How to Create a Minimum Viable Online Business

Image of Budding Apple Blossom

Overwhelm is fast becoming the 21 century entrepreneur’s disease.

If you are feeling overwhelmed in your business online right now, take comfort in the fact you are not alone, and there are solutions!

The first solution, as Sonia outlined in her post last week, is to keep calm and carry on. How do you eat an elephant? Break things down, eat that elephant one bite at a time.

But what does that look like in reality?

What is the minimum required to get your business moving in the right direction online?

Let’s find out …

First, why you?

You have a few big questions to answer first. Everything hinges on this, because these questions alone can bring on those overwhelm feelings.

  • What do you do?
  • Who do you do it for?
  • Why would someone choose you over someone else?

Don’t panic!

You don’t have to get this right first time, but you do have to have some idea that broadly works if you are going to make traction.

It especially works well if you can talk in terms of a beneficial outcome. Rather than say you perform acupuncture, talk about permanently removing back pain.

You know you are on the right track if people say “Oh interesting, how does that work?” or “How do you do that?” rather than “That’s nice, goodbye!”

Set up your home base

Next you need your own website, on your own domain. It does not have to be an award-winning design, but it does need to represent you well. Just like in a job interview, you only get one chance at a first impression, so you need to dress for the role you want.

Set up your site with WordPress on a reliable host, and add a premium theme. If your design at the very least does not put off potential customers and allows your content to shine then you will be well ahead of many websites out there!

Write content that attracts

Talking of content, this is where the real work starts.

You need to identify the needs of your most-wanted audience and speak to those needs in your articles. Your content should tell stories that deliver a message your audience needs to hear. You should solve problems and build trust. Show that you can help the people in your marketing with what they need.

It’s not just about finding search engine keywords to write about but making a connection with your prospects so they want to hear from you more, and trust you enough to want to work with you.

Gather leads

As you attract attention you need to turn your mind to retaining that attention. Keep people coming back and strengthen that connection you have started to build.

While many people would advocate RSS Feeds, or even asking people to follow you on social media, nothing will beat email. Back in the day we thought feeds were going to be the next big thing and sadly, we were so, so wrong! You need a proper email service rather than a free feed delivery feature. If you want more details, you can read more about why I recommended Aweber over Feedburner (even back in 2008).

First you need people to give you permission to contact them in the future, second you want to know that you are on the right track, third you want your audience to have good reason to keep paying attention to you.

Yes, you want to gather email addresses, and email subscribers are much more likely to want to become customers than any other website visitor, but as important are the insights that interacting with these prospects will provide you.

Rather than guess what your market wants from you, interact, test and experiment with your own engaged feedback group.

As you get to know your readers, and as they get to know you, then you can build products and services they actually want to buy.

Your compelling offer

Creating something people actually want to buy is the real trick. So many people have cool creations and then try to get someone to buy, when identifying a need and supplying something that fills that need is usually far easier.

Developing a compelling offer can be as simple as getting to know your market and finding out what they most need help with. What are they very motivated to have solved? What are they reading and willing to invest in?

At this point many people get overwhelmed or stuck in analysis paralysis. I know I did years ago. The good news, though, is you don’t have to spend months in development hell!

As anyone who has heard of Teaching Sells will know, online education is a fantastic way to help your market succeed, and using the “Minimum Viable Product” approach it can also be a rapid way to go from zero to having an offer.

Following that minimum viable product approach, you can confidently go to your market, develop solutions they are eager to buy, and incrementally grow that offering in partnership with your customers. Even better, you can often get paid up-front, which is a terrific confidence booster as well as being financially healthier situation than running up credit cards!

Teaching Sells is coming …

If the Minimum Viable Product approach is one that resonates with you, you may want to check out our flagship course, Teaching Sells.

Teaching Sells is a comprehensive course on building an online business … and it all starts with getting to that Minimum Viable Product.

There’s no better way to test your market, sharpen your ideas, and zero in on creating a product that your audience wants to buy.

Here’s where you can learn more about the course (and sign up for the interest list): What is Teaching Sells?

Look forward to seeing more of you there!

About the author

Chris Garrett

Chris Garrett is Chief Digital Officer at Copyblogger Media. He helps Copyblogger serve our customers by combining marketing strategy with technology. Connect with Chris on Twitter.

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  1. Content is the most important part of a blog. However, most bloggers today(the newbies anyway) want to make money so content becomes a sales pitch.

    In the sales world, they always say “telling isn’t selling”. This is why most bloggers lose interest. The content that they are writing stinks, purely because the reader can sense that they are trying to sell them something!

    • Yes, I think if more marketers focused on what their prospect wants rather than what they want then content would perform better.

      • There’s a fine line between “content with value to the audience” and “content that wastes a sales pitch opportunity.” In my experience, finding the right balance is a major challenge. It’s all about creating content that provides value _and_ positions the publishing brand as a key solution, but without stinking the whole thing up with “hard sell” language. In this sense, content’s potential as a marketing tool is more in lead generation than in direct sales conversions.

  2. This is so spot on.

    Overwhelm is one of the biggest reasons why my coaching clients hire me. And it’s funny you put out this post today, because I just put out something similar.

    One of the biggest things though: you don’t have to get things perfect right this very moment. You’ll keep tweaking and experimenting. It’s only through action that you’ll get better, not through trying to figure it all out.

    • Online business is a constant effort of doing our best, then tweaking, tuning, testing and optimising, and the more comfortable we are with that the less overwhelm we will feel. Now, there are people who can deliver highly polished output that hits the mark 100% every single time, but most of us are not that perfect and shouldn’t try to be.

  3. Excellent post. More businesses need to take the route of your acupuncture example. “I remove back pain.” They need to stand out like this, by talking about features. If people don’t know why they need your product, they wont buy. It’s that simple.

    • I think we get trained to think about what we DO rather than what people GET. “I am a realtor”, “I am a chiropractor”, “I am an accountant”. People don’t want what you do, if they had a choice they probably wouldn’t pay you at all, they want the outcome or result. We don’t want to fly in a metal tube for 24 hours, we want to be in Australia :)

  4. I may have to keep this conversation in mind next time I need business cards. :)

    • When you next do your business cards, also think about having a call to action rather than just your contact details. As well as HOW to get in contact with you, it helps to have a WHY :)

  5. Enjoy the quality content in your emails and bloggings, keep them coming : ) Yes, I want to be part of Teaching Sells!

  6. Well said Chris,
    I think one problem we do face is that most of us are always lazy to apply the things we learn. I think that if we can bend down and work on our self, change our mindset……Then amazing posts like this will do us good.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Maybe sometimes it is laziness but I know a lot of people feel stuck not knowing what to do when there is so much conflicting information. Hopefully the minimal version I offered here will help some :)

  7. This is a great article ― and subtle. Structured to motivate beginners, it gives an easy-to-understand overview of a common sense approach to getting a basic strategy established online.
    The subtlety is that does so without overwhelming the aspirant e-marketer with any details of the 1001 variables that are attendant upon the optimum development of a successful online presence. The implication is that this knowledge will be gained in an organic fashion as the e-marketer progresses.

    The only criticism, grammatically speaking, is that I found the partial usage of ‘overwhelm’ as a noun somewhat jarring ― unless it’s entered the blogspeak lexicon as such? Traditionally speaking, it is a transitive verb.
    As a blogeditor, I would also like to know if the use of ‘21’ in the opening line as opposed to the conventional ‘21st’ was intended or not.

    Alvin Toffler, the great American futurist and writer, coined the term future shock way back in the early 1970s (in his book Future Shock) to describe and predict the negative effects of overwhelming technological change on humanity.
    His central theme was that it was the cumulative effect of rapid and constant change, rather than actual change itself, that would likely produce the syndrome.
    Toffler also predicted the emergence of the ‘electronic cottage’ and the ‘global village’ by being the first ― to my knowledge― to coin these terms, in the book.

    It is an interesting fact that there have always been more live scientists than dead ones; which reinforces the supposition that technological change will continue to accelerate until, presumably, some sort of critical mass occurs.

  8. The problem with most of us is that we read quality stuff and even promise ourselves to try it out, only to forget about it the next minute. Such posts should never go into a waste. We have so many business ventures out there which can benefit from this information. Let’s keep reading, learning and applying new ideas and advice in our businesses.

  9. Fabulous tips on how to write content that people really want and will read, rather than simple “blog fodder” – thank you! Tehmina