Can Your Business Make Money on the Web?

By: Thomas Young

The Internet has been around long enough for companies to see phenomenal success and others to crash and burn. Many business owners and marketing professionals are wondering if they can make money and grow their business on-line, or has the Web turned into a risky marketing venture. Despite what you may have heard about dot com companies failing, there are great opportunities to use the Web as a powerful promotional tool for your business. This article will ask the questions that can help you determine if there are opportunities for your business on the Internet and give you a few pointers on getting results.

Internet Target Market

Are the people who buy your products and services on the Internet? Research shows that as many as 40% of Americans may never log on to the Internet. Is your target market a part of this 40%? This number is shrinking, as more people become comfortable with the Internet and as Generation Y, individuals under 25, gain more purchasing power. Remember, the most affluent buyers are on the Internet. Business2.com reports that 67 million people actively use the Internet and total Internet users number about 148 million. The key question you must ask is: “Are my current, and potential, customers using the Internet to find businesses like mine?” There are marketing research tools available to answer these questions, such as the Goto.com search term suggestion tool. A link that allows users to see how many searches are performed by key word each month.

It’s Not All About E-Commerce

Having a strong Internet presence is not all about e-commerce and shopping carts on your Web site. It is very difficult to get on-line orders from your site, unless you already have an extensive and loyal customer base. One of the best uses of the Web is as a lead generator for your sales team. It is a way to make the phone ring, or bring people into your store. Much attention is given to e-retailers, however the real marketing power of your Web site goes well beyond sales transactions via the Internet. A marketing strategy, or Internet marketing plan, sets the direction for how the site will generate sales for your business.

If You are Going to Sell On-Line, Do it Right

It takes a lot of trust for shoppers to buy from an e-business. Many will never buy on-line and 98% of site visitors do nothing when they do visit. The following can help build trust and improve your chances of getting orders: 
1. Provide and clearly state your 100% money back guarantee. 
2. Clearly state that you have secure credit card processing. 
3. Include a privacy policy link on your site. 
4. Include an easy to find return policy. 
5. Establish a link for testimonials. 
6. Have easy to find contact information on every page. 
7. Include your address, phone and email. 
8. Your BBB logo should be prominently displayed. 
9. Include inventory and order tracking information. 
10. Send emails that let the customer know their order has been placed, and again when it ships.

As many as 70% of on-line shoppers abandon shopping carts before they make a purchase. Make sure your shopping cart is easy to use and ask for customer feedback. Many on-line shoppers abandon shopping carts, if they can’t get immediate answers to their purchasing questions.

Give Away Free Information

Your Website should help your customers do their job better or enhance the quality of their lives. Do this by including value-added content on your Website. Businesses often feel this means they are giving away secrets, however the opposite is true, you are building customer trust. Trust is essential, in order for visitors to stay on your site, contact you or buy directly from your Web site.

Look at the Big Three

If you decide to move forward with a Website, consider three critical areas: 
1. Marketing the site to draw in visitors 
2. Hosting the site and technical issues 
3. Site design, navigation and usability

You have probably heard about these three areas and I will not go into detail here, except to say that you must work with a vendor that understands all three. Excellent marketing of your site means nothing if customers do not understand how to navigate the site or are confused by the usability of the site. In addition, the best Web site in the universe is worthless if no one visits. Finally, a site cannot be effective if hosting problems disable the site. Work with a team that understands these critical components and include all three in your strategy.

Establish an Internet marketing plan and find out if the Internet holds promise as a marketing tool for your business.

Tom Young, MBA is president of Sales Training Plus, an Internet marketing and Web development firm helping companies increase revenues on the Internet. He is the author of “Intuitive Selling” (www.IntuitiveSelling.com) and can be reached at 719-481-4040, or email at Tom@intuitivewebsites.com. For more articles like this one, visit his Web site at www.intuitivewebsites.com. Call for a free consultation.