Run a Successful Email Marketing Campaign for your Small Business

Email marketing small businessEmail campaigns can be tricky, especially for small business owners. Although the internet and SEO practices are slowly changing the way companies do business, the basics—like relationship building—are still essential for local and small businesses.

How to use email marketing to your benefit

Consider yourself, chances are you don’t appreciate telemarketers calling you or spam reaching your inbox. Chances are, the people you’re doing business with feel the same. Furthermore, unsolicited emails generally have a poor success rate, especially when compared to permission based emails.

When you engage in email marketing do it from a permission based platform. Not only will this result in a higher return on your marketing investment, it will ultimately help you grow and retain your overall customer base.

The benefits of email marketing

If used correctly email marketing will actually strengthen your business relationships and help build a loyal customer base. If the emails you’re sending offer something of value to your customers whether it be in the form of information, education or savings that value will transfer over to your company as a brand.

The danger of unsolicited email

If the term unsolicited email isn’t familiar, you’ve probably heard it referred to by its other name—spam.  Spam offers absolutely no value to the customer and in the off chance there is something inside worth looking it, frankly that won’t matter when it’s sent to the trash. It’s true that unsolicited email has a better chance of reaching a larger number of inboxes, but it can damage your reputation and ultimately damage your company if you’re associated with bugging, bothering or annoying potential customers.

Permission based, or opt-in email will allow your company to target people who actually have an interest in hearing from you, and over time this number will grow.

How to reach permission based audience

Always make it the customer’s choice to be added to your mailing list, and don’t trap them once they’ve signed up. Make it easy for customers to subscribe and unsubscribe at will. Include a link in your emails for people that may wish to unsubscribe, otherwise your correspondence quickly falls into the spam category.

Once you have a customer’s personal contact information keep it private. Don’t ask the people for more information than you absolutely need. For example, if you plan on only contacting them via email, don’t ask for their home mailing address or phone number. This could make them feel uncomfortable or even lead to them suspecting you will sell their information or use it from something unsavory.

For the purposes of an email campaign, a customer’s information is almost as valuable to you as their business. Show the customer you value them by offering them something of value in return; a newsletter, an email discount or coupon or additional information on industry developments that affect them or information about products they’re interested in. Through this exchange you are demonstrating that you value the customer and by offering them something of value you also convey you respect them and wouldn’t waste their time with a useless email.

Get to know the people you’re emailing and target them specifically with your communication. An example of targeting your customer base would be by keeping you focus local. If you are a Miami based web design business the people on your opt-in list should already have an expressed interest either in your design business specifically or in the web design industry. Foster your relationships by offering tips through a newsletter in your emails or saving on services offered by your company to people specifically in your geographic location.

Finally, you need to keep your campaign organized. Your contact list is essential to your success so keep a polished and updated list available so you can respond quickly to questions, track bounce back or undelivered emails and keep your list current as accounts close or emails are updated.

It is essential that you respond to feedback from your customers in a timely manner and you will have greater success if you track campaign analytics. Free tools are available from Google to track your analytics, or if you’d like to invest in analytics you can hire a company to perform this service for you.

What kinds of emails have the most success?

In general people are likely to only read the first page of any given email. Try not to exceed this size unless you have a really good reason. You can draw reader’s eyes down the page through the strategically using images, graphics or links, but don’t fill an email with irrelevant information.

Remind your customers there is a living, breathing human behind the emails. Put a face and a name to the campaign and try to keep it consistent. In a successful campaign it’s possible some people will grow to feel familiar with the person sending them email and can grow connections to your business.

Personalize emails. Avoid industry jargon that might confuse the average reader and when possible write the way you would speak to someone in person.

Use an intriguing subject line. Consider what subjects might sound like spam and avoid them.  Consider asking your recipients to forward your email if they found it interesting and encourage sharing. This could help you grow your subscriber list, especially if you’re writing about topics that are important to your customers. If you receive feedback from your readers where they are asking questions or voicing concern, consider addressing these topics in future emails.

The bottom line

Your campaign hinges on an interested and captive readership. Above all else consider the value you are offering your people in the form of your email campaign and mention this to new customers when encouraging them to sign up. Your relationship and your reputation should be important above all else and you should never sacrifice either of these to make a quick buck or reach a larger audience.

Author’s bio: Jameson Ballinger is a freelance writer currently working with Z Networks Group based in beautiful Miami, Florida. Jameson is an experienced SEO, online marketing and blog optimization writer but enjoys escaping to colder climates in his free time.

Small Business Toolbox – September Twenty Eighth

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Survey Monkey – A quick and really easy way to send surveys to your customers.  Simple to create and design custom surveys you can collect via email or through your website.  Free and paid plans.

Freeconference.com – Free conference call service lets you create and record your own conference calls for free.  Great for recording phone interviews for your podcast.

http://www.freeconference.com

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

How Poor Cash Flow Management Can Kill Your Business

Small business meme run out of moneySmall business owners are known for their creativity, ingenuity, and the passion that compels them to turn their visions into reality, often against overwhelming odds. However, small business owners are also known for something else: A tendency to struggle with cash flow problems.

Cash flow issues strike terror into the hearts of even the most seasoned business owners. And it’s no wonder: Poor cash flow can put you out of business in no time. While not having the money to pay your employees or to cover this month’s rent is both nerve-wracking and gut-wrenching, small business owners take heart: With some solid research and planning, there will be be a solution to those persnickety cash flow problems.

Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most common reasons that businesses end up with cash flow problems, and provide you with the strategies to get your ship back on course.

The Whys and the Hows of Cash Flow Problems:

Adequate cash flow is necessary to keep businesses of any size afloat, but a recent Discover Small Business Watch survey found that an alarming 50% of small business owners report that they experience cash flow difficulties.

A business suffers from a cash flow problem when it spends more money than it earns. A business can find itself struggling with cash flow issues when sales are lower than forecasted for a given period or a large payment isn’t remitted on time, for example. While no business can operate in the red for too long, persistent cash flow problems often signal larger structural issues that small business owners would be wise to address ASAP.

If you find yourself unable to cover your business costs, you are suffering from a cash flow problem, but you aren’t necessarily captaining a sinking ship. Seem counterintuitive? Let’s look at an example:
Beth’s Biscuits is a local business selling organic dog treats in a variety of flavors. All the best-dressed pups at the dog park eat from Beth’s at least twice a week. Owner Beth recently received the chance of a lifetime: A spot on a nationally syndicated show that raved about her products. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing since.

Seems great, right? Well, here’s the problem with Beth’s rise to success: She knows the orders are going to keep coming in, but right now, she doesn’t have the funds to buy all the supplies and to pay her employees. She’s having trouble filling orders and dog-owners are getting angry. Beth has a cash flow problem, but not because she is a failure. Instead, Beth has a cash flow problem because she isn’t clairvoyant.

In order to remedy cash flow issues like Beth’s, many small business owners try to stanch the problem with a quick cash infusion from somewhere else. Whether this infusion comes from a personal account or some other form of asset reallocation, these temporary fixes are no replacement for a thorough examination of the how’s and the why’s of your businesses’ cash flow issues.

Strategies to Solve Cash Flow Issues:

Small business owners will recognize this scenario: Loyal customers paying late. As local fixtures with deep community roots, small business owners often hate to remind their customers when a bill has come past due. After all, without these loyal customers, you wouldn’t have any business to speak of at all, right?

Small business owners have to move past the idea that it is rude or pushy to remind their customers to pay their bills. Your customers pay up for their cell phone bills, their mortgages, and each time they go out for groceries. They understand that you expect to be paid for your services as well. If they miss a payment, sending another invoice with a personal note included or sending a polite email is not remiss.

However, even better than reminding clients to pay up is not having to remind them at all! Being smart about billing can help prevent cash flow problems. Here’s how to get started:

• Send out invoices that highlight clear “pay by” dates.
• Consider invoices that clearly state what the penalty is for a late payment. (You may recognize this tactic as a favorite of doctors and dentists offices!)
• Incentivize paying early or in cash with a slight discount.

Having a strict billing policy that you follow-up on and making it worth your customers’ while to pay immediately are valuable first steps on the road to an end to cash flow problems.

Develop a Relationship with Your Bank:

Banks aren’t known as the fuzziest of institutions and many business owners would rather do their own taxes than approach their bank for an additional loan. Afraid of appearing underwater, many small businesses risk actually going under when a twenty-minute conversation with their bank could yield immediate results.

Note: Approaching your bank should only be considered after you have tried to address other cash flow issues, however. If you can tighten up your ship by focusing on accounts receivable and payable issues, there is no sense in borrowing money at a less than ideal interest rate.

Hire a Finance Guru:

It takes a special kind of person to attend to all of the financial details of a company. This type of person is detail-oriented, doesn’t mind sending out invoices, pays bills on time, and probably has a finance or business administration degree.

If this doesn’t sound like you, you may want to consider hiring one of these sage finance gurus. Whether you hire a fulltime CFO or simply pay a bookkeeper for a few hours of his or her time each week, having someone who knows the ins and outs of your business’ finances is invaluable. Not only will this expert help you avoid cash flow problems, but you will have more time to dedicate to other aspects of your business.

However, never turn control of your books over to someone else entirely. It is fine, even prudent, to have a finance expert manage your books, but you need to retain an intimate knowledge of your business’ financial doings.

The Takeaway:

If your small business is struggling with cash flow issues, the worst thing you could possibly do is to ignore the situation. Instead, you need to face the situation head on and develop a solution. Your business means too much to you, your community, and your employees to do anything less. However, the good news is that solving a cash flow problem is often much easier than dealing with the fallout of one. And that is some serious motivation!

Small Business Toolbox – September Twenty Second

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Feedspot – A solid Google Reader alternative that integrates with most of the major sharing platforms.

Pictaculous – Design challenged?  Ever wonder what color pallet to use?  Simply upload an image and you'll be delivered a matching color pallet.  Basic tool that works.

carlos-castaneda-quote

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

Essential Insurance Policies Your Startup Needs

Businessmen in rainU.S. unemployment sits at almost nine percent, reports Gallup. If you're one of the the millions of Americans without a job, starting your own business could be a viable option that will provide an income and use your professional talents and skills. The costs of starting a business, however, can feel overwhelming, and you need to look for ways to cut costs. Insurance is one area where you might look to save, but decide which types of affordable coverage you really need for your startup before you start cutting.

General Liability Insurance

Say a customer visits your store, trips over a display, sustains an injury, and sues you. Do you have assets to pay the associated medical bills and legal fees? The Small Business Administration strongly recommends general liability insurance for all business owners. It covers medical and legal expenses, including those associated with slander, libel, lawsuits, or settlement cases.

Product Liability Insurance

If the widget your company sells has a defect, and your customers are suing you and the manufacturer, product liability insurance covers your costs. The cost of product liability insurance depends on the type of product you sell, so your rates will be higher for selling appliances than clothing. Also, don't buy product liability insurance until you make sure it's not included in your general liability policy.

Professional Liability Insurance

Also called errors and omissions insurance, professional liability is essential if your business could be sued for malpractice or negligence, or if your state mandates the coverage for your business. Check with your insurance agent to be sure, but keep in mind that a professional liability insurance policy is a wise decision if you're working in financial services, construction, transportation, public service, nonprofit, or medical fields.

Commercial Property Insurance

Unpredictable natural disasters occur in every area of the country, so you'll want prepare by packing a Red Cross certified emergency kit and buying commercial property insurance. It covers damages and helps you recovery quickly. In addition to repairing your building and replacing inventory and office equipment, your policy could cover lost income and business interruption. When shopping for a commercial property policy, decide between all-risk, which covers a variety of general perils and incidents, and peril-specific, which is better suited for areas of high risk and covers only the perils listed in the policy.

Tips for Saving Money

Licensed insurance agents, such as the ones at The Hartford, provide the professional advice you need as you make insurance purchases for your new business. They advise you on the policies you need, ensure you're not purchasing duplicate policies, find the best rates, and bundle multiple policies if possible. They also help you keep costs down. Sometimes, you save money in the long run by paying a little more for customer service, accident forgiveness and a lower deductible. Likewise, always read the policy's fine print before you make a final purchase, and ask your insurance specialist as many questions as possible until you're positive you have the affordable and correct insurance your startup needs.

Small Business Toolbox – September Fourteenth

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Share as Image – Ever see a cool quote that you would love to share on Facebook or Pinterest as a image quote?  Share as Image lets you easilly create image quotes with their handy bookmark tool.  The free version is a bit limited, but the full featured pro version is only $6.99.

Fan Page Karma – Free tool that makes picking a winner for your Facebook contest easy.  Simply add the url of a post and it will pick out 1 fan, 1 comment and 1 likes for you to choose from.

Napolean Hill quotes

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

5 Traps To Avoid When Building a Website For Your Business

Everyone dreams of having a killer website for their business.  It looks great, is a customer magnet and acts as your virtual salesman 24 hours a day.  While this can be achieved, the reality is that the road to creating a great website is usually filled with potholes….and sometimes land mines.

meme for building a website

Whether you decide to DIY-it or hire a web designer and developer to help build your website, there are a few things you should watch out for when you get started.  The below 5 items are some of the common traps I see new business owners make when they set out to build the website of their dreams.

Not Owning Your Own Domain

This is more common than you may think.  Whoever owns the domain name, owns and controls everything.  All settings and changes originate from the Domain Name Service (DNS), which is controlled by the person who owns the domain.

Whether it's good or ill intentions, sometimes a web designer or developer may tell the novice business owner, “don't worry, just pick the domain you want and I'll take care of it for you”.  What this usually means is that they have purchased the domain under their own account and thus own the domain.  I recently witnessed an ugly dispute arise when a client of mine fired her web developer, only to discover that he actually owned her domain which has been in existence for over 5 years and had a lot of value attached to it.  Ouch.

What you can do

Be sure that you are the one who actually purchases the domain name.  Services like Go Daddy or Name Cheap make it easy to buy a domain name, which costs less than $15 bucks a year.

Using a Free Website Hosting Provider

Using a free hosting solution like Tumblr or WordPress.com (don't get it confused with WordPress.org, which is the self-hosted version and highly recommended) may seem like a great way to save a few bucks when you're first starting out, and these are great solutions…..but not for a business.

A free hosting solution will usually offer you a free sub-domain on their site, eg: “Mywebsite.wordpress.com” with the option of adding your own domain “mywebsite.com” for a fee.  Number one, you should never create a business site as a sub-domain off of one of these sites, it screams the fact that you're cheap, not-committed to your business and may not be around next month.  The other problem is that you have no control over your server, meaning if it slows to a crawl or your site goes down completely, good luck finding customer service to fix it.

While I love the free model for many things online, it always reminds me of a quote I read somewhere but can't remember who said it (leave in comments if you know).  “When you use a free service, you are not the customer, you are the product.”  So true.

What you can do

Purchase your own hosting like Hostgator or BlueHost, which offer plans that start at less than $5 bucks a month.  From there you can use a CMS such as WordPress.org to build your website which you will host on your own server.  Alternatively, there are some good website builders that offer hosting also for one monthly fee, Squarespace.com has a good reputations if you're looking for a simpler solution than self hosting your website.

Not Using a Mainstream Content Management System (CMS)

If a web developer tells you they have their own “proprietary” CMS solution that they want you to use, please start running for the hills.  Popular open source Content Management Systems such as WordPress, Drupal and Magento (ecommerce) just to name a few, will work just fine for your needs.  There is no need or reason to use a “custom” CMS or a static HTML website. These platforms have been tested and improved upon over the years and have huge communities of developers and enthusiasts who continue to add value to those platforms.

So why would a developer want you to use their own CMS?  The short answer is that it's a “lock in” feature, meaning that once you start down the road with them, it is very difficult for you to leave, save for scrapping your site entirely and starting over if you ever want to leave them.  While there are some companies that legitimately promote their own CMS platforms, I have yet to find one that can come close to what a seasoned CMS like WordPress has to offer.

What you can do

Insist on using an open source CMS like WordPress for a traditional site or Magento for ecommerce.  If you ever need to leave your current developer, there are thousands of developers at your fingertips that can easily take over that project for you.

Creating a Blog Separate From Your Main Website

This is a fairly common problem I find with business owners.  They create their main site, often a static HTML site (please read above about using a CMS) and then go off and create a blog on a free platform like Blogger or Tumblr for their blogging.  The reason they usually do this is that their main website is either an HTML site or some complicated CMS, where they have no clue how to use it and blogging platforms like Blogger and Tumblr are simple to set up and use.

The problems here are many…

1- You now have to manage two separate websites

2- They look, feel and act differently from each other, a big branding mistake

3- From a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) perspective, it's a terrible option and your authority is spread out over two different websites

What you can do about it

Make your blog part of your main website.  If you use a CMS like WordPress, it's simply to add a blog as it comes installed already.  Even if you have a static HTML site, you can still add a CMS like WordPress as part of your website.  What you do is install it on a sub-folder on your server, like “blog” and anything after that folder is part of your blog.  In simple terms, it will look like this:

“www.mywebsite.com/blog/the-name-of-my-blog-post”

By adding the blog as part of your main website, you can use it to help build the domain authority and rankings for your entire website.

Letting Your Web Designer or Developer Write The Copy On Your Site

It's amazing how many people spend a bucket load of time and money building a website for their business, then blow it by treating the actual copy as an afterthought.  The words on your website is what actually sells!  I repeat, the copy you craft (or don't) on your website will largely determine if people contact you or not.  This should be one of the most important steps in the entire process, yet most people spend way too little time on it or abdicate the responsibility to a designer or developer, who will do a mediocre job at best.

Your designer or developer may tell you they can create the copy for you for an additional charge, unless their have an experienced writer on their team, this is a really poor choice.  It's an easy upsell for them, poor results for you.

If you want to understand what good copy-writing is for the web, sign up for the free course over at Copyblogger.

What you can do about it

Once you have your website layout completed and you know what pages will be created, you need to get yourself someone who can write.  There is a big difference between a writer and a copywriter, a copywriter writes with the intent to persuade and sell, which is what you want for a business website. Even if you have a small budget, you can find quality copywriters either locally via meetup groups or online at sites like Elance.com.  With a small budget, I recommend to start with your homepage and main product/service page(s).

Get it right from the start

Avoiding some of these mistakes can help you avoid headaches later on down the line.  My best advice is to seek multiple opinions and do your research before spending your time and money.  Have questions about creating a website for your business?  Feel free to contact me here.

 

Asking and Receiving Customer Testimonials: How to Do It and Why It’s Important

Thank You sign for giving testimonialCustomer testimonials offer a powerful means of building trust and credibility, but many companies ignore the rich possibilities client endorsements offer. This is especially common among small businesses, who act as if adding client testimonials to their websites is bragging or boasting.

It’s only bragging if you say it yourself. With a well-written testimonial, you’re not tooting your own horn: a customer toots it for you.

Customer testimonials sell your services better than you ever could. A testimonial describing a previous customer’s results resonates with potential clients, because they’re looking for similar outcomes. Your words may be dismissed as marketing, but a testimonial is a peer’s experience, and as such carries significant weight with new customers.

Provide Quality Service

Unless you’re providing excellent service, your clients won’t be willing to provide testimonials. In fact, they’re likely to do just the opposite and post unfavorable comments in social media or on review sites. Customers are only willing to provide testimonials if you impress them with the quality of your services and produce tangible results.

Asking for Testimonials

Again, it seems obvious when you see it in type, but you won’t get many testimonials unless you ask for them. The occasional client may offer a spontaneous testimonial, but if you’re serious about building a collection of endorsement, you need to request client feedback.

Asking for testimonials can take several forms, but one strategy should be avoided. Never contact your client and ask directly for testimonials to put on your website. While some may do it, this makes you look more interested in collecting marketing content than sharing your clients’ stories, and their response will usually be lukewarm at best.

Instead, watch for openings in conversations with customers. If a client shares her positive results with you at the end of a project, ask if she would mind sharing her story with others on your website. The difference is subtle, but simply asking for testimonials makes the process all about you, while asking her to share her personal story and results puts the customer in center stage.

Help Customers Write Testimonials

Providing guidelines and advice to customers writing testimonials sounds like cheating, but all you’re doing is offering some support to the customer (writing your own testimonials and trying to pass them off as your own — now that’s cheating). Remember, not everyone feels comfortable writing.

Suggest the testimonial include three main points: the client’s situation before your services, his experiences with you, and the positive results he saw from your services. If the customer really feels uncomfortable, ask him for a bulleted list of these three topics and work with him to massage the information into a few short paragraphs. The client, of course, gives you the final approval for the finished testimonial.

Another option is to create a case study: a short survey or interview exploring your customer’s response to your work. Ask questions encouraging clients to discuss their experience with your services, and ask permission to incorporate study results into your website content.

Reward Testimonial Writers

Be sure to thank customers for their time, whether they’re providing a written testimonial or participating in a case study. How you thank your customer is up to you. Some companies offer discounts or small tokens of appreciation for testimonials, but often a sincere hand-written note of thanks is enough to show your appreciation.

If the customer is in business, offer to include a link to their website below the testimonial. You both benefit. The client gets added exposure, and you get marketing material.

Other Sources of Testimonials

While asking for testimonials will bring in the best results, sometimes testimonials fall into your lap. If a customer sends an email praising your services and results, contact him and ask if you can use a quote from the email on your website and in other marketing materials. Here’s an example of testimonials of a product. Some products, even when you think they wouldn’t need testimonials, do! Get creative like this mosquito trap review and give your customers the freedom to write what they want!

Searching for your company name, services and products is an important part of market research. Since you’re running searches anyway, keep your eye out for positive comments in reviews, forums, and social media. Contact the person who write the review and ask if you can quote them.

Value-Added Authenticity

Some companies, unfortunately, make use of fake customer comments, causing potential customers to question the veracity of any testimonial. Fake endorsements tend to have three things in common:

  • The “author” is often only identified by first name or initials.
  • The testimonial is about how great the company is, not the client’s own experience.
  • The website overused testimonials, often providing page after page of endorsements.

Lack of a full name on a testimonial makes it look fake. A customer testimonial should include his full name and his city of residence. Instead of “M.M., New York,” your customer is described as “Marty Mitchell, New York,” with a photo or Marty if he wants to provide one. Make sure your readers identify testimonial writers as real people.

The second point is also telling. A fake testimonial often centers on the company, and how terrific or absolutely miraculous the business is. A real testimonial is written from the customer’s perspective, and focuses on their experience and results.

Finally, use testimonials sparingly. No-one’s going to read six pages of testimonials. Place your testimonials in text boxes near page content related to the endorsement. This way you use the testimonial to add to the reader’s understanding and put in context. Here are a few examples of different types of testimonials and how to address the layout on your page. Clarity Way uses texts boxes and includes the person’s first name and last initial along with their state. They include the state to show that they service people from everywhere! It’s a great strategy to show that people are willing to travel for them.

Courtney Gordner is a passionate blogger who loves giving advice about all thing marketing and internet! Read more from her on her blog, www.talkviral.com

 

E-Commerce is On Fire, How You Can Get Started

The online business model is thriving.

Sales were up 12.6 percent for revenues of $176.2 billion in 2010, according to Entrepreneur. They're estimated to hit $278.9 billion by 2015. If you've been thinking of starting an online business from one of your passions, then now is the time. The sooner you get online, the sooner you can take part in this expanding revenue stream.

Whether you have a product, service or information to sell, there is a way to create an online business to fit your idea. There are many resources available to get started. Shopify and Cafe Press are examples of ecommerce sites available to sell your products. Ruby Lane and Etsy are ecommerce sites that cover the niche of handcrafted items. Sometimes you can use these sites to sell information as a product, such as an ebook.

Do some planning before you start building a storefront, so you'll have a better idea of what direction you'll take. Once your storefront is up, you'll continue to work with it to keep visitors coming back. Online sales is about getting visitors and potential customers on your site. There are millions of websites a person can visit, so give them a good reason to visit yours.

If you're new to E-Commerce, you can read this guide from The Small Business Playbook.

Have the Right Tools Available

You'll be spending a lot of time on the computer getting your online business going, so a good desktop or laptop is needed. A fast and reliable network connection is needed, so look at services such as Century Link for deals that give you the performance that matches your budget. Outfit your office with a small printer, because even in the digital age, you'll need to print some things out.

Showing Your Product or Service to the World

Think about how you want to portray your product or service to people. How does it uniquely solve a problem that people have? What benefits do people get from owning this product? One reason people will visit your website is because there is something unique about what you offer. If you're selling the same thing that a hundred other people are, then it's purely a numbers game in terms of whether they'll visit you over the competition.

Sooner is Better Than Later

One of the mistakes new online business owners make is waiting too long to launch their product or service. ThinkTraffic.net suggests doing some planning and preparation, but to set up a goal of getting your product or service out in front of people as soon as feasible. This may make the perfectionists nervous, but with so many business going online every day, the sooner your website is live and taking orders, the more of an edge you'll have over any new competition. Lock down your niche market as soon as you can.

Prepare to Support Your Idea

Creating a website so people can buy your product is just one step toward your successful online business. Write interesting content, such as articles and blog posts, that express your passion for what you are selling. Tap into unique ways to use Facebook and Twitter to communicate the benefits of using your product. Ask people to write reviews for you and “like” your product.

All of this creates a discussion about your product online that people carry with them into their respective networks. Once your website is up and running, you will continue the care and feeding of your product by writing, reviewing, and keeping the visibility of it on the network.

If you are passionate about a product or service, there is an online market for you. Express your excitement about it to others, and they will pick up on that. Whether this is a full or part-time effort, you can tap into part of that growing online revenue stream.

Jon Portland has been involved in E-Commerce for over 10 years and is the E-Commerce manager for Discountpoolsupply.com, one of Canada's largest pool and spa supply companies.

Small Business Toolbox – September Seventh

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

HARO – Help a Reporter Out is a free platform that connects journalists and experts online.  Sign up as an expert in your niche and receive daily emails with requests from various media outlets looking for an expert to quote in their story.

TwitPic – Share pictures and short videos via Twitter on this free platform.  Lets you add some multimedia fancy to your regular Tweets.

Inspirational quote from Sugar Ray Robinson

Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here