Your great business idea has grown into the perfect product or service. You’ve researched the competition and know what sets you apart. It’s time to get what you’re selling to potential customers—but how? Moving from concept to launch is a big undertaking, and many small business owners are unsure where to start.
As a guide, here are 12 steps to help you launch your first business online.
Write a business plan
As you move towards launch day, having a clear vision can help you stay on track. A business plan is a document that outlines your goals and how you plan to reach them. It covers all areas of your business—finances, marketing, and operations.
The business plan you write will provide a roadmap to help guide you to launch day and beyond. It may start as a simple outline, but it will include more details as you begin to secure financing, draw up a marketing plan, hire employees, or hammer out your operations.
Get your finances in order
It is almost impossible to know if your business is successful without knowing how much money is coming in and going out. Set up your bookkeeping early and accurately record business expenses as you work towards your launch. Now may also be the time to create a budget, so you don’t start your business too far in the red.
Setting up your finances may also include securing business loans or other financial backing. Depending on the type of business you are launching, you may need start up money to get running. As you obtain funding, remember to keep your personal finances separate from your business accounts. Co-mingling them can create a mess, especially at tax time.
There may be legal requirements you must meet to operate legally in your state or local area. Otherwise, you could end up in legal trouble soon after launch. Common government regulations include obtaining licenses for certain industries, collecting and reporting sales tax, and following operational rules.
You may also be required to carry certain types of business insurance. This may depend on factors such as hiring employees (Workers’ Compensation), meeting professional association rules (Professional Liability), or signing business contracts (General Liability).
Select your tools
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to managing a small business. Thankfully, there are many apps and software available to help small business owners oversee all aspects of their company—bookkeeping, email marketing, website building and hosting, processing payments, and more.
However, sometimes the right “tool” may be hiring a professional to do the job. Everyone has gaps in their knowledge, and it may not be possible to learn how to do everything yourself. Hiring an accountants, lawyer, marketing specialist, and other business pros might be a wise decision, saving you time and possibly money down the road.
Register your business name
Securing your business’ name helps stop others from using it. A good start is filing a “Doing Business As” (DBA) or “Fictious Business Name” (FBN) application to provide some protection against business name theft with your county clerk. Since you are launching an online business, you should also consider filing a federal trademark for your business name. This helps protect it from being used in other states.
Brand your business
Your brand is what makes you unique. Branding includes your business name, logo, color palette, font choices, brand voice, and the overall experience people have with your business. They help customers easily recognize your business, and hopefully over time associate you with the product or service you’re providing.
Businesses should apply their branding consistently across their entire online presence. Your website, social media, emails, and advertising should all have a similar look and sound.
Secure your URL
Buying the URL for your business name gives you more control over your branding. It also helps prevent others from taking it, which can create confusion for customers or give others the opportunity to spread damaging information about your business.
Consider buying more than just the .com extension for your website. Claiming others (such as .net, .biz or .info) can help you further protect your online business.
Buy an email domain
A professional email address gives customers more confidence. It also helps reinforce your branding and name recognition. Before launching your online business, get an email domain that matches your website URL. This will look something like “@yourbusinessname.com”.
Set up social media
Social media gives you more opportunities to share information about your business online. It can also be a great tool for connecting with customers, finding new ones, and advertising.
Your business doesn’t need to be on every social media site. Focusing on two or three that fit your business’ brand could help you produce more quality content for your audience. Verifying your business accounts, if possible, helps people know they are dealing with your business and not an imposter.
Do a dry run
Before you launch, test every part of your business set up that you can. This will help you find and correct any issues before customers can find them for you. It may help to ask family or friends not involved with your business to bring fresh eyes to your website (viewed on different browsers, mobile, and tablet), your ordering process, and contact points (email, phone, social media, etc.).
Consider business insurance
You’ve no doubt put a lot of work into launching your business. Now might be the right time to consider protecting it with business insurance. The different types of products available can help shield your business against incidents, accidents, and other events that could negatively impact your business.
Some common types of business insurance that you may consider include:
- Professional Liability, otherwise known as E&O insurance, protects your business against claims of negligence, misrepresentation or mistake, as well as document or paperwork errors.
- Workers’ Compensation insurance provides protection for employers if an employee suffers a work-related illness or injury.
- General Liability insurance protects businesses against the risk of customer injury and property damage.
- A Business Owner’s Policy (BOP) is a combination of policies, combining covers such as general liability insurance and business personal property coverage, to help protect small businesses from costly interruptions to service.
Launch day is what you’ve been building towards. Take a moment to celebrate, and then buckle down—it’s time to really get to work!
Take advantage of free promotion by asking your network to share social media posts or talk about your business to others. A one-on-one email or a personal phone call can be an effective way to ask for this support. You can also test paid ads, even with a small budget, or offer discount codes for early customers to start building a loyal fan base.
BizInsure is here to help small businesses protect what they are building, from launch day and beyond. Visit our website to compare multiple business insurance products from multiple insurers, at the same time.