Business

If You Build It, Will They Come?

business-it-online-by-blognation-uk.jpgThis is continuing from my previous post on Considerations for Internet, “E-Business,” Building Customer Relations. Putting a business on the internet can be relatively easy. The hard part, as the history of the Internet has shown, is making money.

To run a financial viable e-business, you not only have to attract a sufficient number of visitors to your website, but then you have to find a way to convert those visitors into buyers, or earn income from them in some other way. And you have to attract and convert them in a manner and a timeframe that allows you to stay in business and make a profit.

As with any business, you’ll need a marketing plan for your Internet-based company. The marketing plan should outline the steps you’ll take to let potential customers know about you. But while a land-based business may only compete with other stores in its neighborhood, on the Internet, it competes with the entire world.

Companies that serve a niche market or provide unique or hard to find products often have greater success than more general e-businesses, with lower marketing costs. In effect, they’ve limited their online world to a small “neighborhood.”

When we developing the marketing plan for your Internet-based business, there are marketing vehicles to consider such as, Search Engines, most people use search engines to locate websites of interest. Search engines such as Google work by using software to “crawl” through millions of sites, looking for certain words, phrases, links, and other indicators of what users can find on a site. Trying to improve your search engine ranking can easily be a full-time job, the important thing to remember is that search engines rank sites based on searches through a site’s web page. So, by doing a few simple things you can improve your rankings.

It is best to use phrases that searchers are likely to use. Use straightforward terms instead of marketing language. For instance, if you’re a mortgage broker, make sure you use the phrase “mortgage broker” in addition to using sentences such as, “I’ll help you find the best mortgage rate.” Many searchers will add a location to their search terms, e.g. “Mortgage broker in Phoenix,” so be certain to mention your city, country, state or province, and country. Also, list your products and services individually. The more specific you are, the more likely your website will show up in relevant searches. The mortgage broker’s website might list “30-year fixed rate,” “15-year fixed rate,” “adjustable rate mortgages” and so on.

Directories take a slightly different approach to helping users find sites of interest. Directories such as Yahoo are organized by topic areas. Directories, unlike search engines are compiled by humans, not software. You can increase the speed by which your site shows up in directories by submitting them for inclusion.

Another way to increase the likelihood of attracting visitors to your site is through online advertising or purchased links. Of course, these expenses should be considered as part of your overall marketing budget. A couple of options include, Keywords where search engines sell “premium listings” based on keywords. In other words, if your company makes bicycle parts, you can pay to be listed at the top or side of search engine results for the words “bicycle parts,” “bicycle gears,” or “bicycle brakes, “etc. Often, this can be a very effective and affordable method of advertisement, especially for those in narrow niche areas. Another is Advertisements, just as in the real world, you can pay for ads to get your name known on the Internet. Advertising seems to work best on sites that are closely related to your product or services.

Partnerships and relationships, you can also make it easy for potential customers to find you from other site they visiting. For instance, if you’re serving a specific geographic community, make certain you are listed on local directory websites, often run by local newspapers, Chambers of commerce, or tourist bureaus. Get listed on sites related to your industry and ask the businesses you do business with to link to you, such as a mortgage broker might ask to be listed by real estate agents she works with and offer to list them on her website in return.

Another approach is to do your own online marketing. There are a number of ways that you can use the Internet to promote your business and drive customers to your site that do not require third party participation. Two options are, include your website address in a tagline on all your emails. Also create an electronic newsletter, a periodic newsletter sent by email to your customers (clearly allowing them to unsubscribe, of course) may be appreciated, especially if it contains information useful to them or pricing specials.

Lastly off line marketing because most of your customers will find you from the “real” world rather than from the virtual one. To increase that likelihood, you can take some steps such as making your web address visible by including your website address on everything such as your packaging, your stationery, your mailing labels, your invoices, etc. Public relation is another good approach, if appropriate, attempt to get press coverage for timely activities, with information provided on your website. Also advertising by using real-world ads to promote your website.

The Internet offers many exciting possibilities both for new and existing companies. However, business fundamentals still apply on the Internet as in Land-based business. You need a strategic position that differentiates you from competitors and gives customers a compelling reason to visit your site, buy, and return. With an Internet-based business, you have to plan both what the customer sees as well as what they don’t see and make certain everything works consistently, pay attention to the basics, such as customer service and order fulfillment. And don’t forget to develop an ongoing marketing plan to drive traffic to you. If you build it, they will come.

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