer satisfaction. Thus your objectives would be
– obtain $10000 per month in sales, 200 customers @ $50 per month.
– 95% or higher figures in customer satisfaction and customer retention.
Marketting Strategy. Who are you marketting to, and how are you going to reach them?
The Industry. Who is the current market leader, how many competitors are there, are there any governing bodies to comply with.
Product Specifics. Detail the products your looking to sell. Establish solid cost pricing and study your product and other similar products. Make yourself an expert on the product and how it works.
Research competitors. Do up a graph of everything, such as price, features, delivery time, simplicity etc. so you can easily work out competitive pricing. This will give you the information so you can workout your position in the market. In my opinion you don’t want to be the cheapest seller, be in the middle or top so you don’t attract the bottom feeder customers. Establish why customers will choose you over your competitors, and Make this the reason why people choose you, not price. Customers who choose based on price aren’t long term customers. To create a remote business you need customers who ‘partner’ with you long term. Find out what is important to these kind of customers. Its usually something like: reliability, or customer service, or just a fuzzy feeling like you care about them and their business.
Economics. Read papers, books, anything that relates to your industry. Work out how big the market (as in the volume of sales and turnover of sales) is in the region you want to market to, and what percentage of that market you need to achieve your Mission Statement. This will help you understanding your marketting stratedgy, eg. If your producing a product for small business, there is no point advertising in a womens gossip magazine.
Work out if there is demand, call your competitors and pretend your a customer. Ask questions like are they busy, try to establish if they keen to get you as a customer? If they aren’t really interested, or take ages to get back to you they are either bad at business, or they are so busy they can afford to treat potential customers poorly. If you find that everyone is like this, its likely there is high demand and plenty of customers so you have already established your niche (customer service – 5 minute return calls, service guarantees for product delivery, etc.)
3. Build your point of sale.
This is basically a website with a purchasing or signup system. Unless your a web designer, or marketting professional, this is where you need to starting coming up with some money. Find yourself a trustworthy website development company and marketting soluction, and contract them to build your website. Any decent company will be interested in your idea and will need to completely understand your idea. This is your first challenge, you need to sell your concept to this company, and get them excited about your project. If they have reservations about your idea that you cannot satisfy, then I would suggest going back to the drawing board until you can. These guys deal with people like yourself full time, so I would definately value their opinion. They will talk alot about branding, and this is important. This brand is what you will use on your email signatures, business cards and any print material. Furthermore, As part of this you will need to research and establish how your going to actually make a sale from the technical end. This has all sorts of possibilities, some wholesale companies will allow you to automate the sale through the use of an API. Other places will require an email or phone call to order servicse, however at this point I would be pushing all suppliers or wholesalers for an automated option and I would value this much higher than price as it works towards your end goal of remote business. To collect payment you will need a merchant facility or a company to outsource this to, your web development company should be able to explain this further.
4. Start advertising.
The buzz word here is SEO, Search Engine Optimisation. A good web developer will already have consider standard SEO techniques when building your webesite. From that point forward, unless your a SEO Expert, you will also need to find a company or person to supply this service for you. This could be quite expensive, so I would recommend doing your research and maybe go for someone who charges based on results, so basically you only pay them a fee once your website is on the 1st page of google. Google Adwords and Yahoo marketting are the other two essentials as well. Pay Per Click (PCP) is the instant way to drive traffice to your website, as compared to SEO which can takes months/years. You will need to either get help, or spend the time learning how these systems work, I would personally recommend learning it yourself as its invaluable knowledge that will help you tweak your business as times goes on. PCP systems need consistent monitoring, the most important at first is actually confirming your traffic is converting to sales. If it isn’t, go back to your web developer company and get angry at them because they haven’t given you a website capable of making a sale. It could be as simple as trustworthyness (ie if your company doesn’t seem legitimate people will steer clear). This issue can be solved by putting effort into ‘our company’ pages, putting up bio and images of employees or owners, or linking your website to a personal blog (that is relevant).
5. Review and Project.
After you have been trading for a year, revise steps 2-4. Generally business fall short of there goals, so this will give you some understanding of how your business operates, and what you can expect moving forward. This will also allow you to cut any products that aren’t performing and streamline your business. You may have even changed your marketting stratedgy mid year, so you may need to update and rethink through elements of your business plan.
Write some projections for the next year. These should be detailed down to monthly sales goals, and even down to how much this will cost you in terms of advertising. (At this point you should understand how much a customers costs from your PCP system). This cost vs your sales targets need to align, so if you need to spend $1000 per month, to get 20 new customers, but you only can afford $150, then the 20 customer projection is unrealisitic without the advertising spend.
6. Remove yourself.
The final step to setting up a remote business is to setup systems to remove your self. As you grow begin to outsource tasks. Eg setup direct debits for bills. Only offer email support, or find a company who will take calls and administer your business.