Running an online business can be a tough nut to crack. I’ve been working in this space for a while now. If you’re an entrepreneur looking to start a web business, here’s some things to look out for.
Launch a beta, don’t delay
If you think you’ve got a winning idea, don’t sit around developing it for a year (yeah, I’ve done that). Don’t get caught up trying to perfect the idea to death. What you need to do is launch it as soon as possible, and just slam a BETA tag next to the logo. Heed this advice, or you’ll find that somebody else launched before you, and you’ve lost the novelty appeal. You’ll have enough time to perfect your site once you’ve got visitors. You’ll get feedback directly from them and you may even get some ideas about what they need which are very different than the ones you’ve had before launching.
The time to start is now.
Less is more, they don’t care
People don’t care about fancy designs. Yeah, it’s cool to have them, but don’t delay your site’s launch just because you’re waiting on some designer to polish up your floating menu. Also, in terms of design, less is more indeed. Take a look at facebook, twitter and all the big boys. Emulate the winners. Have your design as simple as possible.
Also, use big buttons, research web 2.0 design, use 3-4 colors tops!
Biggest concern? User friendliness!
Everybody is in a hurry. Nobody cares. Convey what it is you’re selling as fast as humanly possible. The maximum attention span of a new visitor is 3 seconds. If he checks out your site and within 3 seconds he still doesn’t know what you’re selling or offering, you’re in trouble. Also, make sure each and every page is simple to understand. Try to ask friends before launching. Have them browse around the site. If they’re having a hard time figuring out what each page’s role is, you’re in trouble.
Loading speed is crucial also, don’t ignore it
I’ve already said that people only have a 3 second attention span on the Internet. Obviously, if they’re waiting 3 seconds for your site to load, then (you guessed it) you’re in trouble. Make sure that the people who are actually creating your site (also known as geeks or IT engineers) use things like CSS sprites, caching systems and all the cool technologies you know nothing about. Your question willl obviously be: “But how can I make sure they’re creating a fast loading site for me, if I’m not a specialist?”.
Here’s two tools to help you. Both will specifically show you why your site might be loading slow. Learn to use them!
Selling should be a two click process
Try to make the actual process of buying what it is you’re selling or seeing what it is you’re actually promoting as fast and simple as possible. If you’re starting a site to sell japanese katanas, make sure your buyers will be able to buy them in 2 clicks!
Use heatmaps and mouse surveying tools
Heatmaps are really cool. As soon as you can afford them, make sure you use them. These are basically maps of where your visitors cursor is at, most often on your site. This will help you redesign your site according to your visitors needs. You’ll want to place the sell button in the area which is hottest! Also, these services offer recordings of each of your visitors mouse movements. As you can probably tell, this is incredilby useful. Here are some great services for this:
Make sure you upsale them something!
After you’ve made a sale, on the Thank You Page suggest something else to buy. If you’ve sold a mouse, suggest a mousepad. If you’ve sold a book, suggest another book by the same author. Try to emulate the selling process from Amazon.
This can also work great if you offer a discount before the first sale. The process should be like this: the client wants to buy a book, and on the final page with the “Buy” button (placed accordingly to the heatmaps suggested above!), you’ll offer a one time discount for that second book by the same author. This process tends to have an overall greater convertion rate.
Retain their information, don’t ask them twice for it!
It goes without saying that you should ask for as little information from your client as possible. Just enough to make the sale and deliver the product. Also, you’ll only ask the client for that information once! Make sure you (and not the payment gateway you’re using) is asking for this information. Store it, connect it to the client’s account and next time he comes back to your site to buy something, he’ll be grateful to find all his information already filled in!
As soon as you can afford it, invest in a live chat feature!
I’ve found that having a live chat can really boost your credibility and give you incredible insight into what your buyers are doing. If you can’t afford hiring a person to talk to your visitors, man the chat position yourself, at least 2 hours a day. You’ll get great feedback about your site. Here’s a great service:
Social profiles go without saying!
Really? You know better than not having some great social profiles. Where should you make them? Well, everywhere! Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest! Go crazy on this one!
Pinterest is the new kid on the block, but I’ve really found that it can generate great traffic. Post professionaly made pictures of your products on there!
Freebies are great!
If you’re selling high price point products, make sure you send a free t-shirt with your company’s logo alongside your product. Or a mug. Or a fridge magnet with a goofy looking face and your tagline. Anything for free! People love freebies, and that client will love your for life!
Make sure you have a mailing list!
Really? You know better than not using the power of a mailing list. Collect each client’s mail and send them periodical updates on your products. Segment your mailing list according to certain info such as age, sex, etc.
Also, make sure your newsletter is made according to these tips!
(otherwise it won’t look good in your client’s reader!)
If you’re wondering why you should pay these guys, well… how should I put this… They’re worth every cent! Mass e-mail sending is the most complicated process on God’s green Earth, along with quantum physics. Don’t trust the people telling you otherwise.
Don’t buy other sites e-mail lists!
It’s unethical. It’s wrong. You’ll lose your sending reputation, you’ll hurt your business. Have you heard about spam traps? How about bounce and spam complaint rates? Trust me, you really, really can’t buy somebody’s list and send to it. It’s just impossible.
Stay away from directory submissions and other black hat SEO tactics!
Don’t submit your site to directories. Don’t try to get traffic that way. It will hurt your Google standing. It’s just wrong. You’ll regret it.
Add more value!
Try to be genuine and really sell a cool product which adds value to your customers. That’s the only way to go, that’s the only profitable path.