Build it and they will come we’re told – To sell online you just need good products and find a good website developer. This is what most business owners believe. But the truth is this. Unless you have an existing retail outlet or long-established business, just placing up a new eCommerce website with new products to sell and then expecting people to flock to it is silly. It won’t work. Traffic will not magically arrive.
In 2012 you need a marketing plan and a sizable budget to get traffic to your new webstore… And don’t get fixated upon ‘getting traffic’. The real trick is how to convert all those website visitors into actual sales.
Planning is the key. Before you talk to any web designer or write a cheque for a fancy shopping website, there are two essential things to everyone should do first. And this phase can take 3-6 months…
Step 1. Define your Target Audience & Market Potential (1-3 weeks)
Google and other tools can help define this based around what people are searching for online and examining competitor websites. Discover which niche you need to focus upon for best return. Analyse the data. Talk to others. Some expert research could save you tens of thousands of dollars. Dramatically improve your changes of success online.
Step 2. Build up your client list (3-6 Months)
Established retail and online stores have the benefit of a current customer base. But if you’re starting fresh online with a new product or service you start with nothing. The truth is you need a professionally built site and then do some serious online and offline marketing. But even before all this, you need to build up a client base. You should do this before you start talking to any shopping site designer. (Contrary to popular belief, most web design companies know little about business marketing or list building – They can’t help you here).
Here’s the plan. Start with setting up a low cost WordPress business blog, (from $500-2,000) with an integrated email marketing system and multiple opt-in forms with autoresponders. Perhaps include one or two ‘teaser’ products using paypal. A similar amount ($1,500) also needs to be spent on expert SEO, ensuring Google loves you and starts to send you qualified traffic.
You’ll also need to establish yourself on various industry forums, Linkedin, Facebook, perhaps Trademe. Where appropriate include traditional marketing options like letterbox flyers, direct mail and signage too – Whatever the initial contact method, send them to your blogsite to subscribe and build up that prospect list.
Start writing weekly blog articles and send out regular emails to subscribers that educate them about your upcoming product or business service. N.B. This phase is built up over 3 or 6 months – Before you’re at the stage of spending any money on a professional webstore. But at this point you have an idea of what works and what does not. Where to invest and which areas to avoid.
Step 3. Now you can Build your Store (3-6 weeks)
Your business blog can now be updated to include better branding (approx $1,000) and advanced eCommerce features. (approx $3,000-$5,000). And because the domain has been running a few months, it will already be nicely indexed in Google. If you want to start small, there’s other low cost subscription options like Shopify you can use, but there are special tricks needed to properly integrate the WordPress blog with the shop site. (Even if you run a WordPress site, Shopify is often the better choice over plugins like woocommerce.)
But if your SEO work has been done right the past few months, should have a good domain authority and ranking too – Meaning you’ll almost immediately start to get good organic search traffic for your new products or services in your new e-store.
You’ve also got your large prospect list too, collected online over many months. You can now get some good early online sales quite quickly using email marketing with coupon incentives. You should immediately utilise Googles Adwords to get even more qualified traffic. (N.B AdWords needs to be expertly setup for best results).
With the right ‘systems’ in place on your sites, your new clients could help you sell more too, spreading the word online. In some sectors, social media can play a big part. This referral traffic is the best sort of traffic you can get. We’ve setup shopping sites that during the checkout, they can reward customers with extra discount if they refer the site to their friends via Facebook or Twitter.
Different, but it’s a plan that makes sense
All this is the basis for selling online that is well structured and designed to get sales on day one of the store going live. It’s a far more cost-effective and lower risk option when setting up to sell online. The alternative are those that setup a cheap template-based $50/mth subscription store, that gets no Google ranking, or those who invest $10-15k on a more professional looking site, that also disappoints. Both will often wrongly conclude that ‘online selling’ doesn’t work.
Realise that website designers know very little about building traffic, or business marketing.
The truth is they’ve just done it all wrong. The problem is they put all their faith (and money) into the hands of a web designer, instead of building an online strategy first.
A traffic and list-building strategy is required before any store is built. Tips were outlined in a recent marketing training forum in the US. Here’s a snippet from a couple of the esteemed speakers… We’ll present more from this in future articles.