The key to any successful Internet business is a website. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a fancy website. But it does need to be properly constructed. If you know what you are doing then you can save a lot of money doing it yourself. If you don’t know what you are doing or aren’t sure then I highly recommend going with people that do. You can shop around and find someone that will fit into your budget, I recommend that you get references and ask to see samples of their work. Think of the website as the foundation of your business, would you find someone that is only going to put down a mud floor or someone that is going to concrete and make sure that it will hold the building?
With that being said, let’s take a look at the people you really do need to get in touch with, even if it is only for consulting purposes.
The website designer look at him as the architect. You are not going to build a building with a blue print… you aren’t going to create a website without a web designer. You need to find a designer that knows what they are doing. Someone that can listen to what you are trying to accomplish with your business and then analyze that information to build, design and manage your website. So what exactly does that mean? Here is a short list of items that you need to make sure a web designer can do.
The website design is the first component. The designer needs to be able to tell you the benefits of the different types of website design. The designer needs to work with you to create a user friendly and a visitor friendly design.
The remodel of the website needs to be included so that you can create a fresh new look for you and your visitors to see. The remodel should let you change the content, color, design or anything else that will show every evolving status of your business.
The designer needs to be able to look at your business requirements and your online strategies so that you end up with a website that is functional for your needs and economical for your budget. Make the selection of your website designer wisely. As I stated earlier, get references, ask to see samples because the ability of your designer will directly impact the success of you website.
You will also want to consider the content that goes on your website. If you are uncomfortable writing the content then you may want to consider hiring a freelance writer that has expertise in the industry of your business.
Graphics on the website should not be flashy. While the goal is to grab the attention of the visitor, it is not to cause them to have a seizure. Make sure the graphics that you chose fit with the content of the site and the nature of your business.
Follow these simple tips to have a properly constructed website.
I wanted to address an important issue, which is business to business selling online. Many people have been trying to figure out just how much information they need to provide, or how much copy they need, to really get a sale.
There seems to be some buzz on the net about whether or not you need long copy or short copy. The answer is really going to depend on what it is you are selling and how well you are addressing the needs of your customer. For example if you are marketing a certain printer and only a printer… you are not going to need a 20 page booklet on that printer. I wouldn’t even go as far as creating a separate website for that product. You can get away with a “snippet” on your company website talking about the printer.
However if you are marketing multiple lines of printers and computer systems, you are going to want to write longer copy. The reason is that you not only want to discuss each item, you are going to want to provide a comparison for your customer. Not only comparing price, but value so that you are the one stop shop for them to get all of their questions answered and then make the purchase from you. To determine the appropriate length of copy for you ask this question:
How complex of a decision is this for the customer? Is this going to take a lot of consideration and information to get them to part with their money? If the answer is yes, you are going to write more lengthy copy. If it is a simple decision of white or blue, wide ruled or college ruled, caffeinated or not… short copy is best. Remember always try to think of what the customer is going to need to make a decision.
There are a number of people that have been asking me whether or not I think it is important to blog even if you already have a website. While I have gone back and forth on this myself, I have come to the final conclusion that yes, you need to blog. The reason, you can reach more people with a blog than you can with a website.
Think of your website as your store front, and your blog is your customer service department. While your website talks about all of the products or the services you have to offer, the blog is more to engage the customers. Blogs provide a way for you to share information, data and opinions between you, your team and your customers. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Let’s go with a big name on the Internet, About.com.
About.com is a website/business that offers you information on just about anything you can think of. If you go to the homepage of About.com it is going to tell you about what they offer and how they can help you. Then on the side you are going to see a “topics” area. This is really a set of links to the various blogs that are associated with About.com. They are the customer service departments, if you are looking for help on an issue related to Green Living, you are going to click on that blog you aren’t going to send an email to About.com directly.
The bigger benefits of the blog include ease of use for the webmaster. In most cases you can send a blog post over your blackberry to post on the blog. This means if you are out and about and something happens that you think would be beneficial to your readers or customers you can type it up wherever you are and post it. If you are creating content for your website then you have to go to your home office, or get out the laptop… login as the administrator, upload and format the content to fit with the rest of the website. This is not to say that a website is not beneficial, it is actually a necessity when it comes to successful businesses, just as in years gone by you wouldn’t imagine trying to run a business without an ad in the yellow pages… now you must have a website.
Plus the blog allows you to use RSS feeds. So let’s say you have a Twitter account, you can link the blog to the Twitter account and once you post on the blog it automatically sends a link to Twitter and it is posted on your account. Twice the bang for the buck, so to speak, this is important because the Internet has become such a major component of our everyday life.
Just think for a minute about how much time you spend on the Internet every day. Whether you are checking email, getting the latest stock prices or the Bears football schedule and we can’t forget chatting on Facebook and MySpace. I find it hard to believe that there are many people out there that don’t spend at least an hour a day on the net. Which means you need to use every avenue you have available to you to reach your potential customers.
When you are working to build your online presence so that you can enhance your business and eventually increase profitability, then you need to take advantage of all mediums available. This means it is time for you to get over your fear and create a podcast. The best way to connect with your visitors is to give them a way to hear you and feel as though you are a real person. Part of building a relationship with your customers is making them feel like they know you. The more comfortable they are with you the more likely they are to listen to what you have to say… and more willing to spend money on what you are selling.
A word of caution though, podcasts need to be done with diligence. Ideally you should start the podcast by talking a little about yourself. Do not unload your life story on the listener, you want them to get to “know you” but we are not looking to make best friends. Talk a little about you, then move to the product or service that you have which can provide a benefit to the listener. I would even recommend that you look for current news to include in the podcast that is relevant to your product.
I also recommend that you give your visitor an option of whether or not they want to hear your podcast when they come to your site. One thing that irritates me is going to a site, where I am looking to get certain information and I am bombarded by video and audio that I really was not prepared to listen to. Podcasts are very beneficial to your online success, when they are used correctly and not forced on the visitors to your website.
You are obviously on my site because you are interested in building a successful website. It doesn’t matter if your site is just to provide information to people or if you are trying to sell something to people to make money. There is a simple art that you need to learn that will help guarantee your online success, which is prospecting. Just finding customers is no longer enough, you need to know how to find your customers, the people that are interested in what it is you have to offer.
With that being said you also need to know that there is a right and wrong way to go about prospecting. Just as if you own a brick and mortar store you cannot walk out on the sidewalk and grab people by the arm dragging them kicking and screaming into your store… you can’t force people online to come to your site either. Though there are people that do try to do that and we have all been their victim at one time or another.
Today though, you are going to learn the right way to prospect, by first learning how to talk with your prospects. Obviously you can’t call them on the phone and say, “Hey check out what I have to say here.” While it may seem backwards to you that I am first going to cover talking to the prospect before I cover the right way to prospect… that is because the vast majority of people would rather know what to do… and maybe worry about why they are doing it later.
There is an old saying that when you are talking to people you should smile. I already said that you weren’t really going to be able to drag them to your site off the street or call them on the phone… so how are you suppose to smile? As odd as it may sound, when you are writing smile while you are writing. It doesn’t matter if you are writing an email or creating the content for your blog, smile. The reason for the smile is simple, the reader… your prospect… is going to be pick up on the fact that you are smiling. Your content will come across more sincere, be more positive and more inviting.
Secondly, never under any circumstances assume that you know what your prospect is going to ask or say. Forget the. “I know… you have to be thinking…” First it makes you look presumptuous, secondly you give the impression that you are better than the person you are trying to do business with because you already know everything they could possibly be thinking. Take a moment to read a full email, if by chance you get to talk to the person on the phone, listen to what they have to say. Sometimes a person starts by saying one thing, but what they really mean is hidden under what they are saying.
The most important part of prospecting is being yourself. There really isn’t any point in trying to be someone else. While Gatorade may have made a killing back in the day with “I wanna be like Mike,” the best thing you can do for your reputation online is to be yourself. If you are creating a site that sells affiliate products, over time those products are going to change… you are the constant though. You want to be what people remember and trust.
This now brings us to the art of finding your prospects. These are the people you are going to market to, whether you are selling a product, selling a business idea or simply offering information they could use to make their business or their life better. For example, take a look at my site. My specialty is web development and everything related to it. I wanted to create a one stop source for other people like me that are looking to start a website, start an online business, or find another way to make a profit online. While I spent years and countless hours scouring the Internet looking for useful information, finding success through trial and error… I wanted to help eliminate some of that frustration for other people. I don’t go out marketing to people that are looking for ways to improve the way their car runs. You aren’t going to find links here about “green living” and you aren’t going to find me on sites like that. I know where my “prospects” are. By knowing who my prospects are and where they will be I can make the most out of my marketing efforts and get a better return for my investment of time and money.
When you are creating content for your website, and your deciding on the amount of information that you should offer you need to know it depends on the product.
I am not talking about the price of the product, but whether or not it is an established product or if it is something new. The newer the product, the more convincing you will need to be with the customer. In other words, if you are selling iPods or Blackberries… you really don’t need to write lengthy posts on your blog. Most people already know about these products and really what they are doing is price shopping. If you can offer them a better deal than Apple or Verizon they are going to buy from you.
Do you remember the Zune? It is still on the market, but it doesn’t get anywhere near the hype that it was getting when it first hit the market. It was supposed to be better than the iPod because it allowed for music sharing. There were commercials all over the television, ads and articles on the Internet all talking about the benefits of the Zune over the iPod. The market was saturated, in hopes to boost sales and knock out the iPod.
If you are going to be one of the first marketing a new product, then you are going to need to saturate your market the best you can to gain customers. The customer is going to need to be convinced the new product is better than a reliable one they are familiar with.
When you are marketing a new product address the following issues:
- What are the advantages over the competition?
- Cost/Value comparison?
- What would I need to know to make the decision to purchase the item?
To write effective content you have to get inside the mind of your reader.
If your site makes sales and or requests other sensitive information from your customers it is vitally important that you take every step possible to protect that information. There are two huge reasons as to why you need to make sure that you are protecting your visitors.
First if your security is lax and hackers are able to access your site and steal your customers’ credit card information you will be held liable. The legal fees that you will face will be enough to not only ruin your business but possibly your personal assets as well.
Your reputation is also at stake. You have spent countless hours building a solid reputation to gain visitors and customers… are you prepared to see that all go out the window because your customer’s information was stolen.
Take the following steps to make sure that you are protecting your customers and yourself.
Make sure your system is protected. If you have a wireless connection on your computer it needs to be password protected. You should also scan all of your computers for viruses on a routine basis. Check with your host to make sure that they are hacker-safe as well as PCI compliant. You should also make sure that you are the only person that has access to the customer’s private data. Even if only one credit card number gets out, that is one too many.
The data that you have stored on your computer should also be encrypted. Finally make sure that you secure your connection with an SSL certificate. You can tell that a site has an SSL certificate by looking at the web address. Sites that have “https” over “http” have the SSL certificate.