How To Succeed Online
There are many home-based business sites on the Internet that have been quietly making profits despite the slowing global economy. They may not be heralded by the press as great successes but they do generate consistent revenue. We too can learn to profit on the Net by following a few basic guidelines:
1. Find a suitable and promising niche. Niche marketing entails offering unique products or services to a few concentrated markets. Whether on or off the Internet, this is a less risky strategy and provides the best opportunities for small businesses in any marketplace. Make sure, however, that you acquire the necessary expertise to excel in your chosen niche market.
2. Be conscious of your budget. To be a successful Internet entrepreneur, you must be frugal. Avoid unnecessary expenses in the beginning, particularly if you are operating on a shoestring budget. The key to success on the Internet is to treat it just like any old-fashioned business: minimize costs and maximize profits.
3. Expand slowly. Entrepreneurs working on smaller niche markets and tighter budgets have no choice but to grow slowly. Be content with the business growing steadily if not rapidly. Don’t compromise on quality – the personal care that you give to every customer is what can make your business successful. Give your customers a unique personal experience and create customer loyalty.
4. Avoid keeping inventory. As part of the strategy to keep the costs down, one of the things a start-up Internet entrepreneur must avoid is keeping a huge stock of inventory. While in its infancy, an Internet site is still struggling to find its audience. Keeping a huge inventory at this point may mean that a lot of money is tied up unnecessarily.
To get around this problem, you can employ two approaches: order as you need or purchase small quantities at a time. Ordering as you need is where you download orders off the Internet, and convert them into purchase orders to the manufacturer. Alternatively, buy smaller quantities. Establish relations with small manufacturers. Start small. Paying very small money and paying things upfront eases your cash flow and establishes good rapport with your suppliers. You can steadily increase your stock as your customer base grows.
At http://www.malaysiancraft.com/ for example, arts and crafts from different vendors are featured. The company does not have to stock up on the products and only needs to inform the respective vendors of orders as and when received. It saves both parties the cost of production as well as keeping stock.
5. Provide excellent customer service. Good online businesses rely on customer relationships built upon mutual advantage and trust.
It is much more difficult to give the personal touch when there are 50 or 100 orders a day, than it is when there were 10 or 12 but try and see to it that all inquires are promptly attended to. The personal touch always works. The old fashioned idea of being kind, courteous, and respectful, and treating your customers just as you would like to be treated will win you more customers. Spending millions of dollars to get everybody to your site is not the answer. It is more important to take exceptional care of the customers that do come.
Aside from personal touches, prompt delivery and fast response time to customer inquiries, you can use promotions designed to keep the customers that you have. For example, award loyalty points to regular customers and show them that you appreciate their repeat business.
6. Maintain quality. Competition on the Internet is tough. Your customers can simply leave your site and find your competitor at the click of a mouse. It is therefore imperative that you ensure the quality and consistency of your products or service. You do not have to have the best-looking Web site in your category, but make it a point to give the best value to your customers. Subang Grocer.com which has extended its services from delivering groceries to tying up with laundry and housekeeping services or even Nestlé, who gives value added information to its users on its website, are good models to emulate.
7. Diversify to different revenue streams. The Web gives you the ability to diversify your company’s offerings, allowing you to earn money from various sources. A good example is Yahoo!, for instance, which now earns from a variety of means like banner advertising, directory listing, Yahoo! stores, auctions and even website hosting.
Home-based online businesses, particularly start-up businesses, may not have the ability to implement different revenue models simultaneously. However, those of you who have gained an understanding of your markets can begin to expand your offering to several niche products that have great market potential.
8. Use many distribution channels. The Internet can go hand-in-hand with other distribution channels. Savvy net entrepreneurs understand the power of cross-distributing products. Customers’ overall loyalty increases if they can shop in more than one channel. For example, you can also combine the power of the Web with direct mail catalogs. This can lead to more Internet traffic and orders. The Web and catalog complement each other because many customers who receive catalogs are also Web users. Even if they get your catalog, they may order on the Web, thanks to the convenience it offers.
9. Watch out for fraud. Credit card fraud can cause great losses to an online business. Chargebacks can be costly and businesses can suffer massive losses as a result of credit card fraud. You must devise ways to protect yourself and your business against unscrupulous Web customers. Using reputable online payment gateway companies may be a possible solution to this problem.
The other way to get around this problem, as done by many local companies, is to accept cash on delivery for all orders. Some also accept payments by cheque. This may not be the wisest approach for all sales but may be considered for customers who are reliable and make repeat orders. Trial and error and a combination of different methods may be required to determine what works best for your own unique line of business.
10. Implement effective marketing campaigns. No matter what type of business you operate, how, why and where you advertise will play a role in your overall success. It would be wrong to assume that with so many people online at agiven time, they would somehow come across or stumble on your site. This will not happen with no effort from you. It takes a long time and considerable effort, but once you put in a lot of hard work, it pays off. An online entrepreneur with a limited budget must learn to identify the marketing strategies that will yield the best results for the business.
11. Network. Partnerships can be a boon in e-business. The right partner can help an online business achieve its marketing and technological objectives.
From designing and developing your site to marketing your products, others can lend a valuable helping hand and provide a strong support system for your business. Cross promotions with other e-businesses who have online businesses with the same target market is a good marketing strategy to adopt.
Network as much you can with fellow e-preneurs. Your neighbors, family and friends may not be able to give you the valuable insights and feedback that your e-colleagues can.