Internet Marketing – Starting Your First Online Business
You have decided to take the plunge and become the next Internet Millionaire. Before you get started there are a lot of questions that you need to ask yourself. And more importantly, you have to be able to answer. To start with, do you have a marketing plan? What type of business are you planning? Will it be sales through an affiliate program? Maybe a drop ship program? Or are you going to stock your own products and do your own shipping? What products are you going to sell?
By the time you finish this article you should have developed pretty good answers to all these questions as well as a lot more. You should have a basic outline of what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. With that in mind, lets get started.
The first thing that we are going to tackle is “What.” You will need to find products that you are comfortable selling. It should also be something that you have at least some knowledge about. You will be receiving questions about your products from prospective customers. If you can’t answer those questions in a knowledgeable and professional manor, then there is no sale and you have just lost your new customer.
You also need to decide “where” to sell the products. For someone that is just starting out in the online sales world, eBay will be the easiest route to quick sales. It will also buy you some time to think about your new business while earning some income. The type of product that you have decided to market should be reflected in the business name. For instance, if you have decided to sell widgets, you wouldn’t want to call your business Jack’s-Garage. By the same token, if you are selling tools or hardware, you wouldn’t want to call your business Jill’s Clothing Boutique. The business name needs to reflect the products or type of business or you will limit your sales exposure.
Now that you know the “what” and ‘where”, you will need to determine how you are going to obtain the products that you sell. You have three basic options here. You can purchase the products yourself from a wholesale supplier or the manufacturer. But if you do that, you have to worry about stock, inventory levels, storage, and more importantly paying for the stock. If you are just starting out, the last thing that you want to do is to lay down a lot of money to build a workable inventory.
There are two other options that work well for beginners in Internet sales. One option that works well is what is referred to as a Drop Ship program or a reseller program. Your supplier will have a discounted price that they will sell to you for. You in turn list the products that you want to sell at a price that you set. When one of the items sells, you contact the supplier and place your order. The order is shipped directly to YOUR customer and you pocket the difference between the reseller price and what you sold the item for. The other option is the affiliate program. This will generally require you to have your own website and have links to the affiliate owners web store. The links to the web store contain information that identifies you as the source of the sale and will usually store a ‘cookie’ on the shoppers computer. If the shopper decides not to buy now, but returns later, you still get credit for the sale because the cookie has identified you as the salesman.
The affiliate program is an easy way to get started. There are several reputable affiliate groups that provide hundreds or even thousands of different companies to work with. You list their products for them and receive a commission for each item that sells. I have personally used several different affiliate groups and am currently using Shareasale ( http://www.shareasale.com ) with great success.
For the sake of the discussion, lets say that you are going to be selling widgets. You located and signed up with a widget manufacturer that offers a reseller or drop ship program. You create an account on eBay for your widget sales and call your account Universal Widgets. You have done some research and found that there are other people selling the same widgets both on their own websites and on eBay. It is now up to you to look at their pricing and set your pricing so that you are competitive. Remember when setting it is better to make $1 each for 10 sales than to make $10 on one sale. The people that you made $1 from will be repeat customers. The customer that finds the product for less at another store won’t be back.
You have been selling on eBay for a while now and are doing pretty good when you discover that your supplier has started an affiliate program. Oh boy, have we just seen the dollar signs! And well you should. With just a slight modification to your eBay listings you can increase your income. It is perfectly permissible to place a link on your individual listings that will direct your customers to an external site that provides additional info about the products. Now, even though the shopper did not buy from you on eBay, they clicked on your affiliate link in your listing. The cookie is on their computer. Now when they decide to buy, whether it is from your eBay listing or the manufactures site, you make money. How much better could it be?
There are also opportunities to sell if you want to develop your own website. You can do drop shipping or reseller sales from your own site if you have the expertise to create the web pages. There are also software packages available that can help with this process. One that I have used and am currently using is from CoffeCup called Shopping Cart Creator. It is easy to use and very inexpensive compared to others with the same functionality.
A little hint, if you decide to set up your own website select a hosting provider that will allow sub-domains. And when picking your domain name, try to pick a name that represents your type of business but is not too specific. Let’s say that you have decided that you want to sell something besides widgets. Maybe you want to sell Overhead Muffler Bearings and Jolly Fixit Tools. Like earlier, the name has to reflect the products in order to draw customers. If you want to call your business Tons-of-Products, you would check to see if that domain name is available and register it if it was. This would mean that your main website would be something like http: \ www. tonsofproducts. com (note: extra spaces in url because this is a fictional website.) With a hosting service that allows sub-domains you would be able to have one main web store and several departments or sub-domains. Your could name your widget store something like widgets.tonsofproducts.com, the Overhead Muffler Bearing store could be something line OMB.tonsofproducts.com, and Jolly Fixit Tools could be something like JFTools.tonsofproducts.com. The benefit of this is that you have one domain name to register, one hosting account to pay for, and as many departments in your online store as the hosting service will allow in sub-domains.
I have tried to cover as much as possible is a short article. There is still tons of information to be presented. I hope that you have been able use the information to at least get started thinking where you should start and how to get to where you want to be.
In future articles I will be covering such topics as business names and registering your business. Accepting payments via PayPal and credit cards and of course general business professionalism.
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