Doing business on the internet is not always easy. In fact, given the sheer volume of websites online today, getting noticed and being successful can be quite a challenge. So how can you set your business apart from the countless others who are offering the same product or service as you? What things can you do to give you an advantage over your competition and help you become a successful online merchant? Here is a list of basics to get you started, as well as a few innovative techniques to help give you the competitive edge you need.
Step 1 – Get a quality website.
Unless you're a web designer, this is something you'll probably have to pay to have done. But, it's in investment that is well worth it. If you want to get decent traffic, and more importantly, to convert that traffic into customers, you have to impress them. Remember the important things such as ease of use and quality content. Your website should speak of the value of what you're selling if it's to get you results.
Step 2 – Advertise across the web.
First, do some research to determine what sites your target audience is most likely to visit, and then develop some eye catching ads to display on those networks. There are plenty of options available to you, such as pay per click (where you only pay for the number of times a person clicks on your ad), and traditional display which is typically done on the CPM (cost per thousand impressions) model. With CPM you pay for the number of times your ad is displayed, so the bigger your budget the more people you can reach. Both are effective methods, so you have to determine which one is best for your business. Often a combination of both makes the most sense. And for those who do not have the means to build their own ads, some marketing service providers offer simple ad builder tools with their campaigns for a convenient one-stop service approach.
Step 3 – Participate in social media activities.
Sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are no longer strictly for personal social use, among friends. On the contrary, these networks have become useful tools for businesses who want to market to the masses online. You can set up business pages on these social networks in no time, usually for free, and use them to interact with your customers, run fun campaigns like contests and giveaways and gain valuable viral marketing and brand recognition. Social media marketing is much different in nature from traditional advertising, because it's much more casual and fun. Show your customers your lighter side and you just might see your sales increase as a result.
Step 4 – Retarget lost sales.
You may not realize it, but there's actually a way that you can keep track of people who visit your site but leave without converting, and use that information to get your ads displayed to them as they surf the web. It's an innovative technique called retargeting , and it's quickly gaining momentum in the world of online marketing. In simple terms, traditional banner marketing links traffic to your site; retargeting encourages those who then leave your site without buying to come back to you when they're ready. It's been shown to increase both conversion rate and click through rate, while also reducing cost per click. Do not miss the boat on this one, or you'll be missing out on countless sales.
Step 5 – Network.
In the real world, this one's a no brainer. Any businessperson worth their salt knows the importance of networking with other people and businesses. It's the true word-of-mouth type of marketing that most brick and mortar businesses are built on. But this technique should not just be used offline. In fact, there are websites specifically designed for this purpose, such as LinkedIn. With a network of over 40 million users located across the globe, it's a powerful tool for connecting with your colleagues and potential customers in one place. Get "LinkedIn" or you'll quickly find yourself left out.
Step 6 – Market through email.
This should be prefaced with a warning that it's always best practice to obtain email addresses legitimately (ie through the use of sign-ups and opt-ins on your website), rather than purchasing lists. The last thing you want is to be labeled a spammer. But once you are able to build a decent list, using email to market can be a highly effective way to build relationships with existing customers and encourage new ones. It's also a great way to get the word out about specials and promotions you're running and hopefully increase the response to your campaigns. Email marketing is also cost effective and easy to do.
Step 7 – Monitor and measure.
Although there are monumental differences between online and offline marketing, there are two things that remain constant across both platforms: campaigns should be ongoing and they should be measured regularly. Regardless of how you choose to market your business, you must commit to keeping it current and staying on top of it if you are to achieve your desired results.
Online marketing is not a simple task by any means and for someone who has never attempted such a feat it can seem downright overwhelming. But when the key steps provided above are implemented, the process can go much smoother and put any business on the right track for success on the web.