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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Top Ten Strategies for Improving your Online Business for More Sales (Part 1 of 3 )

How do you profit in the new year when the previous year was such a complete flop in online sales?

When your retail sales have been pretty much non-existent the previous year, and you're trying to do all you can to make a profit in the new year with what you have in funds and time.

You ask yourself. How can I prevent a repeat?

Like most entrepreneurs, many believe all one needs to do is submit their site to Google, MSN and Yahoo, perhaps exchange a few links here and there - and like magic traffic will just start spilling in.

Think that's all you need to do to make your online business profitable?

It doesn't take much time for those very same people to realize it's not that easy. Is it?

So, how do you profit in the new year when the previous year was such a complete flop in online sales? Well, I got good news. What happened in 2009 or the previous year is not an indication of what will happen this year.

This year will be different for your online business. Better, in fact.

True, a website is most effectively positioned when it's connected to a successful brick and mortar business.

However, you can still be a leader in your industry even without prior brick and mortar success. But there are some components you need to have in place to go from slump to success.

I'll share with you my top ten list for the best ways to turning more profits in the new year.

I call this list, 'The Vital Ten'.

By implementing the following tips into your daily business practices you are sure to increase your business revenue.

'The Vital Ten' for Internet Business Owners

1. Payment acceptance options. Hard to believe but there are still thousands of online businesses out there that have only one option, and its usually the longest method. With the many options available to online business owners, try integrating one or more such as a virtual payment method or shopping cart.

2. Keeping it fresh. When was the last time you updated anything on your site? Search engines like newly updated information and will come around more when they have something new to index. I update my site weekly, if not more. Don't get left behind because you didn't put in the time to keep your site up to date.

3. Offer something more. You can establish a presence online and become a valuable go-to site in your industry when you share the wealth and add free helpful content and information to your visitors. I don't know about you, but I am more inclined to buy from a site that offers something a little more than "2 for 1".

4. The Internet has global reach. It is not uncommon for online business to sell in foreign markets. Most of the entrepreneurs I have worked with sell in at least two other countries. While some businesses are completely digital and can sell worldwide, others have physical items that need to follow special overseas shipping guidelines and may cost a little more. However, its worth checking into.

5. What was that catchy slogan again? For your online business to be a success, consumers must be able to remember your brand. A logo and slogan can go a long way. Make sure its present on all pages and in your communication such as through payment transactions, invoices and emails.

6. Learn from your competitors, especially the big corporations. Do this, make a list of all of your competitors, including everything from large corporations to smaller kitchen table entrepreneurs. If they have also have websites, visit each one and gather as much information about their products and services as you can, including rates/prices, customer service policies, delivery methods,warranties as well as their return policies. If some of your competitors do not have an online presence, it is perfectly legitimate to call the company and ask for the information from one of the customer service representatives. You may find that you are missing a lot pieces to the puzzle that may be stalling your visitors from clicking on that buy now button.

7. Are you offering a good selection? Assortment selection can be a turn-on or a turn-off for your potential buyers. If Website #1 has over 100 items to choose from, and Website #2 only has 5 items. Who do you think they'll choose? While some new businesses cannot offer more when they start, its a good idea to maybe partner with another business to cross sell each others merchandise to fill up your site so it doesn't look so empty. I'm not saying place a 1000 items, but it couldn't hurt to add to your selection. You don't want to clutter your site, but you also don't want to have a lot of empty white space.

8. How would you like to have that delivered? Ever go to a site and all they have is regular snail mail as a delivery option. Offering several delivery options could help boost transactions. Still offer the regular postal delivery option, but also the other guys too. Some customers actually prefer the other guys. Get yourself organized by setting up a station at home for instance with a packaging area that will have everything you need to include for each shipment (invoice copies,boxes,tape,scale,etc.) perhaps even adding some extras like a free keychain or pen with your company logo/name/site(these items are great and can be purchased at a bargain in bulk)

9. Trust matters. When you're new in the game of online selling and not very well known, its easy to lose customers to a brand that is. The one thing I see the most with lesser know businesses and brands is the lack of usage of 'trusted digital certificates" and content that shows the buyer that its safe to purchase on your site. Use Paypal? Let them know by visibly adding the 'Paypal verified' logo. The bigger brands have earned the public's trust, so now you must do the same.

10. Do respond to your email inquiries in a timely manner. You may be running your business from home, raising a family or trying to balance your real job until your business takes off. This may very well be the case for you, but if you receive an email from a potential customer and not respond for days, guess what. They've already moved on. I try to respond within 12-24 hours with every email I get. Even if they don't wind up buying from you, they may just recommend you to someone else. It pays to respond quickly, and be very helpful. Set-up a couple of accounts to make sure you are organized, such as Sales@ .... Questions@ and so forth for your business email accounts. Don't forget to add a nifty Contact Form on your site as well.

Just know that everyone's experience selling online is going to be different based on their particular circumstances, customers needs and demands, their budget, products, and sales team. But by staying the course and implementing these vital tips to increasing your online profits you will turn that slump into a success.

Tune in next time for Part 2 of my 'Top Ten Strategies for Improving your Online Business for More Sales'

Nic Soto is the co-founder of Public Relations Depot, a family owned PR marketing company based in Chicago,IL. Affordable Press Release Writing, Mass Media Distribution, Brand Visibility, Link Building and Search Engine Optimization. Helping entrepreneurs reach their business goals since 2001.

Public Relations Depot caters to new and small businesses who are seeking more budget friendly alternatives to increasing their visibility, harnessing free publicity and improving search engine rankings.

Contact Nic today for a free small business marketing consultation.

Follow Me: @MamaPR
My Blog: Social Marketing Mama
My Company: Public Relations Depot
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