It has to be said that the products you create within your business form the backbone of the business itself. There are a number of reasons for this. For a start, it is the product which will give your customers the strongest sense of what the business is like as a whole. They will see what you have accomplished, and what is lacking in your products, and probably judge your business accordingly.
But if you are really keen on what you are doing as a business, then you will also find that the product is something you really care about. It is what the whole process is about, and you want to make sure you get it right.
However, there are so many stages to the process of developing and selling a product that it is a real difficulty getting them all right. To give you a hand with that, let’s have a look at each stage in turn.
One of the clearest ways to ensure you create a fantastic product is to go out of your way to try and find problems. This might sound strange, but it is only by finding problems that you are likely to also find the solutions to those problems.
It is these solutions, ultimately, which will allow you to develop the necessary products for your customers, so you can begin to see why this might be important. You need to know what kinds of problems your customers are facing, and how you might be able to help out. So, how can you discover what problems are out there waiting to be fixed?
Research. This is the first thing that any product development process needs to take care of, and it will soon become clear that it is one of the most essential aspects of the whole process. If you are about to embark on a new product mission, you will first need to spend plenty of man-hours researching the problem.
Now, it is likely that your business is already focussed on one particular area, an industry perhaps, and that will help you to figure out what kinds of problems you are likely to be trying to solve. But you should go out and ask people about some of the things that they would like to see solved. You might be surprised at some of the responses, and you might be delighted when you find that there is a common thread which was previously unnoticed by all.
It is when you hit on this kind of gold that you know you are ready to start developing a new product. With that kind of need driving it on the consumer’s side, you can be sure that it is a fairly safe bet.
Once you know what topic or topics you would like to try and focus on, you will need to begin the ideation process. Put simply, this is where you actually come up with the notions for new products, as well as spending some time discussing which are likely to be most popular and more effective and which you should put aside. For most businesses, these discussions will form a typical meeting, but it is more likely that it will be a series of meetings rather than just one or two.
Above all, you want to make sure that you are as certain as possible on what product you are actually going to develop – and you need to be certain that every team is on board before you proceed. If there is any doubt as to whether or not you should produce a certain item, you should bring it back to the drawing board and figure out what the issue is.
These meetings are going to be most effective if you have someone from each team which will be involved in the actual creation and sale of the product. This means that your developers are represented, your engineers are represented, and so too are your distribution and marketing teams. This is because everyone is an expert in their own right, and each person is likely to pick up on issues and concerns which others might miss.
You should also, for the same reason, be sure to give your members a chance to report back regularly to their own teams. This will provide the greatest possible numbers in terms of how many minds are on the project.
With the right idea in place, you can then begin to work on actually developing the initial test run of the product you have chosen to create.
No matter what it is that you have decided to create, the first real step towards seeing it in action is to create a prototype. The word prototype has certain connotations here which might not necessarily be all that helpful, but really it just means creating a test of the final product.
The important thing to bear in mind at this stage is that you can’t really go that wrong. This is true because you actually want to find faults – finding faults at this early stage is much easier to deal with than later on when everything is more set in stone. It is part of the point of prototyping that you want to bring out whatever issues there might be with the product.
That being said, you of course do still want to put plenty of effort into producing as complete a prototype as possible. If possible, you want to be able to test the product out as fully as you can, so focus on that first and foremost during this process. Once the prototype is built, you can then see for the first time what the product is actually going to look like, as well as how it is likely to operate. You can then work on starting to put the product to the test.
If you are keen to test it out with customers (and you should be), you will also want to think about the way in which the product is presented. This means focusing first and foremost on how the product looks itself, but also how it is packaged and delivered ultimately into the customer’s hands. There are so many aspects to this that it can be hard to get right on the first try, but it is worth looking into if you are serious about keeping your customers happy.
First of all, make sure that the packaging is on-brand and makes sense with the product and target market. Then you will want to focus on the delivery on the product, ensuring that presentation is on top form, even down to details such as the envelope or parcel it comes in.
Find online stamps and try to get hold of interesting designs; similarly, go for packaging which they might not have seen before. All of this adds up to make a huge difference to the experience of the product.
Once you have your prototype, you will want to test it – and test it rigorously. You are hoping to find whatever flaws there might be, so that you can end up with the best possible product in the customer’s hands.
At each stage of the testing journey, you should think about whether or not the changes you are making are in the best interest of the customer. As long as they are, you can be sure that you are on the right track. This should be your gold standard, and it is one which is extremely unlikely to fail you.
The act of testing actually falls into a few main areas. You need to test the product itself, in whatever ways might be relevant for that product, but you also want to make sure that it tests well with the desired audience.
Whether you’re a small online business for whom ecommerce is your livelihood, a professional blogger, a sole trader, or even just someone who woke up one day and decided that they want a website then you’re letting a universe of opportunity pass you by if you’re not regularly monitoring your visitor traffic.
At its most profitable it can help you to analyze your visitors browsing and buying patterns, enabling you to qualify and convert leads turning them into customers and eventually brand advocates. At its most enlightening, it can inform you what content is generating the most interest and traction so that you can tailor your content more specifically to the needs and tastes of your visitors.
We’re going to have a look at how you can access important data about your visitors, what sort of information you can get and why it’s important in the growth of your business or project.
And, before you mention your landing page, sign-up form, or call-to-action, it’s worth noting that while these are no doubt invaluable tools, only 2% of users actually engage with them. So, let’s go after the 98%!
Normal analytics will give you a lot of useful information that can help you to understand your visitors a little better such as:
The number of visitors reaching your site.
How they got there; i.e. through pay-per-click advertising or organically, through a referral from social media, or through an affiliate program.
How long your visitors are staying on a page (this does not necessarily mean, however, that they’re engaging with the content).
The bounce rate i.e. how many visitors bounce off your site after only viewing one page.
How many pages visitors view per visit.
How many overall page views your site has.
Where your visitors are located based on their IP address.
Whether visitors are new or returning to your site.
While this is all useful stuff for bloggers as a metric for what content resonates with audiences and what doesn’t, it’s not too helpful for ecommerce sites with conversion rates to worry about.
This is why automated marketing is useful as it gives you all of the above plus:
Identifying what company visitors are browsing from.
Identifying which products they are interested in.
Varying degrees of contact information.
This is all great but why is it of use to you? Because it’s instrumental in planning your business’ strategy. It can help you identify which products are shifting and which are sitting on the shelf, where your strengths lie and where you need to focus on development and who is interested in you and where they are.
What you do with that information can be a key step in growing your business!
Advancing your career can be difficult when you’re struggling for opportunities to do it within your job. Even when you start looking around at other employers, it can be hard to identify the jobs that will help you move up in your career. If you’re finding it a struggle to get anywhere at work, developing your employability outside of work is another option.
You might think that spending your free time trying to advance your career could be exhausting and boring. But a lot of the things you can do are interesting and even fun, even if some are hard work.
Pick Up a New Hobby
Believe it or not, starting a new hobby could help you become more employable. And it doesn’t even matter that much what the hobby is. Any new thing that you start doing can teach you valuable skills and make you a more interesting person too. Some hobbies might not teach you much, but some people might not regard those as hobbies.
Consider taking up a new sport of physical activity, joining a social club or trying out a new craft. You can learn all kinds of things, from organizational skills to leadership skills, which can be useful for your career.
Going back to school is an option a lot of people consider when they want to improve their career options. However, giving up their job to go back into education isn’t possible for everyone. If you do want to return to your studies, you can do it online so that you can complete a qualification in your spare time. You can do everything from diplomas and certificates all the way up to degrees.
If the idea appeals to you, you should look for legitimate options like Fresno Pacific University online. You can explore degrees in business, education, computer information, and more. Be careful about the institutions you consider because not all of them are as good as each other.
Learn Some Technical Skills
Technology is always developing and keeping up with it is important. No matter what field you work in, having some valuable technical skills can often give you an edge. If you’re the only one in the office who knows how to do something, you could become the go-to tech person. While that could have its downsides, it can also get you noticed.
If you’re looking at job openings and often see particular technical skills requested, it could be worth learning them before you start applying for jobs. That might mean learning how to use a piece of software or perhaps learning to do something like code.
Learn Another Language
While it might not be useful for all career paths, knowing how to speak another language can be a huge asset in some businesses. If you can speak more than one language, you might get chances to go on business trips, transfer your job, or even find new job opportunities in other countries.
Some companies might specifically request bilingual people to work for them, perhaps to work in their customer service department or to communicate with clients or other offices overseas. It can take a while to become fluent in a language, but even reaching a basic conversational level can be very useful.
Doing business “out of hours” might not appeal to you, but sometimes it’s worth dedicating some of your free time to business events. If there’s a local business community or organization you can get involved with, it’s a great way to meet people and to learn new things. You can go to networking events and talks to hear from people in your industry and field. It’s also a good way to expand your horizons if you’re thinking of starting a business, as you’ll find plenty of entrepreneurs to learn from.
If you want to find a valuable use for your spare time, volunteering is a good way to go. There are lots of different types of charity and organization you can volunteer with, and they can give you an opportunity to learn new things. Plus, you’ll likely be contributing to a worthy cause.
You can volunteer with animal shelters, youth outreach programs, homeless shelters, and even political campaigns. It can help you to branch out and experience new things and help you develop yourself in ways you might not get the opportunity to do at work.
Work isn’t the only place you can find opportunities to grow your career. Use your spare time to develop your skills and knowledge too.
When my parents were young, people usually went to college for a specific reason. They needed a certain degree to pursue the career that they wanted. Nowadays, things are very different, and the education system seems to be trying to push every single high school graduate into a four-year college.
To some extent, there is a stigma around not having a college degree, but for some people, it just isn’t the right fit. Some people don’t like the academic setting, and a lot of careers just don’t need it. If you’re trying to decide what you’re going to do once you graduate, or perhaps you’re thinking of going back later in life, here are some alternatives to the traditional four-year college:
For anybody who likes working with their hands, college classes are going to be a bore, and you probably won’t get much out of it. If you want a career in the trades, you don’t need a college degree.
Instead, think about going to a vocational school. You’ll get practical hands-on training in whatever area interests you. You could learn to be a plumber, electrician, construction worker and much more. Once you’re qualified, you could find work that pays incredibly well, and you won’t have the debt of four years in college hanging over you either. You can also take on apprenticeship so you’ll be earning money and getting valuable job experience while you study.
Going to college for four years isn’t the only way to get yourself a degree. You can do a 2 year college degree, also known as an associates degree. In certain programs, all of the work will be sent to you to complete at home.
This is a much better option for people that want to return to education in later life because you can complete it in your own time while maintaining a job as well. It massively reduces the financial strain, and you’ll be able to learn the same skills that you could at a four-year college.
So many graduates end up going to college because they don’t know what else to do, and people keep telling them it’s the right path. If you’re undecided, then why not take a year or two to work out what you want to do? There are plenty of volunteering programs that will cover the cost of accommodation and food while you give something back. It’s a great way to see the world and do something good while you work out what your next step is going to be.
Why spend four years slaving away at college, only to get an entry level job working for somebody else, when you could be the boss straightaway? A lot of high school graduates are deciding to take the plunge and start their own business. It’s a lot easier to do when you’re young because you have less financial responsibilities like a family and a house. If you fail, it isn’t the end of the world, and, you never know—you might become the next Bill Gates.
A lot of budding entrepreneurs make the mistake of assuming that running an online business will be cheap. Sure, you might save a lot on overhead, but there are still plenty of costs you need to consider.
This is usually the first cost that people think of when they’re thinking of setting up an online business. It’s typically not too much of a concern at first; most people imagine web hosting to be incredibly cheap these days. And it’s true that it’s definitely a lot cheaper than it used to be! But the problem comes when business owners get too eager to save money on hosting a website.
Because it’s possible to make pretty decent websites for free these days, as well as an increase in the use of social media, there seems to be a growing reluctance to spend that much on hosting. But really cheap web hosts are usually really cheap for a reason—they’re less reliable, not as quick, and don’t offer you a lot of space. Don’t skimp out too much when paying for web space.
It’s true that the domain is usually a concern that goes along with picking the right web host. But this isn’t always the case; it depends precisely on how you plan to go about naming and branding your business.
For some, a business name will have appeared in their heads and the .com domain for it will be available. For others, finding a cute business name means looking through a list of “reserved” domains and making their decision based on price and availability. Some may even find that their desired domain name is taken by another party altogether, meaning they’ll have to look into negotiation.
In any case, reserving the domain name you want can be a complication and expense all of its own, quite apart from finding a good web host. It’s generally the first thing you need to consider, as it may have a big effect on what web host you can even work with.
A good web host should provide pretty strong security for their servers and, thus, your website. But there may be some areas in which you require added security that doesn’t come as part of the web host package. You’ve also got to consider the security at your end; if someone can access your computer remotely, they may be able to find information that allows them to enter your website or even view customer data. (The latter scenario could very well land you in some dangerously hot water.)
Don’t assume that you won’t be affected by cybercriminals or malware just because you’re “small fry” in the business world; you may actually be more of a target because of your small size! You need to be willing to invest in strong security for your website.
So how skilled are you at actually creating websites? Can you design and develop them? If not, you may be tempted to save money and use one of those drag-and-drop website creators. But this would probably be a mistake.
Yes, it may save you a lot of money, and it may even save you a bunch of time. But you’re going to end up with a website you’re only half in control of – and it will also be a pretty slow and clunky thing that won’t be able to handle waves of traffic, should you ever get that level of success!
Hiring a web developer might not be as expensive as you think. Still, it’s an expense you’ll have to incur if you want to start a good online business but don’t have the skills to take care of this yourself. Sure, you could look into developing those skills yourself – but you may want to consider learning that in your own time and simply letting a professional developer get to work on your website in the meantime.
Remember that the most expensive developers won’t necessarily be the best; there are plenty of newcomers to the scene who can do great work for much cheaper. They’ll also greatly appreciate the opportunity!
Yes, you’re probably going to have invest in marketing. A lot of new business owners start to get a little gung-ho and convince themselves that they can deal with the marketing themselves. I’m not here to tell you it’s impossible; it really is possible to go viral and land yourself a lot of attention (and hits and sales) without the aid of an agency running an expensive marketing campaign.
But the problem is that achieving that sort of success depends on luck as much as it does skill. It may be better to leave it to the experts.
You’ve probably heard of SEO. Maybe you’ve even dismissed it as a mere buzzword. But without search engine optimization, you’re going to have a hard time getting visible on the sort of outlets that will most likely provide you with the most traffic: search engines.
So, it is a worthy investment, and some web development agencies will even take care of the digital marketing for you. Just make sure you check out any given agency’s reputation when it comes to delivering great results in the marketing department.
It doesn’t matter what kind of online business you’re running; you need to put some focus on content creation. The costs you’ll incur will be based on two things: the type of content you want to create, and the skills you already have for making that kind of content.
If you’re going to create most of your content as text content for a blog, and you have both the time and the writing skills to do this, then you could save a lot of money. Still, you should explore your options when it comes to writers – because there’s every chance there are better writers out there than you (sorry) who can actually dedicate more of their time to content creation than you can.
Video content is another matter. It can be more expensive and time-consuming (especially because you have to write it first anyway), but video content is definitely something you shouldn’t dismiss. Its growing importance means that you could suffer great opportunity costs if you’re not willing to invest in video creation.