Selling Successfully Online (Chris Barling Video)

Hello my name’s Chris Barling, I’m the chairman of Actinic (now SellerDeck). Actinic has helped tens of thousands of small companies start selling online in the UK. I’m here on behalf of the is4profit website, to talk about setting up your online store, and going through five things to think about to do that.

Tip 1 – Choosing Your Niche

My first tip is choosing your niche, in other words, thinking about the product you’re going to sell and whom you’re going to sell it to.

It’s very important nowadays when you go online that you try to avoid going head-to-head with one of the majors because, frankly, as a small startup you’re going to lose. So ask yourself the questions:

  • What do you know about?
  • What are you most interested in?
  • What area do you feel confident to learn about?

And then try and define your niche down until you can get to a size of niche where you have some sort of advantage where maybe you know more than the competition or you can source stuff possibly cheaper, although that’s unlikely in a startup situation, but try and be a specialist so that you can try and offer something that other people can’t.

Tip 2 – Doing Your Research

My second tip is around doing your research in the market place and Donald Rumsfeld was ridiculed for saying

“You don’t know what you don’t know”

But in fact there is more sense in that than you think, and learning as much as you can about your space, the products being sold and the competition is very important and the great thing is that with the internet you can do an awful lot of that very very easily.

So search for the products you’re thinking about selling, look at the competitors, go into the Google AdWords area and actually find out how many people are searching for the things you’re thinking of selling and how much competition there is.

There’s just a wealth of material there, you can visit exhibitions, and what you’ll do is you’ll save yourself a huge amount of time, money and grief if you do as much research as you can before you actually spend any money or commit to any path of action.

Tip 3 – Attracting Customers

My third tip is in the area of marketing and it’s important to think about how you’re going to get visitors to come to your site because simply creating a site does not cause traffic to appear as if by magic.

The first thing of course is to think about your domain name. It’s hard now to find good domain names because many of them have already gone but some of the tips are:

  • you need to make sure there’s no confusion about the spelling
  • you need to make sure that there’s a .COM and .CO.UK both available – you don’t want to do work and then find that you’re actually providing traffic to somebody else.
  • You need to think about the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) basics – how you’re going to get people to find you through search engines
  • you need to think about whether you want to spend money on AdWords marketing and/or email marketing.
  • And then of course you could go down the route of eBay or Amazon where eBay and Amazon will provide the traffic to you. You simply set up the shop in their area. The downside of that being that there is a lot of competition and the price is quite high but the upside being that the marketing problem is solved for you.

Tip 4 – Platform and Technology

The fourth area I’d like to talk about is platform and technology. Of course, you need a platform from which to sell across the web. If you use eBay or Amazon you can use their platform or you may want to set up your own site. If you use Actinic Online, the product from my company, you can in fact combine the two where you have your own site and you can manage your eBay and Amazon stores.

Broadly speaking, there’s a choice between a couple of options;

One is to use Software as a Service (SaaS) where you pay monthly, which is very good for small start-ups because you don’t have a big upfront cost.

Alternatively you can buy a package and implement it.

The one option I wouldn’t recommend for anybody that’s starting off first time and is fairly small is going with a bespoke site as you’ll pay a lot of money and then be tied-in and it’s just not necessary these days – there are so many powerful features available off-the-shelf.

When it comes to payments and how you’re going to accept payments on your website it’s very simple – If you’re a start-up with out a track record use PayPal. It’s very easy to get going, that’s what they’re very good at, yes they will take a percentage of your sales but it’s a very manageable percentage.

As you develop, or if you you’re already established as a business you should get your own merchant account and you should use a payment service provider to take payments for the simple reason that it’s cheaper than PayPal and as your volume rises that becomes important.

You’ll also need to think about mobile commerce, and the truth is that at the moment mobile commerce is growing fast but it’s growing from a fairly small base but it is something to think about particularly as the iPad gets out more and more and more, and more people are buying online through mobile devices than they were previously.

Tip 5 – Customer Service

Finally I ‘d like to talk about customer service. As well as the promises you make on your website and in your marketing an your sales process you’ve actually got to deliver on those as well. And that’s all about having the stock available, about how well you pack the product you send out and how good your delivery company is.

What’s appropriate will vary according to what goods you’ve got. Some goods are more subject to fraud and problems with being stolen in transit, maybe insurance is important.

So you need to think about this, and it’s always good to turn it round and ask yourself what you would like as a customer – when you buy online what are you looking for? These are some of the things to think about.

On the internet people expect a quick response – if they phone up they want to speak to a real person, if they send an email they expect a response often within a few hours, and all these things are very important in terms of establishing a relationship with your customers and then growing your business through recommendation or repeat purchase.

And, frankly, if you don’t have good customer service, it quickly gets out. In fact on eBay and Amazon they have a very rigorous process of getting feedback from customers and if you don’t provide good service you’ll get thrown off the platform.

So you need to think, before you even start, that you’re going to provide great customer service.

In Conclusion

So we’ve talked about finding your niche, what product you’re going to sell to what customers and the key thing there is to try and find an area where you’re not going to be swamped by the competition.

We’ve talked about research, finding out as much as you can about that niche and the product and the competition before you actually spend any money.

We’ve talked about marketing – the importance of thinking through how people will be attracted to your website and making sure you have enough budget to be able to do that by not spending too much on that platform. And on the platform you the choice between the market place, between running your own website and if you’re running your own website you have the choice between SaaS where you pay monthly or buying a package.

And finally we talked about customer service and the importance of actually delivering on your promises and how, particularly online, if you don’t do that, you won’t succeed.

There’s more information that you might find very useful at the HP Business Answers section of LinkedIn and if you go to my website you can download a free copy of my book “300 Top tips for selling successfully online”

Read Chris’s business advice article: Selling Successfully Online

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