I’ve been reading and pondering Felicity at Gifts of Serendipity‘s Now!vember posts with some interest. Today’s topic – Embracing Online Business – is one that I feel qualified to talk about, being involved in the e-business world in my other life.
So, a few tips on starting and operating an online business:
Start small (and cheap) – don’t spend thousands of dollars (and lots of energy) on having a website developed for you. If you’re selling goods online, open a shop on a site like Ebay, Etsy or Madeit. If you’re selling a service try promoting your service via a blog. These sites take care of alot of the technical stuff allowing you to concentrate on actually building your business.
It’s just another shop front – your online presence (website, blog, Etsy shop) is not your whole business. Don’t fall into the ‘build it and they will come’ trap. You will need to market your online business and provide excellent service to your customers.
Engaging and using web developers – if you do get to the point where you need to have your own website you come to the exciting world of engaging a web developer. All I can say is…write it all down (even if it’s for your neighbour’s brother-in-law who does it for you on the cheap). Provide very specific instructions, in writing, to your developer about the way you want your website to work and look. Otherwise you may end up with something you didn’t expect or want and having to pay for it to be re-done. If writing detailed instructions isn’t your cup of tea, pay someone (the web developer or someone else) to do it for you. Your wallet will thank you for it in the long run.
Market your site – develop a marketing plan for your business. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just enough to ensure you’re promoting your business regularly. Encourage people to visit your site using whatever means you have. In addition to the traditional marketing avenues, use your existing social networks (offline and online), blog, Twitter and Facebook about new products or promotions, and invite existing customers to sign up for a regular newsletter.
Customer service – even though you don’t see your customers face to face, you can still provide excellent customer service. Keep your customers informed about the progress of their purchase and respond to queries quickly.
And if you don’t have an online business – embrace other online businesses. Get out there and support some local small businesses. Do your Christmas shopping online and find some unique gifts made locally rather than tackling the crowds at an overpriced, big corporate owned shopping centre.