A quick guide for selling your products and services online

A quick guide for selling your products and services online

What is actually e-commerce? Many people think that e-commerce is pretty much the same as opening a webshop. For me e-commerce is much more, it is the whole system that enables selling your products and services online. That includes the digital point of sale, free digital content and digital content distribution. All of these can be under a single website or actually more often they are on several independent websites. What do I mean with these parts of e-commerce? Let me explain it a bit.

Digital point of sale

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Digital point of sale is obviously the most fundamental part of the online sales system. This is the place where consumers or B2B customers can buy your products or services. The point of sale can be:

1. your own web shop

2. your business partner’s webshop

3. Amazon

4. eBay

5. any other digital market place.

Which channel should I choose? Let me play this question back to you: which single sales channel would you choose in brick’n mortar (classical retail) world? I guess the answer is obvious: you probably would not choose any single point of sale but a mix of them and further on as many as you can manage in profitable manner. The good news is that the online world is no different in that sense! You need an online sales channel mix. There are pros and cons in all of the channels above as well as there are in the brick’n mortar world, too. You just have to choose the ones that work for you.

Digital content is the king

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Imagine this: you just opened your new fancy brick’n mortar retail store with all the latest bells and whistles. You have super cool point of sale furniture, stunning interior design, all the fancy products everyone is dying to get and you accept all possible payment methods from cash to credit cards. But, your store is in the middle of the desert. There are no roads, no cities or towns nearby, nobody knows the way to your store. This is the case when you open your own webshop! Absolutely nobody knows that you exist! It will remain the same if you just rely on classical SEO or keyword optimization. Your great webshop/website will remain (nearly) unused. According to studies about 90% of the all websites in the world have less than 10 visits per month! Please note that I am not saying SEO and keyword optimization is useless, no by all means not. It simply isn’t enough.

What does digital content have to do with all this? Short answer: everything. Long answer: digital (free) content is your lure to attract consumers to your digital point of sale or place where the consumers can interact with you. How? In theory is it pretty simple. All you need is to know your target group and produce content that has high real or perceived value to them and it costs nothing or very little to deliver. Digital content is a great tool for this. What could the content be? The content could be for example videos, blog posts, podcasts, photos or anything else telling how to use your product. The content could also be about tips and tricks for using your product, it could also be user generated funny or informative content involving your products or services. Whatever this content is and in whichever format it is, the content should have always a call for action included. The call for action might be link to your website or webshop. It could be a registration link to your newsletter. It could be a Facebook like button. The bottom line is this call for action should either sell something now or give you means to contact this potential customer proactively in the future again – preferably both.

Digital content distribution channels

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Ok, now you have the content. But imagine this: you have written a good book, you have printed it and the boxes full of books are filling your warehouse. Nobody knows that you actually have written this great book and even better that you are planning to give it away for free. You have guessed it: you need to make sure people hear about you and your great book. Therefore you need digital content distribution channels.

Where could you distribute your digital content? There are numerous ways of doing it and again there is no “one size fits all”- solution that works for everyone. You may consider opening a fan page in Facebook and posting videos in YouTube and Vimeo, you could participate in relevant discussions in LinkedIn groups, you could be active in twitter or any other of the thousands of social networks and you could participate in numerous discussion forums where people passionately discuss about your topic. Where ever you are, try sincerely to help the people. Do not be the annoying guy who tries to sell something all the time and by doing it pushes people away. Help people out only when your solution really meets the needs of people. Do not push. Be proud to guide people to your competitors too when it really is in their best interest.

In every case you should offer your free content to people who are interested in it. By doing so you gain trust, respect and loyal and interested followers. Please do not fall into the trap of expecting a quick sale because that is highly unlikely.

If I should name one distribution channel that is the most efficient of all it would be email marketing. By email marketing I mean informative emails to people who have given permission to you to send them information that they are interested about. Namely distributing using your content via email. This is the best form of marketing online as it is targeted, relevant, timely, expected and informational. This blog post is an example of informational email marketing by the way. You probably got this blog post through an email from me. Hopefully you have enjoyed reading it and I sincerely hope that you feel the information I am giving you is valuable to you.

Putting it all together

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By now you may think that this whole thing is a bit time intensive. You got it! Yes – it is time intensive. Not only because you should produce content periodically, distribute it to your listeners frequently and try not to sell too much and too often. But also you should interact with your audience in all of your selected distribution channels (your blog, Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, discussion forums, emailing list, amazon seller feedback sections, eBay, etc). However it is far more efficient and cheaper than any form of traditional marketing.

How to build an efficient e-commerce system as I just briefly described? Probably the most important thing is to know your goals and limitations. In the online world you should rather do less and do it well. This means being active in the areas you choose to and forget the rest. Nothing is worse than a (nearly) empty blog or a Facebook page updated with only a few posting or interaction with a disappointed reader or customer later than 24hours after complaint. 24 hours is an eternity online!

Outsource and use cloud services. For example tracking your online presence can be done free using google alerts. The traffic on your website can be tracked, also free, using google analytics. Managing your email list on your own server or manually at your laptop is totally old school. There are plenty of good email marketing tools in the internet that are no or low cost like mailchimp or aweber. Ask advice from people who have done it before or ask you kids – they are online all the time. Last but not least make a real online strategy, implement it and follow it up. If it does not work for you – adjust.

A short sales pitch
…and if you need help making all this happen from strategy to making it, feel free to contact me at any time to help you out.

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