By Ben Kinsey
|Image courtesy wikimedia|
If you operate a small business, you no doubt always look for a way to increase profits without increasing cost. While adding a new sales representative or a new location is one way to increase cash-flow, the added expense of either can sometimes lead to reduced cash-flow, especially in the short term. That’s because it takes time and money to hire and train a new rep, just as it takes time and money to advertise a new location. But what if there was a way to add a new sales node onto your business that didn’t require you to add to your payroll or even add to your rent and inventory costs? Do you think this could help your business? One of the most efficient ways to achieve this aim is by adding e-commerce to your lineup.
1. Location, Location, Location – While having a great location for either a retail or a service business is one way to ensure success, it sometimes comes at a not insignificant cost. That’s because the best locations are the most sought after. Add to it, that no matter how good a location you have, there is only so far that customers will travel to visit it. The beauty of e-commerce is that it can help you break out of your neighborhood to access new customers on a regional or national basis.
2. The ABC’s of E-Commerce – If being able to sell your wares to a much wider audience appeals to you, know it doesn’t come without a cost. That’s the bad news. The good news is it costs a lot less to build, operate and manage a virtual store than it does to open a brick and mortar one. All you need to get started in e-commerce is a way to offer your goods for sale and a way to process orders. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? The problem is there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it.
3. Getting E-Commerce Wrong – You can spend a lot of time and money commissioning a fancy new online store, only to find out that it doesn’t do what you need it to do. That’s because while you may be a big wheel in your industry, when it comes to understanding the way that e-commerce works, you can feel like a duck out of water. By that, I mean that there are hundreds of purveyors of online shopping systems which may or may not work for your business model. Choose a model that’s too restrictive, or too hard to understand and you could wind up taking months to build out a store that goes nowhere.
|Image courtesy Pixabay|
4. Are you only planning on offering items for sale on your website? – That could be a mistake. Once you embrace e-commerce, you want to have the ability to offer items for sale on everything from websites and landing pages to blogs and social nets. To accomplish this, you want to work with an e-commerce provider that allows this to occur. You also want to work with an e-commerce provider that has been serving customers for many years, as opposed to some new and untested provider. You also want to make sure that any provider you work with provides live training and support for their system.
5. E-Commerce the Easy Way – Unless you are currently vending dozens or hundreds of products, you may not even have to invest a lot of time and money to get started in e-commerce. That’s because PayPal can provide you with everything you need to start selling products and processing orders without having to invest in developing an online store. That’s right, you can simply plug your products and services into PayPal and post them online with a great big BUY NOW button. Especially in the early going, this could be one of the best ways to get plugged into e-commerce the easy way.
6. Why isn’t everybody doing it? – I know what you’re thinking. If plugging into e-commerce is so easy, why isn’t everybody doing it? Or even worse, maybe you tried e-commerce in the past only to find out that nobody bought anything. Just as there is a right way and a wrong way to go about starting a business, the same is true of any online business. The secret to getting e-commerce to work for your business is to understand what it takes to get it right.
7. The Field of Dreams School of Online Marketing – Build it and they will come may have worked in the late 90’s when there wasn’t all that much competition online. Today there are billions of websites vying for people’s attention. Even worst, there are hundreds of millions of websites that are poorly designed or hard to navigate. If you want to have any hope of succeeding with an online business, you need to not only launch your online store, you need to launch it right. That means making sure there are no broken links or other missteps that can derail sales. You also need to make darned sure you do your homework to find out what your audience needs, wants and is willing to pay. Then you need to provide every prospect with everything they need to know you, like you and trust you. That means putting more than just products on your pages. It means including videos and testimonials that shows them you are the person to do business with.
|Image courtesy PxHere|
8. It takes money to make money. – Unless you have thousands of social followers and registered customers, you are also going to need to advertise your online store if you hope to generate a crowd of perspective customers. This can be down with opt-in email, social boosts, and pay-per-click ad campaigns that can steer customers your way. Then all you have to do is learn from your audience what they want and what makes them take the next step to go from prospect to customer.
Ben Kinsey, CPA of Small Business Group works with owners of closely held corporations in the Northeast Florida region. If you work in the North Florida area we offer a FREE initial Consultation at our office, please contact Small Business Group if you would like to know more about strategies for your business.