Opportunity Is Knocking – Are You Going to Answer?

Wake up business owners! Surveys showed a billion Internet users worldwide, with over 300 million of them in North America. Do those statistics make you sit up and take notice?North America. Do those statistics make you sit up and take notice?

Internet users are more affluent and better educated than the norm, with many holding college degrees. Still not convinced? Last year, The Forrester Report predicted online sales will grow to $750 billion by 2017.

This is a marketers’ dream. For the first time in history, there is a direct channel to billions of consumers worldwide at relatively little expense when compared to traditional marketing methods. Michael Dell, chairman and founder of Dell Computers, said in a keynote address, “Find me a business that’s not on the Web, and I’ll show you a business that is out of touch with its users.” Easy for him to say when rumors abound that he is selling a million a day, when in actual fact he states, “. . . in the heart of the Christmas rush, we had several $6-million days.”

If you think the Net is only for the big name brands, it isn’t. The Internet levels the playing field by letting small businesses look just as good as bigger competitors. Your online customers won’t know whether you are warehousing out of your garage or a 15-story office building unless you’re a recognizable name. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Throw up a website and rake in the money. Don’t be misled. Its true that the infrastructure is in place to do business online, but it isn’t that simple. Its hard work and long hours, just like any other new venture, with no guarantee of success. Lack of knowledge about online commerce is one of the biggest reasons why businesses don’t succeed on the Internet. How can you better your chances to rake in your fair share of commerce online?

By following some basic guidelines for starters:

Make the commitment. Show the world you take it seriously. Online customers want rich product information and lots of it to make a buying decision. Don’t just give them the standard spiel. Successful sites will give online customers the spiel, the brochure, the sales letter, tips on usage, answers to frequently asked questions, letters from satisfied customers and the kitchen sink. If you aren’t willing to provide the knowledge needed to satisfy the potential buyer, your competitors will do it for you.

Define your goals. Plan your website to target your specific market, but don’t lose sight of service and support either. You don’t have to sell your products online to make a Website work for your company. Try service and support instead. Dell created 80,000 pieces of customer accessible information on the Net. It saves Dell $8 each time someone accesses the information instead of calling their 800 number.

Lower your prices, make it easy or the customer to find the products they want, and make it convenient and quick for them to purchase. At least 70% of all online purchases are made by people who were looking for specific items to buy. They’re going to shop around for price, but they also want good service and fast delivery. If you can ship in 24 hours and your competitors take 4 weeks, you’re going to make the sale if your prices are reasonable.

Be sure your website has a professional appearance. The professionalism of your company will be judged strictly on the appearance of your website in the beginning. An amateurish site will not give customers the confidence to buy. A really professional site is clean and simple to navigate, not loaded with show off programming features. And make sure you have everything in place to handle the online transactions, calls and deliveries before your website is in place, not after.

Market research indicates that 80 percent of all commerce transactions will be done via the Internet by the year 2017, instead of by fax or phone. Maybe its time to begin carving your niche on the Web now.