Saturday, January 07, 2006

Online success depends on how much you C-A-R-E

C - content
A - appearance
R - responsibility
E - exposure


Much has been said and written about the do's and don't's that will help a business or entrepreneur be successful on the internet. Depending upon the venue, type of business, purpose and a host of other variables will determine what has to be done to ensure this success or at least give you an even chance to succeed.

I, along with many others in the management, marketing and consulting fields have written articles alluding to business success on the internet and what is needed or should be done to attain this success. Is it guaranteed? No - but depending on the type of service or product, there are certain aspects of management that must be recognized, then implemented to have any kind of hope to do well.

CARE - is a great keyword to focus on and use as a management tool to help guide your day to day business activities. Each topic related to a letter in CARE is totally dependent and relative to the other letters and without one the others will never accomplish total management control of your online business.

C - content, the importance of what you include, how you use it and where you use it can not be over emphasized. It is the first information that is conveyed to your visitor and they will gain their confidence in you and your service or product from this. Your web site content must be accurate, informative, applicable, brief and to the point. You need to clearly show how and where you can be contacted, where you are located and a brief blurb on who you are. These are things a potential client or customer will want to know before anything else so make it clear and easy to find.

A - appearance is more important than you may think. The appearance of your web site must be professional looking, easy to read, attractive color scheme and designed with your target audience in mind. Is it for youth, seniors, mothers, outdoors related, whatever it is, the web site theme needs to reflect that for the comfort of your visitor.

The content and appearance of your web site is what will set the tone for your online business - Have a professional create it. Your brothers daughter who is in 2nd year of web design at the local community college is not the one to do it. They may have artistic flair and have created a couple of nice looking personal sites - but this is your business that you may need to depend on for your income. If you owned a gift shop in the local mall - would your brothers daughter design it and choose the display stock etc - I doubt it.

R - responsibility is what you owe yourself, your staff, your clients and customers. In your startup phase where you are setting the stage to hopefully attain a successful business, is not the time nor place to cut corners. Bite the bullet and do it right first time. It will save you alot of time, extra effort and even money and embarrassment in the future. By responsibility, I mean such things as; pay attention to your customers suggestions, respond in a timely manner to their questions, make it attractive for them to do business with you by offering specials, discounts, free shipping - whatever it takes to make them feel like you really do want their business. Again, depending on the type of product or service you offer, you should think about what you could offer your visitors to make it easy, helpful and even fun to visit your web site. Such enhancements like; message board for questions and answers, product/service polls, guestbook for comments, photo gallery for their childrens photo's and many, many more.

Check your email constantly, review your web site statistics daily, keep your web site fresh and up to date, add new features whenever possible - it's all part of your responsibility.

E - exposure is arguably the most singular, important function that will help make your online business successful. A professional has designed your web site, a consultant and/or marketeer has written the content and you have done your due diligence, now how do you get potential clients and customers to come to your web site. The three P's now take over: promotion - promotion - promotion, you cannot have enough nor can you overdue promotion. Again have a professional conduct this activity for you - a company who advertises that they will submit your web site to 1000 search engines is not what you want - you need someone, a marketeer, consultant or company who specializes in business promotion not web site submissions.

Yes, web site submissions are a very important part of promotion, but there is right way and a wrong way to do it - search engine submissions must be done by manual methods, submitting to each individual search engine, not automatic batch submissions. They must be monitored and re submitted at select intervals, search engines change their criteria constantly so your web site must be updated to take advantage of this.

Press releases are also important, especially for a new business or a business that has started up a new product line or service. There are numerous resources for this form of advertising that can benefit your business greatly.

What about non internet advertising? This needs to be addressed also - your email address, your web site address can be placed on your business cards, letterhead, brochures and any other hard media that you use - just remember the three P's.

Follow C-A-R-E and your chances for a successful online business could be greatly improved over those who do not - the internet is growing in leaps and bounds with numerous businesses going online daily - your competition is also growing - grab an advantage and show how much you C-A-R-E

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Prepare Your Business For The Internet

Just about everyone seems to have an internet business these days. From a home based entrepenuer selling handmade gifts on eBay to the local dollar store with a full blown ecommerce site.

It's becoming more common every day to create a business web site and make money! But, before you throw all your hopes, dreams and savings into the Internet Superhighway, there are a few things you should know first:

Any brick & morter business first starts with an idea then is followed by research and planning. Some never get past this point due to many different reasons such as a high start-up cost, over-saturation of a product or service in the marketplace, legal barriers, and so forth. Perhaps it's just not the right business or the right time. Maybe it's just too much work. Whatever the reason, it's better to find out now than after you've sunk your savings and countless hours of wasted time into something that just won't work for you.

The same process applies to an internet based business. You must know and establish your business goals, capabilities, customer base and costs. In short, learn everything related to your anticipated business venture before you build your web site and expect to start making money.

Once you have done your homework and are confident that you can succeed on the internet, then research online businesses like yours. Do a competitive analysis of similar businesses. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of the different sites and the specifics you are looking for. Spend as much time on this as you can, check out as many competitors web sites as possible and in as much depth as you can. This is not wasted time and effort, it may just save you much more time and a lot of money.

Compare your competitors web sites and try to at least meet or succeed their criteria:

- Download time [fast or slow]
- Overall look & feel [attractive - comfortable]
- Navigation ease [sitemap]
- What information do they provide [is it informative]
- Do they offer incentives
- Do they have a customer forum - newsletter - ezine - ebook.
- Can you find contact information for their business location
- How is shipping [quick, expensive, free with purchase]
- Payment methods [credit cards, paypal] easy to order
- Do they provide tips, instructions, education, help line
- Do they promote an affiliate program
- Do they offer paid advertising opportunities
- Is their site saturated with pop-ups and banner ads
- How is their pricing
- Do they have online coupons or specials

What else is specific to your product or service. If you are selling vitamin pills and packages, you would want to check out what brands your competitors are selling, their prices, what packages or special's they are offering, how they are shipping and what methods of payment do they have.

This research and analysis should give you an overall feel for what you need to build into your online business and web site that is competitive in your market. As an example if your competitors offer free shipping, can you afford to also - if not then is there something else you can offer to make your product or service attractive.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Can My Business Succeed On The Internet!


SURE IT CAN!
But there are a few rules and guidelines you need to follow.

In many respects doing business on the internet is not that much different than what you would do in the conventional business world, marketing, advertising, management and operation are all necessary functions for both. The philosophy of the internet business owner in many cases differ from the conventional business owner in that they often appear to have the opinion that once their web site is built, their work is finished. Visitors will just come and buy their products or services and they’ll get rich with very little or no effort – NOT SO!

First, Let’s do an analysis. If for example your business consisted of a gift shop where you sold handicrafts that you created at home, in a small shop or store, how will you sell them? From your home, shop or store, by mailorder, on the internet, local flea markets. This is an obvious first question or step that dictates, where, how and to whom. No matter what you decide the next steps are critical for your success and will be the foundation on which to build your business. Once you have decided what you will sell and from where you will sell it, now you need the vehicle that will carry you and your business through the rest of the steps.

The two most important tools that you will need are a business plan and a marketing plan. You will gain both knowledge and experience in the creation and implimentation of these plans and they will help more than you can imagine in your day to day business by constant reviewing of and referral to them.

Your business plan will guide you in the development and operation of your business and the marketing plan will assist you with establishing your sales strategies and help with locating a target audience. Don’t underestimate the importance of these plans, they will save you a lot of grief and frustration later on. This does’nt mean that everything in the future will be rosy, but it will help to cut down on the severity and frequency of the hiccups and help you face and overcome them.

So what is different between what you need and how you approach starting a conventional business or one on the internet – NOTHING!

In both cases you need the foundation and most of all – commitment. How you conduct business, how you pay attention to and treat your customers, how you take advantage of promotional and marketing opportunities and how you live up to this commitment.

Keys to Succeed!

1/ Proper Planning – Well thought out and prepared business plan
2/ Find Your Niche – Well researched and defined marketing plan
3/ Compare – Determine level of competition thoroughly
4/ Promotion – Research marketing tools and opportunities
5/ Value – Establish product/services pricing based on competition

Are you satisfied with the results of the above points, are they favourable in all respects?
Then you have a very good chance of success for your business venture.

Synopsis!

A convential [Brick & Mortor] business, whether it’s a retail store, home based requires a good
location or venue to attract traffic in some manner.

- strong visibility
- friendly and helpful staff
- pleasent atmosphere and appearance
- easy to find location
- convenient and favourable hours for shoppers
- someone always available to help and support your customers

Strange as it may sound [at first] all these points apply to an internet business also. It will never ever succeed without this attention. As I alluded to at the start of this article – An absentee owner has a free pass to failure.

You would never think of opening a retail store in a strip mall without any advertising or staff to serve the customers – nor would you just dump all your products haphazardly around the floor of the store – the same considerations appy to your online internet business – but only if you want to succeed!

Is Internet Marketing Misunderstood?

I believe it is and not just by the business or web site owner, but also by the online businesses who claim to market your business.

Promotion, advertising, marketing are terms used for functions that should add the exposure for your web site business that will bring it to the attention of people looking for a product or service similiar to what you offer.

Is being listed on the major search engines the answer – surprisingly, no! Of course it doesn’t hurt simply because this is the tool most people will use, when they are attempting to find a certain product, service, business, company or name.

Unfortunately, there is a lot more to internet marketing than getting listed on a search engine. Why unfortunately? As an example, if you were to go to a major search engine and type in "market my web site” in the search box – what would you get? 99.9% or hundreds of listings offering to get your web site listed on thousands of search engines for $49.95 or something similiar. First of all – there are no where near thousands of search engines, maybe a dozen that are worth the time to submit too. Secondly, most of these submission services use automated software to submit your site. The top search engines do not accept automated submissions, all submissions must be manually submitted using a code to verify.

What’s the answer then? In my opinion, a company that will submit your web site to a thousand search engines – is not! A company or individual that offers a spectrum of services and options for not only your web site but also for your business and company is.

To have full representation for your business on the internet is similiar to what you would need in conventional business:

* Initially, review and analyse web site content and format
* Suggest, recommend appropriate web site changes – if needed
* Prepare a marketing plan for a targeted customer base
* Select a media and search engine resource base
* Create and publish a Press Release to newswire media
* Manually submit web site to selected search engine and topical directories

These above points are a definate requirement for full marketing, promotion and advertising functions needed to adequately represent a company/business web site for full exposure, and allow them to conduct their online presence at a high profile level.

Take the extra time needed to find a marketing/management consultant that will cover the points listed above, and spend whatever effort is required to see your marketing plan carried through to completion – it will be well worth it – don’t be satisifed with what is now perceived to be the internet marketing philosophy – going through an exercise like this will help you to understand what internet marketing really is!