Many people have wanted to start their own business at one point or another. There are many reasons people end up not doing it, but you should know online business tools to start your own company are plentiful. In the age of the internet tools that were previously inaccessible, now they are in abundance.
Some people even think that something like a web page is too complicated for them to figure out. Make no mistake… It’s NOT. There are companies like Wix, WordPress, and GoDaddy that make it very simple to create a website with moderate effort. And it doesn’t stop there, anything from e-mail marketing, accounting systems, e-commerce shops, exist to help in your venture.
Let’s look at some of the most helpful online business tools that exist in the market today.
U.S. Trademark Search
One of the first online business tools you should use is the U.S Trademark Search capability. Assume you have come up with the perfect name for your business and registered it in your state. If you were lucky, you may even have been able to snag the domain name that goes with it. But just because you were able to do that does not mean the trademark is available.
It is not a necessity for you to trademark your business name or logos. You should however, check to make sure you are not infringing on someone else’s trademark. Go to the U.S. Trademark Search Database and look for businesses with similar names to what yours. If you find someone using the same name and/or trademark, you will want to do a little more research. Typically if you are in a different type of business, or operate in a separate geography, you are still ok. But if there are any questions on those two facts, then it may be wise to get the opinion of a trademark attorney.
Once your website is up and running, you will want to know more about who is visiting your site. Google Analytics is one of the most widely used online business tools, and will give you this information, an much, much more. If you are just a beginner, there is way more information on Google Analytics than you will be able to process. But it can be very helpful at its most basic level to show you how many people are getting your site and general demographics. Some of the things that you will be able to see include, how users found your site, location, what pages they visited, how long they were on the site, and what type of technology they used to browse the site.
While this might seem like information overload in the early days, you will find it’s very important as time goes on. Understanding your visitors, and what causes them to convert into customers is critical to growing a business in the early days. This is not something you figure out overnight, but with weeks, months, and even years of analyzing your visitors.
Once you have a business name and domain name purchased, your next step is deciding your web hosting provider. Chances are high that you bought your domain from a company that also hosts domains, such as GoDaddy.com. Sometimes it’s fine to continue using that company, but also be aware that not all hosting companies are created equal. Some are more specialized in assisting you with certain types of setup like WordPress. Others simply do a better job of customer service, which to a beginner can be helpful.
Some of the most well known and respected hosting companies are BlueHost, HostGator, and SiteGround. You will want to take a look at each of these companies, and understand what they offer in regard to the type of business you are starting. Give them a call, and see exactly what they will do for you to assist with setting up your website.
Lastly, be very aware of what the cost of each service is on an on-going basis. Most of these hosting companies are going to offer you a great deal to start out with their service.
One of the best types of online business tools that have come along over the last decade are website builders. Depending on what type of business you are starting, their are a wide variety of options out there. If you are starting an e-commerce business, skip to the next section. If not, you have a couple different options for setting up a standard website. First, if you have some cash to spend, you can pay a developer to build you a custom website. The pro of a custom built site is that you will be able to list out your requirements, and you should get exactly what you have in your head. But that’s going to cost you a minimum of a few thousand dollars. You also will likely need to pay a developer to help maintain your site over time.
That’s where website builders come in. Years ago these solutions did not always have great looking templates, but today they have some of the best. In fact, if you go custom, and don’t hire a talented developer, you could end up with a more amateurish looking site than a canned template from one of these website builders. A few of the best website builder companies include, Wix, SiteBuilder, and Squarespace.
The benefit of these companies is that you can literally be up and running with a decent looking site in minutes. Yes, they all have a learning curve as you get into the finer details of your site setup, but no coding or extreme technical know-how is required. For the person who really wants to dig, they also have a host of add-on apps that can be used to build out fairly complex functionality.
Content Management System (CMS)
It’s important to understand the difference between a website builder and CMS. Both tools can be very helpful in getting a website up and running quickly, but a CMS has a wider range of functionality. The sacrifice here is the simplicity you get with a website builder.
CMS are intended to help manage a larger amount of content, writers, administrators, and users. if you envision someday growing your organization, a CMS like WordPress is going to give you more room to scale your business. Most of the top CMS are open source software, meaning you can download them for free. They also come with a selection of templates, some free, and some premium that can be purchased from third parties. There’s more leg work involved with setting up your hosting, and a larger design learning curve, but the extra effort can be well worth it in the long run.
As with standard website builders, there has been a lot of progress in the e-commerce space. So many traditional brick-and-mortar businesses have ventured online, it’s not surprising a number of turn-key e-commerce solutions have come along.
At this point, any developer you hire should at least be starting with one of these management systems and developing it out for you. The level of custom development you need and can afford will drive which system you ultimately pick.
The good news is that even if you don’t have a large budget, there are solutions that require almost no development experience. Shopify is the biggest name in the game these days, with others such as BigCommerce, Volusion, and WooCommerce (WordPress) also delivering nice products.
If you do in fact have a larger budget, and are prepared to spend a bit more on a custom look, Magento is one of the best options. Magento gives developers the starting groundwork for an e-commerce site, and allows for maximum flexibility on the build-out.
One of the most important online business tools you will need is an e-mail marketing system. Having an easy contact point with your customers is extremely important. It’s also by far the easiest way to communicate with a group of people you know are interested in your product or information. By having a targeted marketing campaign on a regular basis to this group, you can greatly increase recurring business. You will also find it much easier to sell a new product or service from scratch.
Some of the most well know E-mail marketing systems out there are Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and AWeber. That’s a short list since more companies with great platforms seem to be coming out all the time.
Remember, while you might see e-mail marketing as a thing of the past, it’s not. Having a strong e-mail list can help your new business in many ways.
If you are a small start-up without many resources, you may not have the money for full-time workers. Enter companies like UpWork, Fiverr, and Freelancer, which are sites that connect freelance professionals with companies. These online business tools make it possible to find human resources for almost any type of work. From technical expertise for your website, to accounting, marketing, and even logistics experts. It’s really amazing the number of different freelancers you can now find these days.
You may be tentative to go with one of these companies because working with people in person is the norm. But most of these sites do a good job of helping to ensure the service that is contracted is actually completed before payment. And while you may find it difficult to sort through all of the provider for a project, they also do a good job of allowing previous clients to leave reviews so you can see others experience.
The other nice thing is the ability to choose people at different price points and experience levels. You many also find that some people in different countries with a large amount of experience can help a decent price. That said, if you are more comfortable dealing with people based in your home country, that can usually be found as well.
The Final Word For Online Business Tools
If you take a leap of faith and start your own business, you will find a mountain of tools out there. It may be overwhelming, but just remember to keep it simple from the beginning. Don’t be tricked into thinking you need the most complex pieces of software that cost big bucks every month. Start out with some of these essential tools, and try to ensure you don’t overspend unnecessarily. As you grow your business, you will have more clarity around what does and does not work for your company. At that point, you can decide to make larger investments in more complex tools.