If you want to make sales, then you need to...
Promote Your Web Site!!
Two of the fundamental elements of ecommerce are site construction and site promotion -- neither phase is ever completely finished, and both are equally important.
After the framework for your site is properly constructed and is available for viewing on the World Wide Web, then the focus can shift to the second part of the process: promotion.
Many of the suggestions below are things you can easily do, whereas others may require assistance (depending on your level of expertise). The good news is that much of it is not difficult -- but you must dedicate time and perhaps some $$ to the project for it to succeed!
It's all about traffic...
The best looking site in the world with the best looking products at the best price is not going to perform unless it gets a solid visitor flow, and that doesn't happen without some effort and the need to budget some money. It is not just random window shoppers that you are looking to get -- those are people who may not even be interested in what you have to offer -- but rather, quality targeted traffic is the primary goal of any successful ecommerce site.
There are a number of ways you can do site promotion -- some are free, some are inexpensive, and others are more costly. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Be sure to add a "signature" to the bottom of all the emails you send out, and in that signature put your website address and a very short blurb about your business. This does not cost anything and if you do a lot of communication, it gets your URL out to a lot of people. Check your email program's "Help" menu to learn how to automatically add a signature -- it is very quick & easy.
- Prominently add your URL to every piece of paper literature that your business gives out -- from business cards to letterhead to color brochures. If you've previously had all these printed and you are not yet ready to replace them, then for now you can just add a simple & very cheap Avery 5160 label (30 to a sheet) with the web address.
- Work out reciprocal linkage with other complementary sites -- ie, they will put your hyperlinked listing on their "Links" page, and you do the same for them. This can be very effective and doesn't generally cost anything, plus, your ranking at some search engines may go up as you are involved in more reciprocal linkage. Getting quality "back links" to your site is one of the single most important efforts you can make -- read more info:
"How to set-up reciprocal linkage"
"Why reciprocal linking is SO important"
- If you have names/addresses in a postal mailing list database, then you can consider postal mailing them a postcard announcing your website.
The total cost of postage can be reasonably expensive depending on the size of the list, so if you can combine the site address information with some other announcement, then it may be more cost effective. For example, you invite people to visit your website AND you also let them know that you'll be participating at a show in their area; or, you also let them know about a special offer at your realworld store location during a certain time period.
Here are the addresses of 2 good quality postcard companies:
Modern Postcard | RapidCards
- Email broadcasting -- If you've been accumulating email addresses then you can periodically send out a message to the entire list with updated info about your site.
CAUTION! Most people hate getting unsolicited email advertising so you'd want to only do this when you actually have something important to announce. It is best to keep the message brief and do not include any graphics that will clog their email inbox.
An example of an appropriate mass emailing that your customers will appreciate is to offer people a discount on a new item if they order by a certain date.
- Purchase advertising in paper print media -- the ad itself can be relatively small but if your website address is a very prominent part of that ad, then it could drive traffic your way. Be aware however that this can also be fairly expensive, so you'd only want to select publications that very directly appeal to your target clientele.
- "Pay Per Click" search engine positioning -- will help get your site on one of the first results pages for selective queries; low to moderate monthly expense and can be very effective ... read MORE INFO
- Online Malls & Portals -- When you are ready to take a step up in your promotional campaigns, you could consider adding your products to highly visible online outlets such as Amazon's "zShops". The costs for this level of activity will vary -- read more info.
- Banner ads on websites -- The price is all over the map, from trading (they run your banner and you run their's so there is no $$ cost); to a flat fee based on time or number of exposures; to a charge only if someone actually clicks the banner to go to your site. [See more info]
You'd want to carefully target this market by only picking sites that would likely attract the kind of clientele that is interested in your specific type of business.
Here is a list of [Banner Exchange Services]
Do note that some banners are really ugly so if you are doing a trade and the ad you must run is in the ugly category, then it may very well diminish the effectiveness of your own site and will ultimately drive your own visitors away, so be very selective about what you'll accept!
- Use the WWW to proactively seek out venues that may be interested in your work. This is especially relevant if you wholesale, because many "realworld" galleries/shops now have their own websites so you can easily get the contact info.
Use very specific queries at a search service such as Google.com to track down these potential venues, then get in touch with them to make them aware of your work/website. For example, if you carve birds, then use a query such as "wildlife art gallery" or "wild life sculpture gallery". As you go through the search returns, bookmark all sites that may have potential.
Read these tips about contacting galleries for more info.
- Miscellaneous promotions...
- Write articles in the field of your expertise and submit them to websites and/or to E-Zines that will feature such content;
- Participate in "web rings" -- see more info;
- Join topic related discussion/mailing lists;
- Create an online promotion such as a contest, then announce it widely across the WWW and to all your existing customers;
- Some people get magnetic signs with their URL to place on their vehicles -- for instance, the side door of a car or the back door of a van;
- Send press releases to all your local media and even to national media if you are doing something special in a niche field. Here are some helpful writing tips.
The various suggestions above have worked for others and many of them may work for you as well. What is important is to realistically assess your budget and spend what you can, but don't go overboard, as there are many extraneous factors which impact customer orders on the WWW (including the general state of the economy). If you find a successful path then you can always dedicate more $$ as your sales levels rise.
Important! Prior to committing any significant sums of $$, read over this brief ecommerce checklist.
Also, be very sure you have the capability to gather visitor stats -- here's why tracking statistics is an essential part of online business.
The bottom line...
However much we may wish that it was real easy to make sales, it rarely works out that way. Successful ecommerce site owners have learned that if they want to get positive results from their website, then they must put some time & money into it to make that happen.
That is to say, if no effort is made to generate traffic, then it is reasonable to expect nothing in return, whereas a carefully thought out and targeted promotion campaign will help you take a big step forward in attracting the kind of customers who will support what you do.
If you work on your site promotion a little bit every week -- just 45 minutes -- then before you know it you'll see more traffic & more sales activity ... the suggestions outlined above can serve as a starting point.
Do not hesitate to contact us if you need any assistance...
~ Steve Reynolds and Ann Contois
Setting Up A Credit Card Merchant Account
Pay Per Click Services
Establish Reciprocal Linkage
Artists -- Online Galleries