Tips for Building a Successful Online Business

Two small business owners working on computers and packing merchandise

svetikd / Getty Images

Starting a business, let alone a business online, can be daunting. While an online business has some advantages such as low overhead costs, its biggest disadvantage is that you are competing with so many more business to catch your customer's attention. With that in mind, here are five online business success tips that if followed will make you and your business stand out and help you reach your goals:

Key Takeaways

  • Success of your online business depends on catching your customer's attention, which can be tough in an era of information overload
  • Authenticity and accurate representation of your company, and offering can build customer trust and over time, a loyal customer base
  • Make sure the perceived value of your product or service for your customers is greater than the price they're paying
  • Solve a problem or address a specific customer need through your business

1. Be Authentic

Your business is an extension of you, no matter how big or small it is at the present time. It will succeed or fail by how others perceive your brand, and ultimately how they feel about doing business with you. All aspects of your business (customer service, product creation, back office) should respect your values.

Ensure all communication and advertising is accurate and not misleading. Make sure your products and services live up to the expectations you set for your customers. In this day and age, customers are wary of fakes and negative reviews could spell trouble for your business.

Authenticity is the key. You’ve got to be you, whether it’s the smooth, sophisticated type or the person with rough edges and an attitude to match. Only you know what works for you and your target audience, but the one thing that can guarantee failure is not being authentic.


If you're not comfortable being the representative of your business you'll still want to create some type of persona to represent your company and brand and humanize your business as much as possible.

2. Over Deliver

Set benchmarks for yourself with your products and services, and try to exceed them, simple as that!

This is especially important with your initial offerings, because a strong first impression may mean a host of customers for life. Just imagine the glee on people’s faces because they feel that they have got the better end of the deal! It’s your reward for having given so much value at such a low (or reasonably low) cost. Certainly, expectations will constantly be high, but that’s the way it should be. 


Low cost doesn't refer to price of your offering. The perception of the price should be considered a great value from the standpoint of your customers and clients; even if you are charging premium prices.

Over-delivering means going beyond the call of duty at all times to become not only a viable business but a market leader that all others admire and envy.

3. Focus on Serving, Not Selling

Remember the purpose of a customer is not to make a sale, rather the purpose of a sale is to get a customer. Make their first purchasing experience with you a great one and they'll continue to buy your products over and over again increasing the lifetime value of your customers and maximizing your revenue.

Learn how to identify your target market’s problems, concerns and issues to better create and position your offerings as the best solution in the marketplace. The better you can relate and speak to them with effective copywriting the more they'll realize you truly are the solution to their problems.

“How much money can I make for myself?” Answer: As cliche as this may sound, don't even think about the money. As a business person, real money always follows from demonstrating the benefits of your services and products to the ideal customer.

4. Meet Your Customers Where They Are

Thanks in large part to social media, the world is transitioning from a corporate-dominated, sales-based economy to a trust-based economy. In the past, dominant companies could count on “blind” brand loyalty from customers to guarantee steady profits, even if their products and post-sales service were severely lacking.

Not anymore. Today, there is truly global competition across many industries, and the smallest glitch or weakness shown by corporations are quickly exposed, spread virally by consumers through the Internet, and exploited by ruthless competitors. The auto industry is a great example. No matter how big the company (e.g. GM, Toyota) individuals have the power to make them fall to their knees if they fail to deliver. Social media generally isn't friendly to the airline industry as well, but the dangers are worse for smaller businesses who don't have the time or money to invest in online reputation management.

On the plus side, when used properly, social media marketing and Facebook provides a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business owners as it's a great way for your most loyal and enthusiastic customers to share their love and excitement for your company and brand.

5. Build Lasting Relationships

Running a business is not only building customer relationships but also your network. It so easy to forget the people who gave you advice, introduced you to key suppliers, or simply served as a sounding board for your crazy ideas. Quite frankly, many of them wouldn’t take it personally that you are not contacting them anymore. They know that you are busy and have time-consuming obligations.

However, part of what makes success stories stand out is paying attention to little details, and calling your mentors to say ‘Thank You’ really goes a long way. So what if a teacher, former employer, or business coach has retired to Florida and isn’t part of the scene anymore. They’ll appreciate your gesture that much more because it will remind them that they helped someone achieve their goals. This could also lead to opportunities for them to feature you to their audience, use your success as a case study, and potentially drive more traffic and sales into your business.


Keeping contact with key members of your inner circle gives them a reason to continue following your progress and helping you even more in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you start an online business?

If you have an idea for an online business, there are a few steps yo can take to transform it into a business venture. The first step is to come up with a business plan. That will help you organize your thoughts, out down your goals and give you a framework to launch your business. The next thing you need to do is to decide what kind of business structure you want to opt for, and based on that you'd need to register your business. If you need financing, reach out to investors and work towards launching your business.

How do you market your online business?

There are many different ways to market your online business. One way is to get into online business directories such as google business or Yelp. To reach out to your specific customer base, consider targeted social media marketing on platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. Make sure your website is up to date and reflective of your brand. You can also consider using SEO tools to come up with content and commentary related to your business that can help you build a customer base and community.

Was this page helpful?
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Federal Trade Commission. "Electronic Commerce: Selling Internationally A Guide for Businesses."

  2. Small Business Administration. "5 Tips to Make Your Small Business Social Media Savvy."

  3. The Hartford Small BizAhead. "How to Start a Small Online Business in 6 Easy Steps."

  4. American Express. "How to Market Your Business for Free."

Related Articles