(Part I of II) Five Essential Elements of an Online Business

Time to get practical and tactical by tackling the five essential elements of an online business:

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Building blocks of business, working together.

Time to get practical and tactical by tackling the five essential elements of an online business:

  1. What industry will your business be a part of?
  2. Who will be the audience, or target market, for your business?
  3. What problems need solving at the for your industry + target market?
  4. What will be your business model?
  5. Will your primary marketing channel be content, platform, or paid?

Element One: An Industry (or Topic)

Want a deeper version of this? You can read that here, or keep reading for the condensed version specific to this lesson.

The biggest decision you have already made, it was starting a business. The next hardest decision is picking an industry. The topic you cover with your blog, podcast, or video channel. The possibilities are endless and it will be difficult to know if it will work out.

People search the Internet to solve a problem, learn, reach a goal, and/or be entertained (sometimes all of the above at the same time).

To have a business that succeeds, you will need to find a topic that suits you well and is specific enough to draw in a loyal audience.

Here is a list of industry or topics:

Alcohol & Cannabis

Education

Insurance

Minimalism

Race, Culture, & Diversity

Arts & Crafts

Faith & Spirituality

Language

Music

Real Estate

Architecture

Fashion

Law

Nonprofits & Social Enterprise

ScienceAutomobiles

Film & TV

Leadership

Organizing & Printables

Sports

Beauty

Finance

Lifestyle Design

Outdoor Recreation & AdventureStartups

Blogging & Online Business

Fitness

Magic

Parenting & Kids

Sustainability

Career Coaching & Development

Food & Farming

Management

Personal Development

Technology

Design (Digital)

Freelancing

Marketing

Photography & Videography

TravelDesign (Interior)

Health & Wellness

Marriage & Relationships

Politics

Web Development & Engineering

eCommerce

Home Improvement & DIY

Mental Health

Productivity

Writing & Publishing

Once you have a list of each topic you might be interested in, use these questions to help narrow the list. Which of my highlighted topics align with:

  • What are my hobbies?
  • How do I spend my free time?
  • What do I enjoy reading and learning about?
  • What types of classes did I enjoy in high school or college?
  • If I could do one thing the rest of my life regardless of salary, what would I do?
  • When I was a kid, what did I spend time doing when no one was telling me what I should do?

Narrow the list to a small list of three to five topics or industries. Now we need to run it through a more business-focused lens. Starting a business that’s designed to make money, and not just a blog for fun, your topic should have these two main qualities:

  1. Other people should value the topic enough to pay money for products or services related to that topic
  2. You should have some expertise on the topic (or at a desire to build more expertise with time)
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After narrowing it to the one (or two at most) you want to move forward or you can take a quick break.

(5 minute break, take it, we all need one)

(Welcome Back)

Now, I already know what you’re thinking: “How can I choose just one topic or industry?!”

It can feel like a lot of pressure when you’re just getting started, but that’s perfectly normal. Discomfort and fear helps you grow. Let’s get started, you can adjust over time.

Element Two: A Target Market (or Audience)

Deep dive: For a full article about picking an audience for your blog, podcast, or video channel, which directly relates to this lesson. You can read that here, or keep reading for the condensed version specific to this lesson.

The combination of your topic and your audience is a huge opportunity to make your business unique compared to all of the other online businesses out there.

There will be 1,000+ other fitness blogs out there and they will keep growing, but a football fitness business for high school defensive backs narrows the field of competition to a much smaller group. The right audience allows you to focus your business on a niche that will feel small now, but that will be the perfect jumping off point to allow you to grow over time.

How to choose your blog audience

Step 1 — Make a list of things you enjoy

Grab a sheet of paper or open up notes on your computer then write down at least 10 things you already know. Circle your favorite two.

Step 2 — Make a list of attributes that people have in those topics

These attributes should describe your ideal reader, the person who would most benefit from learning about your topic. Why would they care about your topic? What are their struggles related to your topic? What inspires them about your topic? What motivates them to learn more about the topic?

Step 3 — Compare the 2 lists

Who on your first list has at least some of the attributes on your second list? If they share the attributes, then cross them out. Whatever list has the most attributes leftover to itself is the winner.

Step 4 — Pick a person

Now search on social media of Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, or reddit connections until you find at least one person who would be interested in the topic.

That one person now represents your audience. Write and create for your blog should be with this one human being in mind. By focusing on one specific person to start, you’ll eventually find the universal content that matters most and with your knowledge you will have several pieces of content to write about.

Element Three: A Problem Worth Solving

Deep dive: We’ve written a full article about surveying your audience for their pain points for your product which directly relates to this lesson. You can read that here, or keep reading for the condensed version specific to this lesson.

People pay to solve for the things they’re struggling with. If a problem is painful enough, they’ll pay a lot of money to solve that problem. Understanding the challenges your audience has is central to building a business that lasts.

So the third part of this lesson is simple:

What does my ideal customer, ___(customer )_____, struggle with when it comes to my topic, ________________?

Make a list of potential answers. These problems and challenges will fuel your content calendar to start, and they’ll also serve as a jumping off point for customer research when it comes time to make your first product or service.

Bonus points (Discovering what problem to solve):

Do you know the person you picked as your ideal customer?

Give them a call and chat for 5–15 minutes. Here are a couple questions to ask after you tell them why you’re calling: I’m starting a business about ______________, just want to ask you a couple quick questions about it.:

  • What do you love about [topic]?
  • What’s hard about [topic] for you?
  • How much time do you spend on [topic]? Do you wish you spent more time? What prevents you from spending more time on it?

The more data the better, having this conversation enough times with enough people in your target audience will produce results. One of the first things you will have is laundry list of ideas for your content calendar and for future products and services.

Good luck and if you need more help please review the step by step series

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