As with any business, the first steps to trading online involves conducting
market research to identify your target market, assess demand, competition
and reaction to your prices from potential visitors.

With a population of over 5.5 million businesses – of which small and
medium-sized companies account for 99% – the UK has become a focus for
innovation and new business ventures, and its reputation is expected to flow
further this year.

Find your problem for your solution

Help your chances of success, by starting with a market. The trick is to find a
group of people who are searching for a solution to a problem, but not finding
many results. The internet makes this kind of market research easy by visiting
online forums. You can see what questions people ask and what problems
they’re trying to solve. Another way is by keyword research to find keywords
that a lot of people are searching, but for which, not many sites are competing.

Make sure to check for potential competitors by visiting their sites and taking
note of what they’re doing to fill the demand. Then you can use what you’ve
learned and created a product for a market that already exists–and do it better
than the competition.

Sales process

There’s a proven sales copy formula that takes visitors through the selling
process from the moment they arrive at the moment they make a purchase:

  1. Headline
    Stimulate interest with a persuasive headline, this should draw the reader’s
    attention to the product
  2. Tag Line
    Describe the problem your product solves, make sure you stand out from your
    competitors with a great selling point.
  3. Promise
    Establish your credibility as a solver of a problem, this can include a number
    of problems other competitors/industry has.
  4. Review
    Add testimonials from people who have used your product, more visitors are
    likely to buy knowing other visitors have bought a product.
  5. Description
    Talk about the product and how it benefits the user. This can be as small or as
    big as you want it to be as long as the customer has a clear sense of the product.
  6. Price
    Make an offer, this helps the customer know a price range of your products.
    They are more likely to go through with the sale if they know how much it will
    cost.
  7. Trust
    Make a strong guarantee. Trust is very important and offering a money back
    guarantee/easy refund for the visitor adds value to your company.
  8. Urgency
    Create urgency, this could include ‘quick low in stock’, ‘free delivery runs out in
    [Countdown]’ or ‘buy and now save before midnight’.
  9. Buy Now
    Ask for the sale. You can add a ‘Buy now’ button or add to basket, so the
    customer can check out quick and easy.

The best way to analyse your website is to think like a customer. What would you
want from a website, what would make you make a purchase, what information
would you ask for?

Designing and building your website.

Once you’ve got your market and product, and you’ve nailed down your selling
process, now you’re ready for your small business web design. Remember to keep
it simple. You have fewer than five seconds to grab someone’s attention–otherwise
they’re gone, never to be seen again.

You should choose one or two plain fonts on a white background, this will make
your information stand out more. Make your navigation clear and simple, and the
same on every page so that the visitors can easily sail across your website. Visuals
are important but only use graphics, audio or video if they enhance your message.
Including an opt-in form so you can collect e-mail addresses, is a great way on
connecting to your customers. The checking out section is always the hardest part
as people can tend to drop out before they buy a product.

More key steps for your website

Important website information you must include

Your business website must include your address and contact details, privacy
policy, terms and conditions, exchange and refund policy, quality commitment
and information about delivery and payment. Stock availability and pricing should
be kept up to date and you must state how much VAT and the cost of post and
packaging is per item. To collect payments you need to include a shopping cart function,
as well as a secure means by which customers can enter their card details when paying.
Most website designers provide a shopping cart function and payment facility as part of
their service. You will also need a merchant account to collect payments. PayPal is very but
you should also enquire at your bank. You pay a service charge on each transaction, a
set-up and monthly service fee.

Make sure to test your website site thoroughly before you launch. You can ask potential
customers what they think, too, and act on their feedback if valid.

Use search engines to drive targeted visitors to your site.

Pay-per-click advertising is the easiest way to get traffic to a brand-new site. It has two
advantages over waiting for the traffic to come to you by itself. PPC ads show
up on the search pages immediately, and the ads allow you to test different
keywords, as well as headlines, prices and selling approaches. Not only do you get
immediate traffic, but you can also use PPC ads to discover your best, highest-
converting keywords. Then you can distribute the keywords throughout your site in
your copy and code, which will help your rankings in the organic search results.

How to get on top of your SEO game

Establish an expert reputation for yourself

People use the internet to find information. If you provide that information for free to other
sites you’ll see more traffic and better search engine rankings. You should always include
a link to your site with each bit of information. Create articles, videos or any other content
that people will find useful. Then distribute that content through online article directories
or social media sites. Include “send to a friend” links on valuable content on your website.
Be active in industry forums or comments and social networking sites, this is where your target
market is, this way you’ll reach new readers. Every site that posts your content will link
back to yours. Search engines love links from relevant sites and will reward you in
the rankings.

After sale

One of the most important internet marketing strategies is to develop every customer’s
lifetime value. At least 36 percent of people who have purchased from you once will buy
from you again if you follow up with them. You can use back-end selling and upsell
to get them to buy again. This includes offers to products that are similar to their
original purchase and sending out electronic loyalty coupons to redeem on their next
visit. Rewarding your customers for their loyalty will make them become even more
loyal. Creating an opt-in list helps your customers and subscribers keep up to date with
latest information, products, offers and news. Email marketing a lot cheaper and more
effective than print, TV or radio because it’s highly targeted.

The internet changes so fast that one year online = five years in the real world. The
principles of how to start and grow a successful online business haven’t changed at
all. If you’re just starting a small business online, stick to this sequence. If you’ve
been online awhile, do a quick review and see if there’s a step you’re neglecting, or
never got around to doing in the first place. You can’t go wrong with the basics.