Six Ways To Get Your Site Ready To Sell

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Scott Purvis, president of Anteater Design Group, states that his product, FlyPower (www.flypower.com) has taken on a life of its own, thanks to the Web.

"I just think it's amusing ... and scary," says Purvis, which owns a small business that sells paper airplanes run by the energy of a common house fly. Since its launch, the site (which has been up a little more than a year) has been visited by more than 120,000 enthusiasts. And, much to Purvis' surprise, thousands of the little buggers have been sold.

Okay, that's a great story, but how should a small, niche-driven business prepare to sell its products online? It's a question that is on the minds of most small businesspeople today. Here are six tips to help you get your site ready to successfully sell on the Web.

1. A Solid Product
Think out-of-the-box. The Internet isn't just national, it's international. Chances are that if you sell widgets, several others sell those same widgets. But, you can still market your product in a savvy way to distinguish it from others, and lock-in a broader market—that's #2.

2. An Internet Business Plan
Similar to any new business venture, you need to develop a careful plan that examines the essentials of what you are trying to do. What do you expect from the Internet? How are you going to make it happen? Are you equipped to distribute your products internationally? Set realistic expectations and goals for your Web site, do not expect a million page views in the first day. Think smart, and use all of the resources available to you to understand what it takes to succeed (visit the following URL articles, resources and information on E-commerce for small businesses.

3. A Simple Site
Once you have a plan in place, keep in mind two key points before you begin building your site: Make it easy for potential customers to navigate, and easy for you to update.

"Local businesses need a platform that they can manage from inside their store, or in their home in the evening, that's as easy as making a new sign for a store shelf," said Bruce Milligan, vice president of KOZ.com, which builds online communities for local media organizations and community groups.

With that in mind, you can either hire a professional to design your site or do it yourself. There are a number of hosting companies where you can build a simple site relatively cheaply. And, in many cases, you don't have to know HTML. But, if you want a more distinctive or complex site, your best bet is probably to hire a trusted professional.

4. Deciding Whether To Do Transactions Online
Unless you have a catalogue and a process already set up for delivery, distribution and customer service, actually doing transactions online may be more trouble than it's worth.

"Most of the businesses in America operate on a foot traffic model—people walking into a store and walking out," said Milligan. "The Internet holds great promise for local businesses as an advertising, promotions and customer acquisition tool, not necessarily as a place where you conduct transactions." On the other hand, there is a big benefit to offering credit card payments—it's quicker. And, you don't have to deal with paper order forms, checks or money orders.

5. An Advertising and Promotion Strategy
"They [small businesses] think they can just put up the page, request the search engine and sit back and make money," said Marnie Pehrson, Internet strategist and founder of the Pehrson Web Group, which creates community-based, industry-specific Web sites. "You need to be working, actively involved . . . If you can't do it, hire someone."

Whether it's using a banner exchange, indexing (getting your products on a list/site with similar products), submitting to search engines, joining a community or sending out newsletters, you simply can't rest when it comes to getting the word out.

6. Updating Often
One mistake that small businesses make is that they don't change their sites frequently enough. If you change your prices and inventory in your physical store, be sure to do the same thing to your online store? "You have to keep the site fresh. The focus of the site has to be as pinpointed as possible, and you've got to make it worthwhile to visit," says Purvis.

SmartAge Corp., helps small businesses build a site, get traffic to that site, and sell products and services online. No longer do you need a big budget, or a consultant to help you launch your small business on the Web. Copyright, 1999 SmartAge Corp., San Francisco, CA. All rights reserved.