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There's never been a better time to take advantage of the expansive opportunities for online business development and growth that the internet affords. According to a Juniper Research study, the number of U.S. internet shoppers will grow at an average rate of 12 percent per year through 2010, resulting in more than $144 billion in online sales.
These positive forecasts should be music to the ears of any aspiring e-commerce entrepreneur. But there's more to building a thriving online business than getting your site up. There are some very important things you need to know first.
Adapt Strategic Marketing for Sustainable Online Success
While online businesses are unique in many ways, your e-commerce site is merely a tool that you will use to help you achieve your personal and professional goals. Therefore, you should develop yours using the same sound, time-tested, and well-thought-out business methodologies that companies have used for generations. Yes, the internet is relatively new, but good business skills have been around for thousands of years.
Design and Navigation: Make Your Website Dynamic and Visitor-Friendly
Your website's appearance and ease of navigation are a direct reflection of you, your company, and your products and can literally make or break your business. That's why it's vitally important that you do everything in your power to ensure that your website is welcoming and easy to read and use.
Dynamic Web Copy: Get People to Respond
Since you're building an e-commerce site that will offer exceptional products, you must be able to effectively converse with your prospects and customers and talk to them using language that is relevant and comfortable. That's why your first task is to candidly evaluate your own writing skills. Ask yourself where you fit, and be ruthlessly honest--the success of your website depends upon it.
Even though your copy should be honest and simple it can still be exciting! Turn on your imagination and spice it up with controversy, anecdotes, colorful figures of speech, power words or phrases and powerful headlines.
Traffic Conversion: Increase Sales and List Building
Traffic conversion is a committed process for building relationships and rapport with your targeted audience; it helps visitors to know, like, and trust you. When done correctly, it provides the opportunity for online marketers to achieve their ultimate objective of acquiring and retaining loyal and profitable customers.
Since you can't improve what you don't measure you should be asking yourself: How many visitors come to my website? How many visitors opt in to my e-mail list? How many people click on the buy buttons? What is my visitor value?
In order to optimize your website so your prospects and customers will be compelled to opt in to your mailing list; learn more about your products and/or services and feel comfortable purchasing from you, you need to make your website professional looking, eye-catching and well-written. To improve opt-in conversions, use attention-grabbing graphics, make sure your opt-in box is positioned "above the fold," make an irresistible offer and include a privacy statement.
Automation: Increase E-Commerce Profits
In addition to being the most effective time-saving tools available, automation programs are an internet marketer's best friend, hands down. These software gems allow you to reap the benefits of work you've already completed, over and over again. Simply said, there are so many benefits to automation programs that if you're serious about growing and sustaining a profitable online business, you'd be foolish to ignore them.
Multimedia: Increase Your Impact using Audio, Video, and Conferencing
The benefits for including customer-centric multimedia elements on your website are so forceful and undeniable that failing to do so is a huge mistake. You'll receive many paybacks when you add audio and/or video elements to your e-commerce site. But before beginning, keep in mind that multimedia content has to be delivered in the way your audience wants it. It must be available 24/7, on demand and two-way.
There are so many ways to use the web audio effectively. You can use audio to let your visitors hear recorded testimonials from happy customers, greet them warmly and enthusiastically, help alleviate and lingering doubts would-be customers may have by reassuring them that purchasing from you is essentially risk free and enhance e-courses.
Podcasting combines the ease of blogging with the fun of hosting your very own radio or TV show.
Web videos afford you--or someone else--the opportunity to combine words, tone, body language, and facial expressions to convey meaningful information about you, your company, and your products and services. Let's face it; some of us should just not be in front of a camera for a variety of reasons. If you choose to avoid the camera, you can still do such things as:
- Make someone else the star.
- Do a voice-over narration.
- Create a slide show.
- Demonstrate a product or showcase a service.
Use Video to Increase Revenues: YouTube
Fueled by the Web's 2.0 social interaction concept and technological advances, novices and experts alike are adding their own videos to share ideas, entertain, demonstrate products, connect with others, and much more. And since access to the site is free and uploading a video is simple, it's a wonderful vehicle for practicing and honing your video skills.
Taking Your Video Viral
One of the most affordable (it's free!) and effective ways to materially increase your opt-in conversions is by taking your video viral--in other words, letting others help you spread the word to their friends, family members, associates, mailing lists, and so forth.
Blogs are wonderful alternatives, or additions to, more traditional websites because they can be up and running quickly, usually in a matter of minutes; anyone can use their professional-looking templates without any prior design and/or navigation experience or expertise; they're inexpensive, dynamic, and fresh, and since new content is added regularly and often, the search engines love them.
Teleconferencing and Web Conferencing
Teleconferences and teleseminars represent wonderful, cost-effective alternatives to in-person meetings and classes. Additionally, they are
- Convenient. They can be scheduled at the last minute and participants can call in from anywhere.
- Efficient. Important information can be delivered to groups of people effectively, affordably, and quickly.
- Profitable. You can sell your wisdom, knowledge, or advice by creating your own teleseminar,
Traffic Strategies: Get More Visitors to Your Site
With a bit of typing and a simple click of a mouse, millions of people all over the world go to search engines (e.g., Google, MSN, Yahoo!, AOL, AskJeeves, Dogpile, etc.) to hunt for specific products, services, information and/or opportunities. And since the vast majority of online sales begin with search engines, they are an extremely valuable resource for any e-commerce business. People who are searching naturally assume that the sites listed first--particularly those on the first page--are the best, and that's where they click. The closer your site appears to the top of the list, the better.
Optimize Your Website
In order for search engines to find you (and deem you relevant) you'll need to include your most powerful keywords in various places on your website--your copy, headings, anchor and footer text, and alongside photos and graphics. Use unique page titles and meta tags, and focus on your most important keywords one at a time. Use search-friendly design and navigation techniques. Make sure it is easy for search engines (and more importantly, your visitors) to find their way from one of your web pages to any other via internal links. So, in addition to choosing the most relevant keywords you'll also want to make sure that you overdeliver valuable content; your prospects will love you for it, and so will the search engines!
Web 2.0: The Key to Using Social Media Effectively
Web 2.0 is an online movement that encourages users to participate in the fresh, interactive nature of the internet by using widely available, less expensive, and more mature state-of-the-art technologies.
Some of the many ways you can use Web 2.0 technology and its people-oriented culture to enhance your online business include:
- Getting products to market faster.
- Reducing risk. Obtain fast, real-time data on prospects and customers, trends, and products that will help you make more informed decisions.
- Building and maintaining positive relationships.
- Changing and adding content, test offers, and copy and obtain relevant information. Use RSS syndication feeds to help you stay informed, become more efficient, and conduct testing.
- Engaging in interactive conversations with the public.
- Conducting real-time online video meetings.
- Monitoring your word-of-mouth buzz.
- Using "mashups" to create, update, or bundle products.
- Attracting more targeted traffic to your website.
- Using tags.
- Getting information (and respond to it) the way you want.
Mitch Meyerson has been a visionary and bestselling author and consultant for more than 20 years. He created the much acclaimed Guerrilla Marketing Coaching Program as well as other landmark internet programs including the Product Factory and Online Web Traffic School. He can be reached at MitchMeyerson.com
Mary Eule Scarborough is a former Fortune 500 marketing executive, independent marketing consultant, and also co-author of The Procrastinator's Guide to Marketing, available from Entrepreneur Press. She regularly writes business and marketing articles for many online publications as well as for her own website, StrategicMarketingAdvisors.com.