A subscriber on the Powerful Business Networking group asked for a checklist of steps to starting an online store. Here’s what I shared..
Off the top of my head, here are some steps I’d recommend:
* Check local and state licensing/permit requirements for the business area and structure you’ve chosen — get your DBA or LLC setup, etc
Federal (US) — http://tinyurl.com/262r7x
State — http://tinyurl.com/2hbrul
Local — http://tinyurl.com/yvxzus
* Choose your business/product line names and do searches to be sure you don’t violate an existing trademark or service mark: http://tinyurl.com/26dp91
* Decide on your account method (keep good records!)
* Decide on and sign up for your payment acceptance methods
PayPal — http://www.paypal.com
Google Checkout — http://checkout.google.com
Merchant Account — http://cdgcommerce.com
* Research and choose a domain name and website host
My hosting company offers a free guide to help you know what to look for – www.creocommunico.com
* Start working on a marketing plan
Be sure to include getting listed in online shopping directories, Google Base (http://base.google.com), etc.
* Begin researching and choose your shopping cart
Start by listing out all the features that you need, such as types of products you want to sell (virtual downloads or physical shipped products), what shipping and payment methods you need, whether you need to be able to collect taxes on your products, your technical ability level (because some carts are much more user friendly than others), etc. Be sure to really research shopping carts and make sure that you know what features you want before you pick one. Look around to see what other stores in your business are using and how it works for them. Ask friends or colleagues what carts they’re using and if they’re happy with them.
* Create your logo and customize your website/shopping cart
Set up your payment methods, shipping methods, categories, products, informational pages, etc
* Setup a newsletter/announcement list
I recommend www.aweber.com but there are lots of other options. I do not recommend Yahoo Groups or anything similar that requires your customers to go sign up for an account somewhere just to get your newsletter. Make it easy for them. Yahoo Groups is great for connecting and interactive groups. Other services are better for business newsletters. Spring for one that does not add advertisements to your newsletters. www.ymlp.com is another good, reliable service to consider.
* Request feedback on your website/store so far
Contact trusted colleagues, your business coach, etc to get honest feedback.
* Do a final check on your site
Be sure it’s easy to purchase from (run test purchases), and that it’s easy for customers to find important information such as your policies, shipping prices, payment acceptance methods, etc.
* Open your store for business and begin PROMOTING!!
Follow your marketing plan and dono’t get discouraged if it takes a bit of time to get your business going. It usually does but if you stick with it and keep marketing things will happen.