Launching an online business can be so exciting!
If you’re like most online entrepreneurs, you’ve got a great idea you can’t wait to launch because it’s going to help thousands of people. You know you need three things to start:
- an email service provider
- a landing page
- an opt-in form
Wait! You say you don’t even know what those things are? Well, then you are in exactly the right spot.
Setting Up an Online Business so You Can Launch Your Course or Membership Online
In my 7 years as a Virtual Assistant, I’ve come across many online entrepreneurs who are on fire with truly revolutionary ideas. Unfortunately, the adrenaline and excitement of creating a new online business seems to wane as soon as the first basic technology decision needs to be made. Too many people get hung up on technology before they even get out of the gate.
While the rest of the online marketing world compares conversions, opt-in rates and ad sales, new online business owners are often just trying to figure out what on earth this cloud is that everyone keeps talking about and why it’s so great. Because, when you think about it, keeping things in a cloud doesn’t exactly seem safe!
I’ve been there. When I began exploring the online world, nothing made any sense. I remember the first time I set up an opt-in form. It was so pretty! I spent a few days fighting to learn the system and then even more time making sure it was the perfect colors and that the wording was just right. I must have contacted tech support 100 times, convinced the program was buggy when I just didn’t know how to make the darn thing work. But then was the moment of truth. I entered my email address, clicked “sign me up!” and….
Seriously, nothing happened. No “Congratulations” you’ve been added to the list. No, “Thank you for subscribing.” No, “Here’s the free offer.”
It was back to the drawing board for me. And over the course of, ahem, a week or so, I did get it figured out. Thank goodness for tech support!
But I know you.
You don’t want to fight with one part of your process for an entire week.
You don’t want to wonder if it’s going to work out.
You want action. You want to know that the processes you are setting up are going to work. The first time.
You need help. But you’re in a chicken and egg situation. Before you can afford to hire the tech help you need to get going, you have to start bringing in money. But you can’t bring in money if you can’t get your technology basics handled – things like choosing an email service provider, designing a landing page and setting up your opt-in form.
In fact, you don’t even need a website to beginning selling a product.
That’s right. You don’t need a website. There’s a shortcut!
The First Three Steps to Launching an Online Business, A Shortcut:
1. Set up your Email Service Provider (ESP).
The first thing you want to set up is your ESP (email service provider). At its most basic level, an ESP is a way for you to send out bulk emails to your clients. Most ESPs have many other functions as well, but for now we’re going to focus on sending out emails.
You may be wondering why you’d need such a service if you already have a Gmail, Yahoo or other type of personal email address. The reason is simple: now that you’re an online business, you cannot use your personal email address to contact your clients. Not only is it unprofessional, it is illegal and will get your account blacklisted – which is every bit as bad as it sounds. It means your email, and in some cases your IP address, will be blocked from reaching people’s inboxes. If this happens, it is very difficult to get your email address removed from the blacklist. Many countries, the US included, now have laws protecting consumers against unwanted emails – also called SPAM. So don’t use your personal email.
When it comes to ESPs there are several options to choose from. To help you out, I put together a free video comparing the most common email options. Most have a free account or trial period allowing you to compare few. See if they are laid out in a way that makes sense to you and feels comfortable. Don’t underestimate the importance of this step! The email service provider is where you are going to write your emails, keep track of the people on your lists, send newsletters and communicate with the people who want to buy what you have to sell. You will be spending lot of time working inside of this platform so make sure it’s one you are comfortable in.
If you decide to go with the flashiest, most robust ESP you can find but then cannot figure out how to use it, you will have wasted a lot of time and money. You will be using this program often – you want to feel comfortable with it.
Email service providers come in many shapes and sizes. There are very large services that provide a lot of bells and whistles and there are smaller services that offer less but are often easier to use. You may recognize names like Aweber, GetResponse and Ontraport. Those are all email service providers.
My Tech Tip for Email Service Providers: If you haven’t decided on an ESP yet, I recommend Aweber or Active Campaign, they are the two that allow for the most list segmentation and have great deliverability for an affordable price. They are also fairly easy to learn. You can find a complete breakdown of the most popular ESPs in one chart here. When you look at the chart, you may notice that I’ve left off some services like MailChimp and Constant Contact. That’s because if you want to grow a serious online business, with list segmentation and good deliverability, these are not your best option.
2. Choose your Landing Page/Opt-in Form service.
First, let me explain Landing Pages. Have you ever seen an online ad, or a link for something you are interested in and then clicked it? The page you were taken to was called a Landing Page. It is where your clients “land” when they click on a url or button.Usually Landing Pages are short, to the point and give a brief preview of an offer that the online business owner is giving away or selling. When choosing your Landing Page service there are several things to consider:
- How techie are you? Some of the landing page services are really drag and drop. The formatting and layout has been done for you and is set up for high conversion. The downside is there is less customization available. The best option for this would be LeadPages.
- How important is customization? If you’re the type of person who really likes design and being able to customize at the highest level, you’ll want to choose a landing page service that allows you to be creative. Click Funnels or Optimize Press would be your best bet.
- How many other bells and whistles do you think you’ll need? If you want an all-in-one provider for email, landing pages, opt-in forms and other features, you’ll want to look at some of the more robust programs. Ontraport, for example, has all of these features in addition to offering a membership site, etc. Keep in mind that these all-in-one providers not only cost quite a bit more, they are also more complicated to learn. If you have a knack for tech, this might be an option for you, but for most people these all-in-one solutions are overwhelming when first starting out.
My Tech Tip for Landing Pages and Opt-in Forms is to start simple. I recommend LeadPages. If you buy the biggest and baddest program out of the gate but have to hire someone to run the program because it’s complicated, you are putting yourself in a situation where you’ll be desperate for money just to keep your email running. And that is not a good situation.
3. Create Your Landing Page & Opt-in Form:
Once you have chosen your service, it is time to create your landing page and opt-in form. The service you’ve chosen should have tutorials to show you the mechanics, but here are some important things to know:
- If you cannot change something, it is likely that way for a reason. This is particularly true of LeadPages. The beauty of LeadPages is the templates have been set up a very specific way to maximize conversions. You can absolutely change colors and in some cases, fonts, but if you’re trying to move a text box, you probably won’t be able to do so.
- Your opt-in form will need to be integrated with your email service provider. Stop. Take a deep breath. This sounds harder than it is. First, you need to set up a generic form on your ESP. Most of the time, this form will simply ask your client for their first name and email address. You don’t want to make it fancy or spend any time at all on design because your landing page service will just be using the form as a way to collect the info and get it on to your list.
- Once you’ve set up the form in the ESP (there are likely tutorials on this within the specific program you choose), you will need to integrate it with your opt-in form. Go back to your landing page service and follow the instructions they provide for integration. Each service has different instructions customized for your ESP.
When this is all finished, you will have completed the first techie steps to starting your online business. You’ve now created a landing page that links to an opt-in from. When a client lands on the landing page and clicks the button, they will now be added to your mailing list.
Congratulations, you’re well on your way to building a list of clients who love what you have to offer and can’t wait to hear from you!
Have questions or comments? Pop them in below. I read every one!
** Some of the links in this article provide me with a small commission if you use them to sign up for a service. This won’t cost you any more, and I only link to those services I know and love (hence not all links are affiliate links).
image credit: yurysmelov / 123RF Stock Photo