The 10 Commandments of Creating a Successful OnLine Business

Unless you are one of the leaders in your product category, it's tough to get the attention in the marketplace. Here's what you can do to give your online store the attention it deserves:
  1. Create a marketing plan for your online business. Components of the plan include advertising your site(s), optimizing your site(s) for search engines, pay-per-click marketing campaigns, and measuring click-through rates. It's a lot of work, but it doesn't have to be done all at once. The best place to start is with the web site itself: Create compelling and unique content that is targeted at a specific customer segment.

  2. Think about your customers. Then group your customers into segements. What features are important to which segments? What would each segment find really helpful? What would they find most annoying? What convinces a visitor in a particular segment to buy your product? Put yourself in the virtual shoes of your customers, and then find a way to deliver it over the internet.

  3. Talk to people who have 'been there, done that'. The important point here is to find people who have been successful. Everyone has an opinion, but you're looking for proven success. If you don't have any contacts that fit the profile, it may be time to hire someone. A seasoned professional will help you avoid the land mines and get you results faster.

  4. Create web sites focused on narrow product categories. Instead of marketing your site as an online furniture store, market your site as a living room furniture store, or even better, a contemporary living room furniture store. If you also sell dining room furniture, create a separate web site for, say, 'Empire Dining Room Sets'. Creating highly specialized web sites avoids pitting you against large, well financed competitors. Yes, you might loose a few sales, but how many shoppers click on a link on page 8 of a search engine result? It's better to rank high in specialized product categories than to rank low in generic, high volume categories.

  5. Create search engine landing pages that assures shoppers they've landed on the right page. Tie the text in the landing page to the text in the search engine link. Then, offer a deal. Make the shopper curious. Help them learn more, and lead them to a place where they'll want to buy your product.

  6. Create a visually attractive shopping cart. Convince the shopper that you have invested time and money in establishing a legitimate online business. Make the shopper comfortable by procuring web site seals from Rate Point, Hacker Safe, and the Better Business Bureau. Guarantee customer satisfaction and let the shopper know you are available to help before and after the sale.

  7. Procure a shopping cart that is flexible and will let you grow. A flexible shopping cart allows you to create value added services. A shopping cart built for growth allows you to efficiently add new web sites. These web sites can target new markets that create new revenue opportunities. Ultimately, a shopping cart that gives you flexibility and growth gives you options. As you experience success in the online marketplace (and become more savvy), you'll want to grow and change your online business. A shopping cart built for flexibility and growth can take you to where you want to go.

  8. Procure a shopping cart that gives your customers compelling reasons to return after the sale. This is where most shopping carts fail miserably. Too often, the stategy of an online business after the sale is to send emails to customers telling them how much they're appreciated and won't they please come back. Instead, look for shopping carts that make it almost impossible for customers not to return. If you want to learn more about this, learn about NextLevelShopper's Layaway and Gift Registry Systems. They are excellent examples of how shopping carts can be used to compel customers to return.

  9. Integrate your virtual store with your physical back-end operations. Whatever you promise on your web site needs to be delivered. Having a successful online store will result in more emails, more orders, more shipments, more returns, more customers, more information and more procedures. Anticipating how your back-end operations will be affected will result in fewer headaches and happier customers.

  10. Learn what's happening on your web site. Who is visiting, what are they doing, when are they visiting, where are they coming from, and why are they leaving. Getting answers to these questions tells you what's wrong with your web site, and what's right. There are several tools to help you do this. Some of these tools are automated (Google Analytics, Yahoo! Web Analytics) while other tools rely on your visitors to tell you what's going on (RatePoint, Kampyle).