ONLINE SELLING ON A SHOESTRING
Successful online selling has become a challenge for small businesses on a limited budget. Companies now invest large amounts of time, sums of money and employ professional staff or consultants on their online marketing strategy, Search Engine Optimization and technology developments in order keep their websites and products on public view and being sold on the internet. Small businesses without the cash, expertise and time to invest in online selling are at the bottom of the ladder. They are completely overwhelmed by all the jargon, software and how all the many components are used and work together.
A huge number of internet companies make a good living from selling products and services to facilitate, develop and increase the possibility of online sales. It does seem that everyone wants to make money from our attempts to sell online. Of course GOOGLE is at the top of the list and controls most of the searches and ultimately the websites and products we access on the internet. Google Adwords, Facebook Ads and similar products (pay per click) are basic facilities to promote companies website and/or products. Businesses often find this to be very expensive and ineffective. They soon discover they are competing with many other businesses large and small offering similar products and services. When my wife and I lived on the Isle of Skye in Scotland we ran a small bed and breakfast, offered Holistic Therapies and also made organic skin care products. We used Google Adwords, which was hugely successful and very cost effective for the B&B and Therapies, but very expensive and totally ineffective for selling our skin care products.
Internet selling success has now reached the stage where the complexities of Search Engine Optimization, Promotional Marketing, Customer and Product Trends have made it difficult for small businesses to get started and be successful in the online arena. Most small businesses do not start with the idea of a website or selling online, though it does seem very sensible to have an online presence via a website in order to give potential customers a background to their company, its services and products and of course location and contact details. This type of website can be created with a very small ongoing cost to the business. Potential customers would find the website by searching for the company by name or from the website address, journal advert, business card, brochure, social media or word of mouth. Most small businesses start with the owner’s expertise in a specific field; this could be a product range, professional or trade service, restaurant, accommodation, hire business, training programs, entertainment, tourism, art, crafts etc. In most cases the owner would not have the background in online selling and all the associated components and functionality required in order to be able to make informed decisions in this area. Initial online selling may start with using Trade Me, Ebay, Amazon, Fishpond, Etsy, Social Media etc, all these have their place but are generally a secondary form of selling online. Like most things there are exceptions to the rule.
So where does that leave the small cash limited business wanting to sell their products and services online? My view is that the first step for an existing small business is to decide whether online selling is viable and likely to be successful at the present time. The analysis should be based on type of products and services, competition, current trends, potential level of customer interest in the product or service type, repeat order potential, product range, profit margins, current methods of marketing and achieving sales, whether sales are currently direct to the customer or via wholesale or retail businesses, customer demography, business owner’s time and budget. This may sound daunting but is achievable via a fairly simple checklist.
OK let’s assume that the business could benefit from an online store and can afford a yearly budget of $400-$500, to get started a DIY approach is feasible. My choice would be an NZ based website builder provider that includes all the online selling components and functionality required within the monthly cost and provides NZ based training and NZ based support. Also preferably a provider that fully supports, manages and hosts NZ domain names. (eg: mywebsitename.co.nz). Actually there are only several NZ providers that offer a complete online selling package, so it does make the selection process easier.
The important part for a business new to online selling is gaining an understanding of the components and functionality required to fully and easily manage and promote their online store. From experience I know it’s easy to invest a lot of time in creating an online shop only to find it doesn’t have the capabilities or functionality needed for the products being sold or additional costs are necessary to add-on the functionality required. Whilst MYOB Atlas is free for the first year it should be avoided for anyone serious about online selling as it does not have the necessary functionality.
In the next article I will discuss how the small business can do their own analysis and viability study related to selling their products and services online. I recently created a this website and online shop using Website Builder NZ. So far I have found it to be excellent and it does seem to provide everything needed to create, market and manage an online store and is suitable for both beginners and professional website designers.
Please email me if you have any questions as happy to give any free (non-technical) advice or guidance related to selling online on a budget.