Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

Monday, September 12, 2005

The 10 Secrets of Selling Online

1. Work Works:

If there is a single secret to selling online, it is to work hard. Hard work is the secret to succeeding in almost anything, but it is especially important on the Web.

There are millions of consumers out there, but lots of other Web sites are competing for their attention. So you can't just build an online store and walk away from it. You have to work hard to draw visitors to your site, work hard to create a site that those visitors want to buy from, and work hard to give those buyers such good service that they and their friends will buy again in the future.

2. Choose the Right Niche

So you have to choose a niche small enough that you can dominate it. For example, if you are a tiny company, it would probably be a mistake to try selling top-40 CDs online. You would have a hard time competing with CDNOW. But you would probably have a chance at becoming the site for European folk music.

3. Make the Site Easy

The average visitor to a Web site looks at only three or four pages before going somewhere else. Visitors will leave at the slightest obstacle.

So if you want people to visit and order from your site, don't put any obstacles in their way. Whatever you do, don't force visitors to register. You have to create yourself an account, with a user id and password, before you can even order from Wal-Mart. Do they expect online shoppers to remember a userid and password for every online store they visit?

4. Emphasize Service

Your site should offer secure online ordering, and you should say so to visitors. But If you try ordering online yourself, you'll find the biggest concern that you have is not security. I bet what you'll find yourself thinking is, who are these guys? Did they actually get my order? Are they going to send me the products? When?

When someone places an order from a Yahoo! store, we always generate a confirmation page thanking them for their order, and telling them their order number. That is a good first start, but you as the merchant should also send them an email thanking them for their order and telling them when it will arrive.

And make sure that you ship orders quickly. Web users want fast results. They don't want to hear that they should expect to wait 4-6 weeks for delivery. This is not 1910. Tell them they will get their order in 3 days.

5. Promote your Site

One thing not to do, if you want traffic from search engines, is use software that generates your pages dynamically. Search engines don't index dynamically generated pages. As Internet World points out, a dynamically generated site is "all but invisible to search engines."

6. Patience

A few lucky merchants get a flood of orders the day they open. But for most online stores, growth is slow and steady. In the first couple weeks, you see a trickle of visitors, and, if you're lucky, one or two sales. If you work hard, six months later that trickle may have turned into a small but consistent stream.


Copyright © 1999 Paul Graham. Feel free to reproduce any of this text on your own Web site, so long as you reproduce it verbatim, and include this message. For any other use, please contact the author. Yahoo! and Yahoo! Store are trademarks of Yahoo! Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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