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  • Writer's pictureHappy Hippo Media

The 6 step guide to start a successful online business

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

By Jacinta Counihan

reading time approx 6 min 25 sec.

How long has that business idea of yours been running around in your head? Years? Months? Maybe with everything going on, you have just come up with something brilliant! Well here's a novel idea (no pun intended) instead of spending your days playing sudoku or rearranging your sock draw, how about you use all that spare time to start an online business?

Interested? It's easy. Follow these six steps, and before you know it, you won't just be rearranging those socks, you'll be profiting off them.

Consider this a step-by-step guide in how to start an online business right from the idea stage through to the execution and going live.

1. Decide on the product or service that you want to sell

It may seem simple, but the first thing to think about when starting an online business is to know what you want to sell. To narrow down an idea, think about what your strengths are, likes, and passions.

Pick a service or product that is important to you as buyers are more inclined to purchase from someone who believes in what they are selling. Ask yourself questions such as, why do you want to sell your idea? How does it benefit others? Does it offer VALUE to people?

You also need to deal with the elephant in the room. Are you going to be able to sell this product for the foreseeable future? Be honest with your answer, because the last thing you want to do is to be stuck with a business you don't like.

Here, at Happy Hippo Media, we have a saying; you will never have to work a day of your life if you love what you sell online.

It may seem corny and cliché, but enjoying what you sell is vital to your online business's success.

2. Find out whether there is a gap in the market for your product or service

Okay, so you decide you want to start selling luxury beauty items such as tanning oils. But hold up, before you start throwing a whole bunch of hard work and money into a business idea, take a step back to think about it.

During a worldwide pandemic, do you think that the first beauty product someone is going to search for is tanning oil? Maybe, but chances are it may not be on the top of the list.

One quick google search will show you that right now, there is a rise in purchasing anti-aging products. Who would have thought? I guess with the world feeling like it's going to end, more people are trying to figure out how to live longer? I am not exactly sure on the logic behind it, but the point still stands.

Before settling into an idea, find the gap in the market. Look into whether that product or service is needed and if people are actually seeking it. Be thorough in your research as this will save you time, money, and hassle further down the track.

Go through these steps as a guide on how to analyse the market:

  • Firstly, use your brain - thinking logically and using common sense is the best way to understand whether your product/service is needed. Put yourself in the customer's shoes. What do you think they would be looking for right now?

  • Secondly, research online - find out what people are asking for. Is there a demand for your product or service? Is the market saturated with competitors? Ask your family and friends to see if they would buy your product at this current time.

  • Thirdly, make the most of online tools. Below are a few websites that will help with your search.

- Ubersuggest - Our personal favourite! This is a free keyword research tool that allows you to see how many monthly Google searches people make each month on specific keywords. It also gives you other keyord suggestions and even gives you statistics on how competitive it is on Google such as the average search volume, CPC, related keywords, top competitors, etc.

TIP: remember to change it to Australian English when searching. That way you're not getting results from other countries.

- Google TrendsGoogle Trends is a website by Google that analyzes the popularity of top search queries in Google Search across various regions and languages. The website uses graphs to compare the search volume of different queries over time.

- Answer the Public – Once you get past the creepy guy on the home page (please contact us if you agree), this is another excellent search listening tool that gives you the questions people are asking involving the single keyword that you have in mind.

If you thoroughly go through all this and find there is a market, congratulations, you are ready to move onto step 3. If not, head back to step 1 and tweak your idea.

Important: There is no use trying to sell a product to people who don't want it, so ensure you spend a lot of time on this step! As the saying goes 'you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink'.

3. Understand the costs and logistics

Don't you hate it when you're bursting with excitement about your new business, super confident it will sell, people are excited... and then you hit reality. "Wait, how am I supposed to pay for all this?"

Yep, as much as it sucks, there is a time you will need to think about the logistics. It is all good and well to have a great idea, but as a business owner, it is essential to understand one rule.

When creating an online business, 20% of success comes from the idea, 80% of success comes from how you execute it.

It may seem annoying, but mapping out the costs and capabilities now will give you a realistic view on exactly how your business is going to run. Whether it is a service or product, these are the things you should consider when starting a business online:

  • Cost of shipping

  • Costs of packaging

  • Software costs for website

  • Staffing

  • Insurance costs

  • Sales tax

  • The number of sales you will need to cover costs

  • The number of hours people need to work to be productive

  • Are these hours feasible?

  • Do you have the correct capacity to source people online?

  • Distribution channels

  • Will you need multiple suppliers, and how can you maintain quality control?

  • Shipping

  • Budget

  • Goals for future

If you do come across some logistical problems, don' think of this as a failure. Find a way to work around it, because there are more ways than one to skin a cat (or more than one way to sell online). Whether you want to sell anti-aging products or conduct virtual exercise classes, remember, an idea is nothing without execution.

4. Choose your e-commerce platform

When trying to be smart with money and cut down on costs, the internet is full of user-friendly, professional-looking e-commerce platforms, meaning starting an online business at home, has never been easier. But with so many options, how do you know which one to choose? Answering this comes down to two factors; your online technical skills, and what you want out of your website.

WordPress, Squarespace,, Shopify, and GoDaddy are a few website builders on offer. Before choosing one, make sure you do your research as they all serve different purposes.

Things to think about:

  • What customisation options does it offer? Do the templates suit your business model?

  • Is it mobile-friendly? If not, will that affect the way customers find your product/service?

For e-commerce features, which platform will suit your business the best? Consider looking into the following:

  • Product gallery options

  • Payment options

  • Can customers create an account?

  • Is there a contact form selection?

  • Does it have a cart feature? (do you want one?)

  • What budget have you allocated for running your website?

  • What are the marketing tools available?

  • Do you want to feature more print, videos, or photos?

If all of this sounds too hard, hire a professional.

PRO TIP: It is possible to arrange an equity marketing-based contract with a digital marketing agency, whereby they will cover the cost of building the website, take care of all the marketing, desig the brand and take care of site management, in exchange for equity in your business. This can be a good option for owners trying to save themselves time and money. We offer this at Happy Hippo Media - just ask us and we can see if we're a right fit for each other.

5. Create and execute a marketing strategy

The last step in creating an online business is to develop your marketing strategy. It would be easy just to jump on social media, start boasting about your product, making advertisements, and sending out a bunch of promotional messages to all your friends. But as this may create some traction, to give your business the best chance, you need a plan - a plan of attack.

Before creating a marketing campaign, identify your most valuable audiences, or customer avatars, and design everything around speaking to them in the most personal way possible. Out of Google, Facebook, Instagram, Messenger or email, which platform does your most valubale audience spend the most time on?

Once you answer these questions, you need to understand what makes a marketing campaign successful. The key is knowing that a campaign does not exist in isolation, but in fact is made up of four key moving parts.

These are as follows:

  • The Funnel - the funnel refers to the user experience (UX). It is the parts of your sales funnel that a user lands on such as the website, landing page, social page, etc., from brand awareness all the way to purchase. Ensure you make this process as smooth and easy as possible.

  • Creative and messaging - this is your creative, such as your photo or your video, and your messaging, which is your ad copywriting e.g. descriptions, titles, etc. Does your content communicate your message effectively to your audience?

  • Traffic Quality - attracting the right type of audience, or your most valuable audience, into your campaign means you have more of a chance of converting a website visitor into a customer. What is the quality of the clicks you are sending into your funnels?

  • Offer - this is the hook that makes that person to a double take and come running straight into your campaign. This needs to be powerful and relevant. Recognise what your audience wants and provide them with offers that fill their needs.

For a full understanding of these steps, head to our blog "What makes a successful Facebook Campaign in 2020" which talks about how these four moving parts, which can be applied to all media channels.

TIP: Making sure these four parts are all perfectly executed is important to ensure a successful digital marketing campaign.

6. Set it all up and begin!

Starting an online business from scratch may seem scary, but if you follow these easy steps, you will up and running in no time with sales (or socks) coming out of your ears. Then you deserve a beer, or a wine, or maybe both?

Happy Businessing!


If you're thinking "It does look easy, I just don't have the time." No stress, Happy Hippo Media can help. We specialise in seeding ideas and growing them into profitable online businesses, so don't hesitate to reach out and get started today. Contact us here.

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