Internet marketing basics are provided here for free on thebitchwhocodes.com, as this website offers the best online business eCommerce reviews, basically the knowledge relating to all aspects of selling products and services online.
Selling Online Since 1992
It is no secret that the Internet has provided a collection of new sales channels for offering products and services to the masses. Such products and services were traditionally marketed through the standard marketing channels of print media, direct marketing, radio, and television until the early 1990’s. In 1992 with the advent of the World Wide Web, marketing was provided a new and powerful method for achieving its goals of selling goods and services. (More information about the history of the Internet can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_World_Wide_Web.)
As we’re now entering the 18th year of the Internet as it is commonly known, the dust has settled and the sales channels have matured. Furthering the growth of eCommerce has been the recent economic downturn of 2008 and 2009. When money became scarce for middle-class Americans, the goods and services traditionally offered through brick and mortar establishments underwent further commoditization via the mass market outlets on the Internet.
This has been demonstrated by the steady rise and common usage of the Internet for making purchases online after first comparing prices at a number of companies. At no other time in history has this ability been more readily available to the average person than it is now with the widespread adoption of the Internet as a common household service. Additionally the sharp increases in business to business transactions that now occur over the Internet have also worked to strengthen the commoditization of goods. (Commoditization happens when a product turns into a commodity as it becomes indistinguishable from others like it and consumers buy based on price alone.)
A Website is a Quintessential Business Tool
For the entrepreneur seeking to start up a company, or for the professional seeking to start a firm in their trade or practice, it is imperative to have a web presence. A website is now a quintessential business tool, as widespread and common as a business card. However, just because you have a website does not mean that potential customers will find it.
A website is now a quintessential business tool, as widespread and common as a business card.
Build it and they will come does not hold true on the Internet, as the playing field is level and open to all companies large and small alike. Creating a website is just the first step in a process that involves much more. This article will briefly lay down the basics of selling products and services online, while subsequent articles will provide much more detail getting down to a granular level.
Specific Tasks Necessary to Sell Online
The following list contains specific tasks that will need to be completed in order for you to sell your products and services online. This list contains the very basics of eCommerce Marketing and is not intended to be all inclusive, but rather this is a simple beginners guide.
Within the list below eCommerce-Marketing-Success.com provides links to businesses that are able to provide the services that we are indicating as necessary. You do not have to patronize these companies as they are being linked to solely as a convenience for you, as there are other companies available who offer the same set of services.
However if you choose to use the companies that we link to below, please realize that we will be paid a commission as an affiliate of these organizations as this is one of the revenue generating methods that we’ll be utilizing to keep this website free. [Please note that you will not be charged additional fees by these companies, rather these companies have preexisting agreements with us for promoting their services (and the majority of the companies that we recommend throughout our website are companies that we ourselves are currently utilizing).]
1) Domain Name Registration.
You must start by registering a domain name for your website if you have not done so already. This is the “www.whatever-you-want.com” part of your website. Obviously the whatever-you-want part is not meant to be taken literally, but rather this is a placeholder for the name you wish to give to your website. What you want to name your website is dependent upon the name you want being currently open and available for purchase (meaning someone else hasn’t already bought that domain name). GoDaddy.com is one of the largest domain registration companies in the world, and we utilize their services for this website. Click the following link if you desire to register your domain name with GoDaddy – World’s Largest Registrar – GoDaddy.com.
2) Website Hosting.
The second step to selling your products and services online is to have a website hosting company actually “host” your website. Hosting a website is the literal act of serving the website documents to the visitors of your website, much the same way that a business’s computer network lets multiple employees access the same document over their network. A Hosting company will provide the physical web server on which your website will be placed or “hosted.” The web server will then distribute the information that makes up your website, being contained within HTML-type documents, by sending the documents over the Internet to the website visitor’s web browser program on their computer so that they can then read your website’s information.
Hosting accounts vary widely, and there is no single one “best” hosting provider. So for simplicity’s sake we have again listed GoDaddy.com as a potential hosting company for your website. Additionally, we will also list Peer1 Hosting, which is also one of the nation’s largest hosting providers. We have had experience with both of these hosting providers, and both have provided adequate hosting services at decent rates. If you choose to use GoDaddy.com for your hosting, then click this link – GoDaddy.com Hosting Plans. If you choose to use Peer1 Hosting, then click this link – coming soon by 1-27-2010.
Not all websites literally sell their products or services directly over the Internet, as many B2B businesses desire the outcome of a visit to their website to be solely a phone call into their sales department or to their secretarial staff. However, other businesses which seek to sell their products or services directly from their websites must then accept payments online. To accept an order over the Internet as well as a payment for such orders requires a “shopping cart” component. This is an important consideration when seeking a Website Hosting company, as the differing hosting packages offered will have differing options such as the inclusion of a shopping cart component. This is also consideration when completing Step 3 below when you locate a Website Developer, as not all Website Developers have the skill set for setting up a shopping cart website.
We will not expound upon all the nuances of setting up a website that will accept credit card payments online, as other components beyond the scope of this article will be necessary to complete such a scenario. However, for the sake of providing a more complete picture of what is needed, two very important aspects are: obtaining a merchant account from a financial institution in order to accept credit cards online, and securing your website with a secure certificate (also known as an SSL Certificate). These two topics will be further explained in greater detail in a future article, but suffice it to say that these two topics are very important and deserve more detailed information for such a website to be fully understood and implemented. Your Website Hosting Company should be able to provide more details regarding a merchant account and SSL Certificates, or we can also advise you immediately though our consulting based services (though consulting fees will apply).
3) Website Design and Development.
The third step to offering your products or services online is to have your website documents literally created for you. Some of us have the skill set to design and develop our own graphics and HTML documents (which may entail ASP, PHP, JSP server-side scripted programs that output the HTML code to be displayed in the visitor’s web browser). However, many of you may not have the graphic art capability or the HTML programming knowledge. If this is the case, you will need to outsource the creation of your website’s appearance and format to others who have the necessary skills.
We strongly advise that you obtain a highly professional design for your website or at the bear minimum a very clean and appealing design. Do not use a website that has an appearance which gives the impression to most people as being amateur. Research has shown that a website with an amateur appearance will get overlooked almost immediately as most Internet users are now savvy enough to recognize an amateur appearance.
We strongly caution our readers to only use a full-time Web Development professional. Using a neighborhood kid or a younger relative with some “web knowledge” can set a dangerous precedent as often these young high school students do not have the knowledge to bring a project to full completion in a professional manner. Always remember “you get what you pay for.”
We do not make any guarantees express, implied or otherwise in regard to any web development services you locate from these websites or the SBDC. Simple business acumen can serve you well in regard to choosing the right developer for your project. Choose a website developer based upon the examples of websites they have developed and provide for you to review, references from others who have used their services, Better Business Bureau report, business colleague referral, etc.
4) Content Development.
The actual verbiage on your website is of the utmost importance. This is akin to the content of a textbook, as is obvious a college book is only as good as the information it contains. If you place inadequate or unprofessional content onto your website, this is how your website’s visitors will view your company – as being unprofessional and inadequate. The content on your website is the lens through which your company will be viewed, as well as containing the marketing pitch that will be used to obtain your customers. Develop your content wisely.
Content is king when it comes to the Internet, as not only will the search engines rank your website based upon the content, but your visitors will judge your company based upon the content too. Good content generates leads and sales, whereas bad content drives potential customers away from your company’s website. You only have one chance to make a good first impression.
Statistics show that you really only have about ten (10) seconds to get a website visitor to read further and stay on your website or else they will click back to the search engine and look elsewhere. As every business owner knows, potential customers can be very fickle. Website visitors will leave your website for reasons as simple as the home page loading too slowly or the graphics looking amateur in their opinion, let alone for reasons dealing with the actual written content on your website. Develop good content and keep your standards high as this will garner your company loyal online customers.
5) Online Internet Marketing.
Once you have all the components in place as outlined above, then you are ready to market your website online. Internet Marketing has come a long way since 1992, as the current level of complexity and sophistication available is quite high. Yet even with the level of complexity accessible, online success can be achieved by the sole proprietor as well as the marketing professional. The tools available to achieve online success are only a click away. Though please remember to temper your expectations without curbing your enthusiasm too much off the bat, as with all things worth doing, practice makes perfect.
As we say, Internet Marketing is part science and part intuition. Intuition is often commonly referred to as a gut feeling. We hope to provide enough information in subsequent articles over the coming weeks and months to get you up to speed with Internet Marketing techniques, this being the “science” part of the equation. However, the “intuition” or gut feeling part is something that marketers develop overtime in their careers. Although we can discuss marketing intuition and provide excellent examples that display it, yet it is something that develops only with time and experience. In the world of business and marketing, experience often trumps education. So be patient, you are on the right path toward generating wealth for your business online.
Here is a simple checklist of the techniques and methods currently in widespread use to promote business transactions online:
a) Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is the technique that allows a website to become well listed or highly ranked within the search engines and thus causes a website to be easily found by potential customers. Being well listed in the natural results of the search engines is also referred to as being well listed “organically” in the search results. Once your website is well listed and highly ranked, the resulting business can almost be thought of as coming to you for free as there are no directly associated costs at that time (though getting well listed and staying well listed usually requires a lot of effort).
b) Search Engine Marketing (SEM). This is the technique that allows you to bid against your competitors on a pay-per-click basis for appearing first within the sponsored links or sponsored results area of the search engines. Google’s AdWords program facilitates these efforts as does Bing’s adCenter and Yahoo’s Search Marketing. These are the top three services for activating Pay-Per-Click advertisements online that appear as “sponsored links” within these top three search engines. Often those using the search engines (i.e., your potential customers) do not differentiate between the sponsored “pay-per-click” results and the organic results within the search engines. However the paid “sponsored” links have direct costs associated with their appearance and the business they generate for you, whereas the organic links or natural results do not have direct costs associated on a per click basis.
c) Comparison Shopping Sites, which are also seen abbreviated as SCS for Shopping Comparison Sites, are becoming more and more popular as the result of (or the cause of) commoditization. Most comparison shopping engines such as NexTag, Shopzilla, BizRate, and many others function on a pay-per-click basis like the sponsored results in the search engines. However, the companies providing data feeds (i.e., their product databases) to the comparison engines are not allowed to bid against their competitors as ranking or order of appearance is usually a function of the best price and/or most visited link.
There is a new movement toward service-generated comparison engines like on theFind.com, where the companies selling the products do not submit their product databases, but rather the comparison engine itself locates and displays product results. These service-generated comparison engines do not charge on a per-click basis, but rather they hope to generate revenue from their websites by becoming popular and then cashing in on their website traffic using other methods of advertising to generate their revenue streams.
d) Email Marketing is one of the longest-running methods of advertising and generating revenue online, as this form of Internet-based direct marketing began almost as soon as the World Wide Web came online in 1992. This method of Internet-based direct marketing is achieved by sending an electronic mail (email) message to potential or past customers, in which an offer is usually presented. The recipient of the email message may then click on a text link or an image link that is provided within the email to then be directed to a web page that allows the email recipient the ability to make a purchase.
Often products or services are highlighted in the email marketing message as well as some special offer such as a discount in the form of an electronic coupon. Due to the low-costs per email sent and corresponding low-costs per order acquired, email marketing continues to be a very popular Internet Marketing technique despite its continually low conversion rates per message sent. (Conversion rates will be explained in much more detail in subsequent articles, but in a nutshell, a conversion rate is the number of people placing an order due to a singular marketing communication divided by the number of people communicated with. Thus if 1,000 emails were sent, and these emails generated 10 orders, the conversion rate would be 10 divided by 1,000 which equals 1 %.)
It should be noted that in recent years various efforts were introduced to reduce unwanted email marketing campaigns in the United States, and culminated in the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 that went into effect. As well in the European Union, a similar effort was completed the year prior to this with the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications of 2002. These laws push for email marketing to be done in what is known as a white-hat method and is commonly achieved with “opt-in” email marketing. This “opt-in” email marketing is a permission-based method and requires that each person receiving the email marketing message to have actually signed up to receive the email message. The recipients are usually enticed to sign-up for the email marketing messages due to some benefit that they believe they will obtain from the marketing emails, such as the promise of special discounts or exclusive sale items.