Top tips from Bruce Townsend, marketing manager at ecommerce software specialist, Actinic
Achieving success online is not about how much money you throw at the marketing budget. It’s about attracting and keeping customers. A strong customer focus, targeted marketing and creative thinking will take you a long way towards ebusiness success.
Here are a few tips:
1. Get niche
The internet can reduce costs, but larger companies achieve the greatest economies of scale. Don’t compete on price, but offer something that sets you apart - maybe a unique range of hard-to-find products or free expert advice.
Surf Wax (www.surf-wax.co.uk), the brainchild of Jo Morecroft, is a good example of a flourishing niche business. “Unless you can undercut on prices, don’t go for selling products that everyone else is selling too,” is Jo’s advice.
2. Get seen in search
Seventy per cent of UK internet users search using Google, so good visibility there is vital. Pay-per-click advertising gets you listed quickly, but it costs. Colin McPhail of sports retailer Snowlines (www.snowlines.co.uk) believes in site optimisation instead. “If you get your optimisation right, you’ll spend less and do better in the organic rankings,” he states.
To get into the unpaid listings, get links from good sites that rank well. Otherwise, submit manually. Don’t use automated submission or join ‘Link farms’.
Use Wordtracker (www.wordtracker.com) to identify phrases that people use to search for what you sell - then optimise pages for the main ones. Work them several times into the text of the page. Use them in the Title tag and the Meta Description, and include them in heading tags and image Alt tags.
Get links from relevant and well-ranked sites. Offer reciprocal links, provide ‘link bait’ (content that people would want to link to) and post on forums, putting a link in your signature.
3. Keep them coming back
Keep your customers happy and they will come back and purchase again. Chris Brown of www.gamble.co.uk attributes his success largely to good customer service. “It helps boost a customer’s confidence,” he explains.
4. Creative use of technology
You don’t have to spend a fortune on technology to make it work effectively. Use a low-cost ecommerce package and leave budget for marketing and promotion. The start-up costs for Surf Wax were under £1,000.
Sign up for relevant free news feeds and email newsletters and surf the net regularly. Watch what other people are doing and look for ideas you can copy.
Use some of the free products and services that are available. For example, a button from Addthis.com enables visitors to submit your site to social bookmarking sites like Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon and Digg, and records when they do.
5. Monitoring your performance
To monitor ROI, use a free tool like Google Analytics or a commercial package like WebTrends. And use customer surveys to monitor the offline areas of the business.
If a customer does phone or email with a complaint, don’t be defensive - learn from it. Listen carefully to their grievance and do your utmost to put things right.
For a fuller version of this article visit