FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS:
Following the strategies I have discussed in this series can help you make money selling your products and services on the Internet.
Now the bad news: What works for you works for everyone else. Your competition is just one click away.
Whether you already have an ecommerce website or are thinking of trying e-commerce, having a plan to achieve your goals will differentiate you from the vast majority of companies that simply put up a website and cross their fingers.
Your e-commerce plan starts by defining your goals (what you want to accomplish over the next few years) and objectives (what has to be achieved for the goals to happen).
Some examples of goals:
• A dress manufacturer with limited distribution in retail stores wants a Zip code locator on its website to help customers find retailers in their area. He also wants to offer dresses online to customers who live far away from a retailer. If a consumer wants a dress and lives close to a retail store, she would be directed to that store. If she is far from a store, her address is recorded as a part of her order or inquiry. When enough addresses are accumulated in a location without retail outlets, the manufacturer offers the address list to department stores to convince them to carry the dresses.
• A supplier of high-quality plush teddy bears is currently using an ecommerce website to expand sales in its core gift market and wants to explore wider markets such as promotions and fundraisers for nonprofit organizations.
• A B2B company sells through distributors but wants to solicit Web traffic to research customer satisfaction, track trends, raise awareness of new products, make online offers, get responses from ads and build customer loyalty programs.
Examples of objectives are:
• One to three months: Make changes on your website so that you are recognized by search engines through search engine optimization (SEO) (see “How to Search Engine Optimize Your Website”) and pay-per-click (PPC) ( See “Pay- Per-Click Website E-Marketing.”)
• Nine to 12 months (and ongoing): Reevaluate products, services and offers, expand the website and eliminate non-strategic underperformers. Periodically send e-mails to prospects and customers on relevant topics with offers and news. Audit keywords to check on market trends.
• Three to six months: Raise search engine positions to bring in targeted traffic and add prospects and customers to your database. In addition, measure customer actions to improve sales conversions and revenue ratios.
• Six to nine months: Improve website traffic, sales conversions, revenues and responses. Identify and cure any barriers to sales. Reevaluate sales conversions from PPC ads and listings.
As with any plan, once you have developed your goals and objectives, you need to quantify your e-commerce goals and objectives (see sample spreadsheet) to set reasonable expectations and project the cash flow. Your spreadsheet will tell you the investment that is required, dates for milestones and the gateway achievements that can justify further investment. The key here is that strong projected traffic does not mean immediate sales and profits. For example, our keyword analysis (see above) shows high interest from Internet consumers, but our sample spreadsheet for “CoCoaCoffee Co.” shows that because of the necessary investment, most of the profit comes at the end of the first year, so a fast start is paramount in order to get to breakeven. Since sales are slow to start, using pay-per-click to boost sales is a good tactic in the first few months.
In many instances we have assumed that you will hire a professional for several tasks, such as keyword analysis, website development, etc. While you may do these tasks on your own (and our e-marketing series will certainly help), the right professional will, among other things, be up to date on the ever-changing world of e-marketing.
Now that you have an e-commerce plan, you now know 1) what your customers want, 2) how to change your website so that the search engines place you high on their rankings, 3) how much traffic and revenue to expect, and 4) how much it will all cost. Right there, you are ahead of 98% of the other companies who have websites.
NOTE: This is the tenth article in a series on Internet marketing. To read the entire series, and to view a glossary of e-marketing terms, visit www.nyreport.com/emarketing.
Tony Grass is President of e-Market Intelligence, an internet sales generation consultancy and service. Previously, he built a traditional 65-person sales and marketing communications company in Chicago. Contact is welcome through firstname.lastname@example.org.