Congratulations. You have decided the start an e-business or have decided to expand your existing business online. We have created a list of ten steps to help you on your way.

1. Evaluate the Idea

The bottom line of any business depends upon customers buying your product or service – if they won't buy you won't succeed! Unfortunately many businesses fail simply because they don't know who their customer is. Your customers might be consumers or retail stores, wholesalers or manufacturers, government or other institutions. List as many points as you can about who yo u think will buy your product and then list the reasons why they would by from you and not your competitor.

2. Define the Revenue Model

Now that you have identified your customer and listed the reasons they would by from you your next step is to define your revenue model – how are you going to make money. Find out who your competitors are and what they charge for similar products and services. What is unique about your offer that would benefit your customer? There may be something about your product, your price, the friendliness and speed of your service, your hours of operation, your level of quality, the skills of your employees or other aspect of your business?

3. Erase the “E”

Remove the “e” from e-business and e-commerce. Online business is no different then traditional “real world” business – it's just a different environment. The same rules governing business practices, competition, customer service, marketing, and taxation apply, although they may vary slightly. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that e-business and e-commerce is easier.

4. Take a Seminar

Take advantage of the incredible amount of seminars offered by Small Business BC. These incredibly affordable seminars cover almost every aspect of starting a small business, such as taxation, human resources, copyright, trademarks, sales, marketing, accounting, and search engine marketing – all presented by industry experts. Details and a full listing can be found at www.smallbusinessbc.ca/seminars

5. Create the Business

Although many e-businesses begin as home-based, they need to be setup and registered properly – and when your business outgrows your home-office and becomes the “next big thing” you'll be thankful it has this strong foundation. Use the amazing resources available at Small Business BC to create your business; most of them free. They can help you conduct a business name search and business registration, obtain a GST, PST, and business number, and guide you through the process of registering with Worksafe BC , municipal business licensing, and many other rules and regulations applications.

6. Write Your Business Plan

Success in today's economy requires a solid foundation of knowledge from which sound business decisions can be made. For most people considering or involved in creating a new business venture, this foundation is built from a formal business plan. Even if you believe your business does not require a formal plan, most business experts highly recommend that you conduct at least some preliminary research prior to committing yourself legally or financially to your business enterprise. The strategic value of a business plan is derived from the information you collect and the knowledge you acquire during this process. That is, the exercise of preparing a business plan is critical in helping you gain an understanding of how your business venture will operate in the marketplace. Checkout Small Business BC's Business Plan resources page at http://www.smallbusinessbc.ca/bizstart-bPlanning.php

7. Craft the Message

What are the words and phrases your customers would search for to find your products or services? Your main message should revolve around those words and phrases. For instance, suppose you repair radios in Vernon BC . It is logical to assume that potential customers living in the area will be searching for “ radio repair north okanagan ” and so your message should be: “ Vernon Communications, North Okanagan's expert affordable radio repair since 1991 ”. This message will serve as your “tag line” and will become the foundation for your marketing.

8. Register the Domain

Use your crafted message when you register your domain name. In the example above a good domain name would be vernon-radio-repair.com or okanagan-radio-repair.com because both domains contain the words that potential customers will use when the search. A domain name provides an online identity and contact point for your business or organization. Choosing an appropriate yet available name is no easy task in a saturated market — world-wide, registered domain names near 5 billion and counting. Therefore, choosing the right domain name means balancing availability with brand recognition, search engine marketing, and user appeal.

9. Write the Content

The right keywords in your web copy can make the difference between a top 10 and top 500 search engine ranking. Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search engines frequently send spiders to websites in search of relevant, keyword-rich web copy. Nourish their logical needs and you'll reap higher search engine rankings and traffic. Once you get visitors to your website, your web copy must connect with them on an emotional level to engage them and ultimately convert sales. That's where customer-centric web copy, compelling headlines, effective calls to action and strategically placed links come into play. You gain credibility, trust and sales. Crafting content is hard and so it is often wise to employ the services of a quailed web copy writer, like Rick Sloboda from www.webcopyplus.com

10. Hire the Best Company

The web development industry is unregulated and anyone can profess to be a web developer. You need to educate yourself in matters of usability, aesthetics, search engine marketing, ecommerce, regulations, and taxation in order to ensure you are hiring a qualified and competent person to create your website. Ask to see previous work: This is the best way to assess their skills. But don't let yourself be fooled by appearances. Just because they have a professional looking website doesn't mean they are a professional company. Our directory of e-solution providers, www.ebizpages.ca , lists web companies that are BC registered businesses.