How does a new business or an existing business with lackluster online sales growth build a profitable online business or eCommerce store? The answer to this involves a series of steps which need to be applied consistently. “Do the right thing enough times, get the right results,” is a saying I like to use often.
Building a successful online business requires you to be prepared to dig in. In most cases that is what is going to be required. Regardless of what you are selling because it takes time to build your presence and compete against all the noise and hundreds or thousands of people and pages similar to your own product, service or idea.
You may have a great product at a great price but converting that into livable dollars requires work and effort of the right kind. Otherwise you are just flailing away and your odds of success are greatly diminished.
Occasionally, there are the lucky or perhaps more fortunate ones that manage to build an incredible business quickly. If you can go viral or generate a ton of traffic and interest quickly via social channels then you might be one of those. But for most of us that is a daunting task. There are ways to jumpstart this and ways to develop this type of presence, or at least a respectable social marketing presence, and these should be part of any good online marketing plan. For example you should build and maintain social channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and then make it possible for visitors to your site pages to promote your site to these channels. This is just one of the “right things” necessary to build an online business.
And keeping in mind the potential positive advantages of “going viral” one should think of creative ways they can market their business and do this. A funny video related to your business, a clever advertisement or just really good copy about things you know are all ways a person can go viral and bring attention to their business.
This is because the first most important step perhaps to online success is traffic. Without traffic to your website you might as well be invisible. And this traffic needs to have a relevant interest to your product or service. All the traffic in the world is virtually useless if there is no relevant interest. This makes it obvious that you have to find ways to either generate interest or find those that are looking for what you have.
Generating interest generally means advertising yourself in some way. And this can be expensive. No matter how much you target your advertising and craft your message you still have to reach out to many, many, more people than those that will respond. So you have to pay in terms of reach to a great extent. And when you compare your return in terms of dollars proportional to your reach you probably find that the rate of conversion is very low, again in terms of proportion of sales to reach. Advertising should be a part of a good marketing plan with the understanding it will not be the magic answer but simply a small part of the answer. It’s taking all of the steps generally necessary for online success and applying them consistently that make up the right package or formula. “Do the right thing enough times, get the right results.”
In terms of online advertising, in my opinion the type that is the most cost effective for your advertising dollars is pay per click (PPC) advertising. What may turn a lot of small business owners away from it is the sheer complexity of doing it successfully. Because success has to translate to dollars earned versus dollars spent. And generally, its been my experience that most small business owners don’t have the experience and skillset to manage an effective PPC campaign and when they try it is a failure. Regardless of what administrators and companies that are selling ppc might say about how easy it is to use and profit from their system anyone that successfully manages ppc knows that it is difficult and complex to do it well. Doing it right however is usually well worth it and better in terms of advertising dollars spent versus return. This is because to a great extent you can target your message right to the person that is interested in buying your product or service and you are paying to reach that person and only that person. Of course I say “to a great extent” because even then you still will get a lot of noise or cross-traffic that you will have to continuously optimize your campaigns to filter out. For example, people thinking about it but will never do anything about it, people accidentally finding you because they were looking for something else but you sounded similar (even when you’re not) and people that might make no sense at all and still won’t buy anything. But your odds are still better in finding people that will buy what you are selling when you use PPC versus standard advertising.
Short of external things like advertising and social marketing or going viral, getting traffic to your website means you have to be recognized and promoted by search engines when people are doing a search on the internet for your product or service. Because in most cases, this is where your traffic is going to come from. And so that has to be a part of any plan that is going to include online success. And that means doing all of the things that are going to help you do this. Which means you have to know and understand search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) which go hand in hand together and are imperative for getting search engine traffic. And there is a ton of information about these two subjects. In some respects, the information is in constant change or even perhaps, constantly evolving. So unless you are going to take the time necessary to learn a new skill and go thru the piles of information which will teach you on the subject and then keep up with its evolution AND then continuously apply those “best practices” of good search engine marketing and optimization (because it does require constant and dedicated attention to a great extent) then you have to hire a professional. Depending on who you hire it can get expensive, and also depending on who you hire it might or might not be money well spent. Hopefully it is a person or company that is fairly priced for a small business, and has the knowledge AND experience. Because experience is the real key to both understanding seo/sem and applying it successfully. If the person also understands all of the steps for online success beyond seo/sem and knows how to help you implement them or implement and manage them for you, all the better.
We do offer affordable monthly marketing plans for small businesses that are designed to help you grow and build your business and include much of what is mentioned here such as PPC setup and management, seo and sem services, website maintenance and design and more and without breaking the bank. Our services and programs are not “cookie-cutter” in their design or approach and are tailored on an individual basis in order to meet your most exact needs and budget. To learn more simply call us at 866-622-5710.
Once you’ve established your online program and have the previous steps in operation then comes the final part of the program which is conversion growth or growing. A conversion can take many forms. Sometimes (most often) it is a series of steps which hopefully lead to a final result (buying your service or product). And since success, growth and profitability are generally not instant, but require long term application of these steps or principles it should be a given that the conversion process should be an ongoing part of any successful online operation. Of course with a good plan, there should be consistent results and wins along the way at least once the program has become established and built a good foundation.That’s part of why earlier it was mentioned that you have to be “prepared to dig in”, for the long haul in some respects. In our experience it is one of the main reasons many small business ventures on the internet ultimately fail. They are not prepared for the long haul. They do not understand the need for or plan out the expense of building and maintaining a good online marketing plan that is sustained over a reasonable period of time. They think that once they have built a website people will come and people will buy. It is never that simple.
Because first, the foundation has to be built such as the website or online store, initial optimization of the website, the social and ppc systems in place with their ongoing monitoring, tracking and analysis planned and operating and then ongoing website analytics and optimization and conversion tracking as the tail of the program.
Before you can grow conversions you first have to track them. Web analytics is one of the critical parts of the final solution. This is because just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come and assuming you apply the proper steps to make them come doesn’t mean just because they come they will buy. Even if their interest is genuine and relevant and you have the greatest thing in the world at the greatest price in the world still doesn’t mean they will buy. If you are so lucky then once you generate traffic it hardly matters what you do you’ll still make money.
But you have to consider that even with the most successful online operations generally their actual conversion rate is usually in the low single digits. This is the norm which means you have to generate a lot of traffic, hopefully as relevant as possible. And this means you need good web analytics in place. Web analytics is like having a two-way mirror into your traffic. You can gather the data with web analytics from which you can learn how to grow your conversions. When you see how people respond to your pages, where they come from, what they were looking for and what they do when they arrive on your site, the how, when, where and why to the ones that do convert versus the ones that do not convert, you can then make intelligent decisions about how to continuously evolve your message to grow your conversions and make more business. This often then entails a proper “split testing” program where you take the actionable data from web analytics and test page variations against your ongoing traffic in order to evolve your presentation to its best possible result.
And too, if you are doing all of the other things necessary to grow and build an online business and you don’t have proper web analytics in place and the expertise to both understand the data (and really that is the final step to online success which is growing your conversions) then you might as well be blind to any failures or successes.
First you have in place and apply an ongoing program that is geared towards good social marketing, proper and effective online advertising and traffic building, strong website optimization processes and then the proper insights in place to track and adapt, and then ultimately, grow the business. This is the final step of a comprehensive program for online success and growing your conversions.