Opening an online B2B site is ultimately very similar to starting a company that has a physical storefront. However, one big difference is that doing business over the internet can help you reach customers that would likely never visit your physical location. Don’t underestimate the power a functional website wields in getting your product or service in front of your target audience, whether local or in other states. Here are the basics of starting your online business.
Third-Party Platform, or Build-Your-Own Site?
While third-party platforms or marketplaces used to be few and far between other than Amazon, eBay, Etsy, or Airbnb, new platforms and marketplaces are popping up constantly. Building a B2B presence through an eCommerce marketplace or third-party platform may be simpler because you won’t have to build your website yourself. However, most of those sites charge monthly fees, or per product listing, or may charge other fees. Probably the biggest factor is whether those marketplaces or platforms actually attract businesses in your target demographic.
On the other hand, when you host your own eCommerce site you will be selling your products and services directly to your business partners without a go-between. Hosting your own site gives you complete control over your business, including the look and feel of your site, which is important when selling your brand. Depending on your industry or business, and your company’s tech abilities, you may or may not want to hire someone else to build your site from scratch.
Start Planning Your Business
If you already have a physical business and are just expanding online, you still need an online business plan. While you do need an overall plan for your online company, it will need to be flexible in the beginning stages. But, before you even start your plan, you need to determine where the market for your product or service is and how you plan to present it online. You’ll also need to identify your startup costs and consider your funding and metrics. Determine what type of program or system you’ll need in place to stay on top of your finances and to compare your projections with actual sales.
Setting Up Your Website
The first step toward creating your new B2B venture online is securing your name. You’ll need to purchase a domain name, so the quicker you decide on a business name the faster you can check to see if it’s available. Once you’ve secured your domain name, it’s time to start building your site. Whether you build it in-house or hire an outside expert will really depend on how much expertise you or your team has in site-building. If you are selling a simple product or service you may find it easy to use a site template; more complicated businesses would be better served by hiring a professional to custom-design your site to your specifications and to host and manage it.
When designing your new site, there are a couple of basics to keep in mind:
- Your site needs to be mobile-friendly in order to compete. If your B2B site isn’t optimized for mobile, Google will penalize you in their search results, and it will be difficult to find new clients organically. Additionally, the users who do try to find you on their phones will not have a positive experience.
- Only use high-quality images and graphics and avoid stock photos.
- Add a blog in your original design even if you haven’t secured any blogging content yet. It could be harder to add the feature after the site has been finished.
Once you’ve made your plan, determined your hosting, secured your domain, and built out your site, you need to read up on online business regulations that may affect your business, as online business law may not be the same as your brick and mortar business.