It’s no secret that the internet can enable small business to compete on an equal playing field with larger online competitors; however, due to budget differences between the two the approach might be a bit different.
The current economy has made some small business owners shy away from internet marketing thinking it “simply costs too much to operate online.” This misconception is one that has caused many ecommerce businesses to close their doors during the past year or so.
The fact is that operating an ecommerce business online can actually be more profitable than operating the same retail business offline — but you must make sure you adhere to a few fundamental principles to make it work.
- Create ICE (Investment, Credibility, Exposure): Invest in your website design ensuring it speaks to your customers in their language and with a professional image. Talk about the benefits your products have for them rather than about yourself. Site design and functionality is important as it helps build credibility. Gain exposure for your products using a combination of online marketing channels such as SEO, Paid Search (PPC), and Social Media (great viral effect). The combination of marketing channels ensures that if one channel’s effectiveness temporarily lags the rest can help pick up the slack.
- Don’t Quit: Whatever you do, don’t stop marketing or promotions — doing this is a sure way to lose market share and sales. It may be tempting especially during tough economic times such as these, but refrain from doing it. Some of the most successful companies online actually increase their marketing spend during economic downturns. A previous article I wrote titled Ecommerce Survival in a Tough Economy – 6 Tips goes into that a bit more. If you think you do not have the funds to invest in marketing you need to consider enlisting the help of an expert who can ensure your marketing dollars provide you a proper rate of return and/or look carefully at your business model and product you are offering. Marketing should be an asset to a company not a liability. Proper marketing almost always drives sales.
- Instill Trust: I’ve asked this question before; “What is the one word that makes people buy?” The answer is trust. If you want to compete with the big guys then you need to ensure your approach always builds customer trust. Things like site design, use and appearance of security seals, and customer points of assurance go a long way toward building trust. If you can’t build trust you won’t build sales. It doesn’t matter whether a product or service is priced lower than the competition, if potential customers are uncertain about the quality of their purchase — or the companies behind them — they simply won’t buy.