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Secrets To Successful Online Selling

First I wanted to take the opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all have a great opportunity to spend precious family time together and enjoy each other’s company.

Paul Graham, from Yahoo Small Business, released an article in 1999 entitled The 10 Secrets of Selling Online. A great read, Graham reveals information as to how online businesses are able to overcome adversity and become profitable. Much of what he discusses are the same points I usually provide to our affiliates.

Here’s his list of what he mentions along with a quick caption about each point, followed by my commentary.

1. Work Works: If there is a single secret to selling online, it is to work hard. Hard work is the secret to succeeding in almost anything, but it is especially important on the Web. It's true what they say: the Web levels the playing field. A high school can make a better Web site than a large industrial company. On a level playing field, how big you are matters less than how hard you work (1999).

I’ve had the opportunity to ask many of our affiliates about how much time they spend on their site. The one thing I am constantly reminded from them is that they work hard and spend a lot of hours on their sites, whether it’s updating or adding new content, their site becomes another job for them, so they deserve the successes that come their way.

2. Choose The Right Niche: More important than the type of products you sell is the size of the niche you choose. In the physical world, niches are based on geography where proximity is king. Not on the Internet. Geography is almost irrelevant on the Internet. Niches on the Internet are based on what you sell, not where you are. And whatever you sell, you have to be the place to buy it, because your customers can just as easily visit any other online store (1999).

I constantly remind our affiliates to choose their products correctly based on who you they trying to sell to. For example, trying to sell home automation products on a website focused on helping the homeless is a tough sell. However, if your website caters to electronic seekers, you stand a better chance. Choose your products wisely and you’ll have more success.

3. High Production Values: Having production values is more important on the Web than other media sources. Consumers will not buy from an amateurish Web site. So your site needs to inspire visitors with confidence. It should say that yours is the kind of company that does things right, and that if I order something from you, it will be a good experience (1999).

It’s good to keep in mind the theory of “once a customer, always a customer.” Repeat business is crucial, and can generate the bulk of your business. If you treat your customers well, chances are they’ll come back. From here, you can focus on targeting new customers and building your base around new and repeat business.

4. Make Your Site Easy: It is no accident that the people who visit your site are called "Web surfers". They have the same short attention span as TV "channel surfers". The average visitor to a Web site looks at only three or four pages before going somewhere else. Visitors will leave at the slightest obstacle (1999).

In a previous blog post I wrote about Psychology Color Marketing. This is just one of the many factors to consider when setting up your site. Also look at your banner placements, or other factors that can result in challenges for your visitors. Keep your texts simple to read and pleasant to the eye. Don’t go out of your way to be over-creative, it’s a web site afterall, not an art palette!

5. Be Real: Anyone planning to sell online should start by shopping online. When you put yourself in the consumer's place, you'll find it is not hackers you worry about, but the merchant. Almost anyone can set up a Web site. So visitors need to be reassured that they are ordering from a real company, and not just a teenager running the site out of his bedroom. Anything you can do to show that you are real will help increase orders. If possible, include an image of your catalog or building, customer testimonials, or even a brief company history (1999).

With millions of websites available for people to choose from, how do you plan on making your site stand out? It’s online companies like eBay or Amazon that are able to distinguish themselves from others that become successful. Your website is a business, you've invested time and money into it, so treat it like one.

6. Emphasize Service: The most powerful confidence builder is a top-quality site: high production values go to work directly on the visitor's subconscious. But it's also important to reassure visitors explicitly. For example, if you are determined to provide great customer service, tell your visitors so, right on your site. Guarantee that they will be satisfied with what they buy from you, or you will refund their money with no questions asked (1999).

When it comes to your customers, top notch service is key. Your customers have expectancies for how they want to be treated. They work hard to earn the things they would like to buy. If you were in the same situation, wouldn’t you expect good service and respect from where you choose to buy? If you state something on your website relating to your service, stand by it, for it’s more common for your customers to spread stories about negative experiences than positive ones -- and we know how fast those can travel!

7. Promote Your Site: Having a great Web site is not enough. You also have to bring people to it. But promoting an online store is different from promoting an ordinary Web site. You're not just looking for hits. You're looking for sales. While it's always a good thing to bring more people to your site, what you really need is buyers (1999).

I’ve spent a lot of details in the past talking about site promotion. The bulk of X10 Affiliate sales occurs through search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask. Use keyword searching if you have a budget, keep a blog or a forum to help with your rankings. Update your content regularly.

8. Lower Your Prices: One of the best ways to spend money promoting your Web site is to lower your prices. You can't lose. When you spend money on a banner ad, you have to pay for everyone who sees it, whether they buy anything or not. But when you "spend" money by charging less, you only have to pay for the people who actually place orders. So you never pay for this form of promotion unless it works (1999).

As an affiliate, your primary role is to advertise products. You have no control over setting prices, however you do have control over the banners you use. But keep in mind that the lowest price isn’t always the best deal. The best deal is the one that gives the most for least. Use banners that promote daily or occasional specials. For instance, when a 7-piece alarm system normally is sold for $99, but you place an ad for a 15-piece system for $129, chances are you’ll have better opportunities selling the 15-piece system. So, price is not always the main issue, it’s the value that counts.

9. Change Your Site: Overall, the more time a company spends on its online store, the better it tends to do. Regular change in a Web site is a form of high production values. Having high production values means, in short, looking expensive. And a site that changes regularly looks expensive: for most online stores it is expensive, because the site is maintained by Web consultants who charge by the hour (1999).

Some sites are so large that maybe it’s too impossible to overhaul, but basic simple alterations can make a difference. Swap your ads on occasion, or change your content every so often. Keep your site looking fresh and keep your customers wondering about what’s new to come. By keeping the intrigue, you’ll have a better chance at having your customers come back to see what’s new.

10. Patience: Even the most successful online stores grow slowly at first. International Male opened their online store in 1996. They were laughed at in the press when they received only three orders in their first two weeks. But they kept at it, and now they are the ones laughing. Growth is slow at first for everyone. The winners are the ones who don't give up (1999).

I receive a lot of frustrated calls from affiliates. They wonder when the sales are going to come. When I ask them how long they’ve had their sites set up, the answers usually vary from a week to two months. New sites take time. Search engines usually take a couple of weeks to start crawling them. Be patient and continue to build your site and soon the sales will come!


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