Every business has a life cycle. If you understand this cycle, your business will thrive and survive over many, many years. If you don’t learn the life cycle of a business, you won’t have one for long.
Based upon your business’ current stage, one strategy of growth will be better than another. There are seven stages associated with the life of an online business. Let's call them:
The first stage of your business, the Labored Beginnings Stage, is the most difficult stage. In this stage you will be building the foundation of your business. With a shoddy foundation, you will have a stillborn business. With a solid foundation, your business will experience a long and healthy life.
In this stage, you need to decide on the focus of your business, its product, its business plan, its marketing plan, financial decisions, its legal form, and then launch the business. Many sleepless nights will accompany this stage. You may wake up in a cold sweat wondering what the hell you are doing. In this stage, your emotions will swing between unbridled optimism and heart palpitating fear.
Having successfully navigated the first stage, your business will grow into its next stage, the Toddler Stage. In the Toddler stage, your business is just finding its legs. It takes a few steps forward. It takes a few steps backward. It occasionally falls on its butt.
In the Toddler Stage, you are going to start selling your product on eBay™ . eBay™ is by far the largest online auction site. If you want to make a good living selling online, eBay™ is the place to start. In this stage, you will fully establish yourself as an online seller. You will observe powersellers, the elite of eBay™. They are your models. Learn all you can. In the Toddler Stage you should also begin to develop the first stages of your marketing plan implementation, including the use of business cards and starting to compile a mailing list. As we leave the Toddler Stage, your business is starting to roll now.
The Adolescent Stage is where your first major growth spurt will occur. You should begin to increase the number of auctions you are running at eBay™. You will add auction management to assist you in managing a larger selling load. You need to establish your domain level web site and step up your marketing efforts.
Marketing will be key in moving your business to the next stage, the Troubled Teen Stage. Why the “Troubled” Teens? In this stage your business can start to spin out of control. You need to establish systems to help you manage your sales and delight your customers. You need to take a close look at your products and drop the low performers. And, marketing once again gets ramped up. Successfully executed, your actions in this stage will lead you to the Young Adult Stage.
In the Young Adult Stage, you will more firmly establish your selling presence on eBay™ with an eBay™ Store. You will start to shift where you spend your time from auctions to more online sales. You’ll need to add new products and weed out low performing products. At the same time, you will continue to increase your marketing activities to include click advertising and an autoresponder. These activities should take you to the next stage, the Maturity Stage.
In the Maturity Stage, your business is firmly established. Sound good? Yes, but it is also the second most dangerous stage after your start-up stage. Why? Your business is doing well. The profits are rolling in. You aren’t working as hard because of the systems you established. Why is this dangerous? You will have the urge to relax and put the company on autopilot.
Shouldn’t you be able to relax and enjoy the fruit of your labors? Of course. However, remember that each day others just like you are beginning to launch their businesses. And, they are coming after you. They want your customers. Now is the time to really assess your marketing efforts. What’s working? What’s not working? Do more of what’s working because one last choice remains. Are you going to renew your business or watch it slowly die?
In the last stage, the Renewal or Death Stage, you need to learn to look at your business with fresh eyes and start this journey all over again. On the second trip, you will have more confidence, knowledge and expertise. You will also have acquired some bad habits. It’s time to shed those and lead your business once more through the stages of its life. The beat goes on…
Michele Schermerhorn has over 30 years experience in the business world and over 12 years running her own successful online businesses. She is President of Online Business Institute Inc. (http://www.obinstitute.com ), authors a marketing blog (http://www.imarketblog.com ), and regularly conducts free online seminars. Online Business Institute Inc. exists to “Create Successful Online Business Owners One Person At A Time”.