Top 10 Ways to Scupper Your Ecommerce Business

1. Don’t plan, Just dive right in!

If you don’t plan for success you’re planning for failure.

An incredibly common mistake made by rookie ecommerce webmasters is to dive straight in and launch a site with an expensive URL long before they’ve actually taken the time plan out what their business proposition actually is!

Without a clearly defined business model and a well-formatted business plan you are inviting problems at every step of the way. Without having your company ethos, your funding details, your policies and procedures recorded clearly in black and white you really will have nothing to go on. After all, you can’t exactly show your expectations and optimism to investors or, worse, the dreaded bank manager.

Do your homework, plan your attack, refine your plan and then refine it some more. Seek help from a business professional with the formatting of your business plan and make several back-up copies!

2. The internet is huge! There’s an audience for everything, right?

Well, yes and no. The internet is huge and is, of course, bigger every day. No matter how unusual the site you can bet there’ll be at least a small number of people interested in it somewhere.

But will they be willing to pay for whatever it is that you’re selling? Or if you’re not strictly in the ecommerce game, can you be sure that your pride and joy will get enough visitors to stay afloat on advertising revenue alone?

Domains cost money, server space costs money, EVERYTHING costs money.

If you don’t take the time to get to know who your prospective audience is well in advance of launching your site you may as well dig a hole at the side of the information superhighway and pour all of your money in to it.

Study the market, learn from your competitors, find your online niche and make sure that your site really stands out from the crowd. Find a good, reputable web marketing firm who can advise you and listen to what they say!

3. Flashy borders, big pictures, lots of frames, job done, yes? No!

Have you heard the story ‘the emperor’s new clothes?’ To make a short story shorter it is the tale of an emperor who relies so much on style over substance that he doesn’t even notice when some mean-spirited (but enterprising) tailors sell him a whole heap of nothing, describing it as a stylish and trend-setting new outfit that only the wisest men can see.

Is that how you want your online presence to be viewed? If it is, you may as well stop reading now.

On the modern internet, content is king! End of story. The big winners of the last decade of web evolution have been those sites that populate their sites with interesting, unique content and keep adding more and more interesting, unique content.

Think about it!

How successful would Facebook be if it was never updated by anyone?

What if the Internet Movie Database decided to stop writing about new films?

Flashy graphics, a cool URL and all the whistles and bells you can muster will draw some traffic to your site, but top quality content is what is going to keep those visitors coming back for more and, crucially, telling their friends about your amazing site.

Be interesting. Be unique. Be prolific!

And if you can’t write good copy yourself, employ someone who can!

4. No SEO, No Problem?

Imagine a clothes shop. One unlike any you have ever visited. The staff is friendly and funny and make you feel really welcome from the second you walk through the door. They have the latest fashions at unbelievably low prices, much lower than any of their competitors and they have exclusive designs from some of the biggest names in fashion.

Now imagine if that clothes shop isn’t situated in the heart of a busy city centre shopping street but is actually located at the back of a dark field, in the middle of an impenetrable forest, in the middle of nowhere with no sign pointing towards it.

How long is that shop going to stay in business?

Exactly.

A sad fact of modern internet business is that in 99.9999% of cases whatever it is that you’re doing has been done before by people with more experience and more financial backing than you. People who are more established and who know how to get people to visit their online business and who strive everyday to do so. These are the businesses that succeed, the ones that know how to play the game with the big 3 search engines and how to climb up those rankings!

Launching a site with no understanding of SEO is a guaranteed way to fail, and fail quickly.

Search Engine Optimisation is not witchcraft, but to people who don’t understand it, it can often seem like it is. Do your homework, seek advice, do some more homework, get more advice and then integrate SEO principles into the design of your site from day one, and on every day that follows!

5. There’s no such thing as bad advertising.

Want to bet? Just ask some of the many, many famous politicians who are no longer politicians but remain very, very (in)famous.

Yes, there are many ways to advertise, but some really are worth their (virtual) weight in (real) gold!

Good PPC campaigns (pay-per-click, like AdWords, those four-line adverts you see at the right hand side of Google’s results pages) are used by all the big companies and used to tremendous effect.

When Google AdWords campaigns are run well they work really, really well. And when they are run badly they are an excellent way to burn through your whole advertising budget in no time at all, and with no benefit to your business to show for it.

With AdWords, as with everything else in the online world it is vital that you don’t just jump right in with the best of intentions and nothing in the way of planning.

Do MORE homework, understand your product, know your place in the market and seek advice from a reliable source with experience of running successful PPC campaigns.

6. Small companies don’t need to worry about branding.

Hang on, I’ll stop you there!

Every business needs to think about branding. Why? Because it is your brand that communicates everything about you to everyone out there!

Google’s online dictionary says that “The branding of a product is the presentation of it to the public in a way that makes it easy for people to recognize or identify.”

Easy to recognise. Easy to identify.

Is it a coincidence that the logo for Microsoft Windows looks like – hello! – a window?

No, it was carefully considered, probably by a team of highly skilled designers and marketers. It was then, no doubt, refined, experimented with and finally locked down as the design that we all know and see everywhere. Since then it has been used in a consistent manner to reinforce the brand. And let’s face it; there aren’t many brands that are more recognisable in the computer software business than Windows.

So take this away with you: your branding communicates everything about you to everyone out there, right? Well that door swings both ways. It’s just as easy to repel internet users as it is to attract them; in fact, it’s probably a whole lot easier.

Think about your brand from day one. Carefully design and refine it and then make sure that it is used in a consistent manner to reinforce your brand in the minds of your visitors. Research other brands and how they came about and remember that brands need to evolve. You don’t get anywhere by standing still!

7. Lights, Camera, Call to ACTION!

You’ve designed a beautiful, elegant site.

You’ve populated it with unique, interesting content that you toil over long and hard, and update regularly.

You’ve tempted a multitude of visitors to your site and in return you’re getting…

Nothing?

That can’t be right.

And it isn’t!

One of the easiest mistakes to avoid is to not let these visitors take what they want and then leave without giving you something in return.

If you’re in ecommerce, you want sales! If you’re promoting a hotel, you want bookings! If you’re trying to promote your beloved rock band you want people to pay to come to your gigs, right?

Without a clear ‘call to action’ on EVERY PAGE of your site, you can’t blame any of those visitors for taking what they want from your site and then just leaving.

Now think how many times you’ve seen examples like the following on websites:

– Click here to sign up for our free newsletter!

– Item out of stock? Click here to be notified when it’s back in stock!

– Register now for updates!

– Click here to download our latest brochure!

This seems so simple when you see it in black-and-white but you’d be amazed how many webmasters make the mistake of forgetting to call their visitors to action.

Now make sure you’re not one of them!

8. Customer Relationship Mismanagement.

So your visitors are now all obediently leaving their details so you can contact them (soon!) with the exciting news of how your site is surging ahead into the glittering future of internet superstardom?

And how are you keeping track of all those names, email addresses and the like?

In an old, dog-eared notepad?

Scrawled on napkins and thrown into a drawer?

Good luck with staying in business!

A good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System will help you to keep track of all of your contacts. It will let you collect relevant data about them and help you to better streamline your marketing programme.

In short, a good CRM package will help you to better serve your customers and to keep attracting new ones.

And if you can’t be bothered with all of that, think about this old cliche:

Look After Your Customers Or Someone Else Will!

Still don’t think it matters?

9. “Our operators are not standing by!”

Yes, more and more business is conducted online every day.

Yes, ideally a great website (SEO optimised & marketed well!) will be all you need to become the next Donald Trump.

BUT!

As far as your customers are concerned, the best website in the world is very often no match for a friendly and well-informed voice on the phone.

Everybody expects it to take hours if not days for a corporate site to respond to an email enquiry, and THAT can be a very big turn-off when they’re choosing who they’re going to spend their money with.

That’s why even the most dyed-in-the-wool internet businesses have telemarketers, customer service advisors and other telephone operators working for them!

People will always use the phone, and there are many millions of people out there that will always prefer to pick up the phone than to send an email or fill out an online contact form.

I’m not saying that you should open a huge call centre, employing thousands of advisors in a state-of-the-art modern facility, but you should make it easy to have your customers contact you by phone, if not 24 hours a day then at least during the traditional business hours of 9 to 5, Monday to Friday.

And how would you feel if you had to repeatedly call a business whose operators don’t:

– Answer the phone in a polite and consistent manner?

– Mention the name of their business so you know you’re through to the right people?

– Speak politely?

– Listen attentively?

– Try to be helpful?

– And, most importantly, have all necessary information to hand there and then?

Exactly!

Distinguish yourself and your company by being approachable on the telephone; by being polite and helpful and by getting help and advice from a company that can oversee all this for you if it is just not practical for you to do it yourself.

Just as well you took my advice about getting a good CRM system, eh?

10. Just sit back and hope for the best!

Are you mad??

You will get NOWHERE by sitting back and simply expecting things to go your way, all the time.

You need to know who is visiting your site!

You need to know how they found you!

You need to know which pages they looked at!

You need to know to this so you can streamline your business and MAKE MORE MONEY!

But that’s all impossible, isn’t it? How could you possible know those things?

Simply, by employing a Web Analytics tool (or company) to do all that for you!

By analysing all aspects of your site’s performance you can make it perform better. Just like a coach scrutinises every pass and every tackle made by the members of his football team.

You monitor, you analyse and then you plan a way to improve.

This last point is something that you really will need help with so find yourself a good authority on web analytics and let them take the strain for you.

Only THEN will I let you sit back and hope for the best!

With Social Media Marketing, More is More

That which is less complicated is often better understood and more appreciated than what is more complicated; simplicity is preferable to complexity; brevity in communication is more effective than verbosity. This came straight from Wiki dictionary, and I agree that at times, less is more. However, when it comes to social media marketing, less is less and more is more!

Today I was reviewing Garrett Pierson’s Building Social Equity 2.0 when I realized that understanding how to access Facebook and Twitter isn’t enough. There are twenty modules to increase our social marketing skills – not two!

Sites like Weebly, Scribd, gather, Zimbo, HubPages and Squidoo are just the tip of the iceberg! Technorati and StumbleUpon are also valuable sites to increase our visibility and the recognition of not just our brand, but also our products and services. And there’s more!

Think of the value of LinkedIn, for example. Your social marketing equity can go through the roof by joining with other professionals who have similar interests to you! First you’re linked with three or four other e-commerce or business entrepreneurs, but before long, you’ll have three or four thousand.

So, say you send an article about a sale you are having on your fantastic product or service to your Facebook fan page. That’s great! If you and your friends have lots of friends, you can attract a lot of attention that way. Many successful social media marketing campaigns have done incredibly well on Facebook.

You see, I’m not saying you don’t use Facebook, I’m saying that you should also look at combining tons of other social media sites to your advertising campaigns! Garrett Pierson’s Building Social Equity 2.0 can give you the tools to not only find those additional social sites, but also key and specific tools on how to best take advantage of those sites!

How about EzineArticles or PR web? Those sites are made for people who are looking for specific products or services or information. If you don’t give online consumers what they are looking for where they are looking for it, your competitors will.

Social media marketing is about finding people who don’t know how to find you, they just know what they need. If your business is among the list of options available when they type in keywords that relate to your site, chances are that they will visit your site and purchase your products or services.

So visit social media marketing sites like FeedBurner, MyBlogLog, reddit, and Delicious. Open a WordPress Blog and start writing articles for it. The key, remember, is to take advantage of as many opportunities as you can to reach as many potential clients or consumers as you can.

Although the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a minimalism, coined the phrase, “less is more”, it’s hard to think that even he believed it was true. He not only never shorted his name to just “Lud”, but also left us all five of his names for us to try to remember.

Sure, a short story is more convenient than a novel, and as Ludwig noted, a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to social media marketing, more is more!

Internet and Business Online – Dealing With Entitlement Issues

Let’s face it; the web is filled with entitlement issues. For a few dollars a month we gain access to the world via an Internet connection. We want sports scores and we don’t want to wait for the sports networks on television to scroll their list, so we log on and get the score. We missed a portion of a television show we like so we log on and often find the program available to watch on demand.

We gain free access to online encyclopedias and dictionaries.

We play along with game shows and sit at the computer to find the answers before the contestant does.

We want to know more about the weather and a few clicks later we know.

We want the ratings on a car we’re thinking about buying and we find it online.

There is often one underlying prerequisite to our online perusal. We do not want to have to pay to get the information. This information is typically thought to come at no cost when we pay to log onto the Internet.

The entitlement issues have largely been managed by websites competing with other forms of media for your attention. If a site is brokering knowledge they will typically offset the expense by infusing Google AdSense Ads or other PPC or banner ads into the site thus allowing the visitor to have access to the information without the concern of payment.

Even fee-based sites generally have a free tier of service for anyone. A perk-filled membership is generally available at a modest price. If a visitor gains significant value from the free tier they may be inclined to purchase a membership if they feel the extended value is worth it.

Interestingly many sites that are entirely fee-based may struggle more than those with at least a most basic free tier of service.

Whether the mentality is correct or not the Internet has accommodated those who may have a feeling that the world owes them something. Obviously businesses online can’t give product away, but they can and are infusing their sites with information and free downloads that add incredible value at no cost to consumers. This strategy has become a primary component to improving trust between online business and potential consumer.

Websites are filled with free podcasts, video streams, game downloads, teaching materials, recipes, home improvement tips, garden development plans and information on virtually any subject you can think of.

To online businesses it may seem unfair to have to find alternative ways to fund free information and advice, especially when you may be used to being paid for the information you can provide.

In most cases the information provided is designed to work as part of a marketing strategy pointing visitors to products and services you make available. The knowledge-based content provides information that coincides with something you can offer the customer.

Since face-to-face connections are not easily managed online this strategy not only tackles the entitlement issue, but it is useful in developing a trusting relationship with those who do not easily pass on their trust.