Section One: How to Determine What You Want to Sell on Your Website
No matter what anyone tells you, the first step you need to take if you want to set up your business’s website is to first determine the goal for what you want to use your website for.
If you already have a brick and mortar business and you are planning on expanding its reach to the internet, then you are off to a good start. On the other hand, if you are starting from scratch, and a business website is going to be your sole moneymaker, then you have a lot of work ahead of you.
Because there are more steps involved for those who are looking to make an online business from scratch, we will start at the beginning. Your first step when creating a business website is to brainstorm what it is exactly what you want your business to provide.
Sales or retail website will look different than a marketing website which will look different than an informational website, and they will all look different than a web
application. Your primary concern should be to first determine a genre for your business’s website. Everything else will fall into place once you have the basic ideas laid out for your site.
Each type of business site has its own pros and cons.
For example, sales or retail website will have a lot of pictures, sporadic text that is mostly used to describe each product you are selling in a sentence or two, and a shopping cart. These sites feature easy navigation and are very user-friendly, but they are more difficult to get recognized by search engines and normally do not take advantage of advertising. Affiliate programs can be used, however, for extra traffic.
On the other hand, a marketing website is designed to sell one product and one product only. You’ve probably seen a number of marketing websites attempting to sell you get rich quick schemes, web content, and handy Photoshop plug-ins to make web design easier. These sites are the easiest to design and build, feature mostly text with a few images interspersed, and contain a simple “Buy Now” button. They are designed around one product and one product only, making them optimized for search engines and perfectly positioned to make money through advertising and affiliate programs.
The informational business website is next. These are sites designed to inform about a business, but not necessarily sell anything directly. Think of some of the biggest companies in the world: Sony, Motorola, Canon, Toyota, Chevrolet, etc. While you can buy items on some of their corporate websites, they are primarily designed to inform the consumer. By informing the consumer about your brand or store, you can help get the word out about your products and increase your sales dramatically. These websites, while they can work for anyone who has a well-defined product to sell, are better for companies and small businesses that have a nationwide presence.
In other words, it is not a good idea to make an informational website for your local business when you will only get a few site visitors a month – if that. Do not confuse these informational websites with Adsense Sites. The two are distinct.
Finally, if you really want to make a name for yourself on the Internet, you can consider taking a route that few dare to tread. You could create a web-based application that functions like a traditional program but is located on the internet. These programs can often give you a channel to make a significant amount of money, provided that people find the applications you create usefully.
However, they do require a lot of perseverance, a very original idea, and a good team of programmers who want the product to succeed. While a web application based business is a fantastic way to make a lot of money, it is not recommended for those who are new to the business arena.
Now that you know the four basic types of business websites, it is up to you to choose the one that will mostly work for your goals. You do not, and should not, decide right now which type of site is the best for you.
Take your time, do some research, and make sure that you talk everything through with your business partners and/or your immediate family members who may be counting on you to make the right decision. When you have a general idea of which type of business website you want to construct and what product(s) you want to sell, you can move on to step two.
Section Two: Do You Really Need Your Own Business Website?
If you want to sell items using the internet, you may not even need your own business website. There are a number of places where you can go if you want your products to
reach the masses – but you do not want to deal with the time and money expenditures that building a business website will entail.
These different options could save you ample time in getting your business up and running quickly. Then, if you decide that your business has become profitable enough, you can take your sales to your own website and retain all of the profits.
The most common third-party company to use when peddling your wares is eBay. By using the online auction powerhouse, many people have found it fantastically easy to make quite a bit of money. However, selling items on eBay does not come cheap, as the company does charge quite a bit of money for each completed transaction. Do not despair, as you can still find it incredibly easy to set up your business and sell your products using an eBay store.
Setting up your eBay storefront is no more difficult than simply creating an account with the online marketplace. Although it is not good practice, you will have to also give some financial information to eBay when you sign up, so it is a good idea to dedicate a bank account, a credit card, or a Paypal account to eBay. Treat your eBay store like a business and it will be easier to keep track of all of your transactions.
You can start selling immediately on eBay. Just choose an item you want to list and place it on eBay. Aside from the tools that eBay gives you just for being a member, there are a number of fancy listing tools available for low prices for all operating systems. Some of them are even free. No matter the cost, if you want your eBay store to look professional, you will want to invest in one of these third-party selling tools.
While eBay is easy to use and a very effective way of getting your products to a marketplace of millions from around the world, there are a few drawbacks. eBay takes its cut on every sale you make. You will have to pay listing fees and selling fees as well as Paypal fees on purchases people make through the financial service. This can add up over time, so while eBay is a great place to get your business started, it is not recommended that you stick with eBay as your sole source of income for longer than a year or two.
If eBay does not sound like it would be the proper marketplace for your products, you may want to consider teaming up with retail giant Amazon.com. There are two ways to use Amazon to your advantage – selling your used items in an eBay style manner or creating your own WebStore on Amazon. You should decide which method to use based on your predicted sales volume as well as how much of a reputation you want to establish for yourself.
Selling one product at a time on Amazon can make you some money, but it is not exactly an online business website. If you want to go full bore and make as much profit as you can, then the Amazon website is what you should focus your attention towards. The Amazon WebStore affiliation will allow you to sell your products right alongside Amazon’s products, allowing you to sell your goods to over sixty million potential customers.
Just like setting up a store with eBay, an Amazon website is a cakewalk compared to designing your own business website. But there are monetary drawbacks involved as well–drawbacks that may deter you from engaging in a financial partnership with the retail giant.
While you can build your own Amazon website using Amazon’s easy to use storefront designer, it will cost you sixty dollars per month in hosting fees plus seven percent of each sale goes into Amazon’s pocket.
All in all, if you think you can move enough merchandise on Amazon’s site, this is really the business alternative that you should consider. It offers roughly the same exposure as eBay and slaps you with far fewer fees so that you can make more profit.
Finally, if you are considering marketing or publishing as an online business, you may want to take a look at what Lulu.com has to offer. As the leader in online self-publishing and all things print, Lulu is the place to go if you are attempting to make your fortune with art or the written word.
From calendars to books to music, if it is artsy, it’s on Lulu. All you have to do is come up with a creative idea, get Lulu to produce it, and then you get some profits based on what sells on their site. You can even take your published works to an Amazon or eBay store for even more exposure.
While the market at Lulu is limited, it is the best place to get discovered if you are willing to put in the time and effort to write a book, create some art, or even record a song. Even if you are not into making one of these activities into a full-on business, Lulu provides you with a great way to make some money on your hobbies.
Like photography? Make a calendar. Have an opinion on the presidential candidates? Write a short book and have Lulu publish it. Play in a garage band? Record your songs and Lulu will sell your CD for you.
Although there are plenty of other programs that you can enrol in if you are looking to establish an online business without making your website right away, the above-listed companies offer three of the largest resources for you to start selling right away. Their fees are affordable, their web traffic is huge.
They can offer you everything you want about an online store except for your own domain name and full control over your profits. If you want to be completely in charge of your business, you need to create your own business website.
[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” class=”” width=””]To be continued on Friday[/box]