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Question added to topic Starting a BusinessAugust 9, 2011

How Do I Start an Online Business?

I want to start a health and wellness website. How do I go about getting this all put together? How much money should I expect to spend? What are some of the basic factors I'll need to consider to get the business started?
Before you determine a budget and choose a technology solution for your online business, there are four important questions to answer. Once you are confident in your answers to these four questions, you can use your answers to help choose the type of website you need, the technology solution that can deliver the functionality you want and a budget for development, hosting, maintenance and marketing.

1: What do your customers need?

Websites are too often built with the needs of the business owner in mind rather than the needs of the customer. Talk to some prospects and customers to find out if there are any health and fitness problems that a website can solve for them. Then, build your website with your customer needs at the center of the strategy.

2: What is the financial logic behind your website?

If you are selling products or services, you'll probably need a website that can handle e-commerce transactions and order fulfillment. You may also want to consider making more money through advertising, membership fees or offline sales. No matter what your financial model is, your revenue is going to be dependent on the number of qualified visitors you can drive to your site.

3: How will you attract visitors to your website, and at what cost?

You need visitors to make money with a website. It's important to determine how much traffic you'll need to reach your sales goals and then determine how much it will cost to generate that traffic and convert the visitors into customers, members or advertising clickers. The average ecommerce website converts 2 percent to 5 percent of its visitors into customers, and advertising click-through rates are generally .05 percent. Use these numbers and your own research as a baseline for determining how many visitors you might need and what budget is required for driving visitors to the site.

4: How much of your business is dependent on your website?

A website can play several roles during the course of a customer relationship. For example, the same site may serve different purposes before, during and after a buying decision has been made. A website can also serve prospects, customers, vendors, partners and employees in a variety of ways. Before you build a site, map out the places where your website should serve people at each touch point in your business operations and weigh the costs of developing that functionality online versus handling it through another technology.

Related: How to Hire a Webmaster
Related: Five Ways to Improve Your Website -- Now
Related: Nine Reasons Your Site Isn't Driving Sales

John Arnold is a Boulder, Colo.- based consultant, speaker and trainer specializing in marketing advice for small businesses. He is the author of three marketing books in the 'For Dummies' series including Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference and Mobile Marketing for Dummies. Follow him on Twitter: @ArnoldMarketing

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