The Right Way to Start Any Online Business For Newbies

If you’ve ever had a product or service and try to sell it online, you’ll notice pretty quickly that it’s tough to stand out in a sea of competition.

For example, when I started my Airbnb business, my guests praised that they loved my apartment & how friendly I am as a host. My product & service was tip top.

But as many more desperate landlords resort to Airbnb to help them pay their mortgage during this property overhang, competition in the Airbnb market in KL was FIERCE.

No matter how special I thought my business was, I was rendered a commodity.

Desperate to get sales in, I started to slash my prices. Then I began to see sales coming in. Phew! Sales in a business are like oxygen supply to the body.

How low can you go? Image source

But as other people slash their prices to match mine. Guess what I had to do next?

That’s right. Slash my prices even more. Then, they slash theirs to match mine…

This vicious cycle continues until there’s nothing left to slash. At the lowest point, the nightly market rate went down from RM 180++ a night to RM 80 a night.

My Airbnb business eventually collapsed right before the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020.

I was reluctant to start a new business venture because I know I’d face the same problem no matter what new thing I venture into next.

The Secret to Sell Anything Online

Source: Unsplash

When I looked at other people who have multiple businesses. It seems like whatever they touch turns into gold.

How did they do it?

After reading many self-help books, blogs, and personal interviews, I’ve concluded why it seems so easy for some people and why it’s hard for me.

The people that figured it out seem to get one thing right: They have access to a loyal audience.

Here’s the secret sauce: In digital marketing, the name of the game is attention. Whoever has the most attention, wins.

How to Get Attention Online?

Source: Unsplash

You can get people’s attention by creating content that would resonate with your potential customers.

To create great content for your audience, you have to think like your customers.

In my Airbnb business example, I had to think about why customers would book my Airbnb? Who are they, and why are they in KL? Creating online content that answers these questions is a good start.

Understanding My ProspectMy Existing Customers
Who are they?Tourists & Malaysian people on short vacation
Why are they in KL?Sightseeing, want to try food & cafes

Starting a blog and YouTube channel to share what to do, where to go, how to get around, and where to stay in Kuala Lumpur is an excellent way to build my audience amongst people who want to go on holiday in Kuala Lumpur.

As time goes, and with more helpful content that I publish, people would recognize my website as the go-to source for all things vacation-related in KL.

At which point, if I were to promote my Airbnb, it would be a lot easier to get a sale because I already have an audience that knows, likes, and trusts me.

But, if you have a product first, then figure out how to sell it, you’ll only be left with slashing prices to compete with others.

Alright, let’s see how you can use this ideology for any new business:

Your Content Strategy

  1. Build a website, blog, YouTube channel, or social media profile on a specific topic
  2. Create a library of useful, relevant content that answers questions related to your product
  3. Start promoting your products to your audience in between your helpful content

If your end product is selling aquarium supplies, here are examples of helpful content to create:

  • 3 Fishes a newbie should start with & 3 to absolutely avoid
  • How to select the right fish tank for your fish & home
  • 4 water treatment medicine that you need to prevent diseases

Sooner or later, you’ll be known to be the go-to guy for this topic, simultaneously gaining potential customers’ trust.

When they trust you, it’s easier to convert any promotions.

Key Takeaway Before You Start

There are 2 ways to start selling anything online in my opinion:

DifficultyApproachExample
The Hard WayHave a product or service first, then figure out how to sell itI set up my Airbnb then scramble how to sell it
An Easier WayBuild an audience around a topic first, then sell what they wantStart a website or social media profile & build a following around a certain topic first, then can figure what to sell to these people later

If you want to launch a new online business, I hope this article has helped you to consider your approach on how to market a business.

Leave a comment below if you want me to create more content about content & affiliate marketing:

Helmi Hasan

Hi, I'm Helmi Hasan, the founder, and writer for the personal finance blog, Balkoni Hijau. Read more in the 'About Me' page or follow me on Twitter.

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