Despite the proliferation of DIY websites, instant SEO gurus and e-commerce evangelists littering the net, starting an online business isn’t a walk in the park. Be prepared for loads of research, plenty of trial and error, countless hours of design and content development, and probably plenty of sleepless nights into the bargain.
Finding a good web design and development team is a boon for the novice and can be the key to making your online business a success. But when their work is done and your site is live – how are you going to get people to your site? And how are they to know you exist in the first place? Let’s go through some steps that provide a handy guide to get the ball rolling, but be prepared, your work will never be entirely done.
1. Promote your site online.
Remember the Kevin Costner movie “Field of Dreams”? ‘If you build it, they will come’? Sadly that’s not the case with your website. You need to bring customers to your site, and that means having a reasonable online marketing budget. Seek professional help with search engine optimisation, pay-per-click advertising, perhaps an affiliate scheme and putting a proper link building program in place. It can make the difference between lots of visitors and none, and have a big impact on your search engine positioning.
2. Promote the site offline.
Don’t expect people to know about your site if you don’t tell them about it – at every opportunity. You need to lead the charge in driving traffic to your site, so put your website address on your business cards, your signage, your vehicle, every bit of printed literature and advertising, even invoices. If you have a shop, advertise your website in-store. Just because someone has walked in today, doesn’t mean they may not want to order again tomorrow in the middle of the night!
3. Change or update your site often.
Imagine if your local hardware store never changed its signs, put anything on sale or added new products. Your website is no different. You may have a cool site, but if it never changes, no one is going to come back to it. Keep the material on your site fresh, relevant and interesting and turn it into a talking point for visitors.
4. Bricks ‘n’ mortar service in a ‘clicks’ world.
Just because you are online doesn’t mean that service standards should slide. You must ensure you provide the same high level of service that you would in your real-world store. Customer expectations don’t change when shopping online, people still expect prompt contact, courtesy and resolution when things go wrong.
5. Build trust and make them feel secure.
6. When the price is right.
It’s a big w-w-world out there, which means more choice for your potential customers and much more competition for you. It pays to do your competitor analysis before you start throwing prices around and ‘cashing in’. Unless you’re in the enviable position of having a truly unique product, you need to ensure your pricing is competitive with other online retailers otherwise prospective customers will just keep on clicking.
7. Fast and well packaged delivery.
We live in an era of instant gratification, so whereas once upon a time people were happy to ‘allow 28 days for delivery’, now they want it immediately! Make sure your delivery systems are efficient, because the faster you get your goods to the customer, the better the chances they’ll be back for more.
8. Manage the virtual relationship.
In other words, keep in touch and show them you care. If a customer is happy for you to keep them informed about sales promotions and the latest products or services, capitalise on that marketing opportunity. Targeted, well designed email marketing is very cost effective. Implement regular e-mailouts, but make sure the information is useful and always give the customer the option of ‘opting out’.
Can you safely say ‘check’ when you measure your business’ online efforts against this list?