The Internet has been around long enough now for some online marketing principles to emerge as proven success drivers. By observing Amazon.com, Napster, Ebay, Hotmail, Blue Mountain Arts and a few other highly successful online properties, we can now accurately pinpoint tested principles that any site can plug into their own processes and profit from them immensely.
Being Part of Natural Buyer Behaviour
Most people buy on their third to fifth contact. Which means you have to get their email address the first time they visit your site, and periodically send them some useful free information to get them to return to your site several times. You have to give them a valid reason for them to give you their email address - no one gives their email address without something worth it for them in exchange. You can either run a newsletter or use a system like Aweber.com's to schedule an automated series of emails from pre-written templates. Obviously, providing good and relevant free information is very important here, you just can't email pure advertising to people. The Net Profits manual covers this very well (see http://www.aboutwebmasters.com/free-tools.shtml).
Affiliate Programs - Every Site Should Have One
Affiliate programs are responsible for about 35% of the sales generated by the big e-commerce sites. Many sites that do not do any other form of advertising report affiliates as an even larger contributor of their total sales. Why? Because over 80% of people find new sites on the web by following links from sites they already visit. Having an affiliate program gives you the ability to convince other related sites to link to your site. And make sure you give them a sizeable commission, say 20%. The idea is to build an affiliate network that is highly automated and empower your affiliates with tools and information that will help them succeed. Then target a few sites with high traffic as preferred partners and work with them even closer because these large sites will be the main contributor of sales. For more details on this, see Declan Dunn's Winning the Affiliate Game and The Complete, Insider's Guide to Associate & Affiliate Programs (see http://www.aboutwebmasters.com/free-tools.shtml).
Solving The Abandoned Shopping Cart
Shoppers abandon their shopping carts 75% of the time. They never complete the purchase process. The main reason why this happens has been found to be the lack of human support to answer questions they may have at the time of purchase, either about the products or about the shopping process. One way to add live human support is by using HumanClick.com's free app.
Leveraging Existing Traffic
You might as well leverage your existing traffic to generate more revenue. Sign up with some good affiliate programs from web businesses selling products related to your audience. Then take some good text links promoting those products and place them in strategic places on your site and newsletter, within the flow of your current traffic and that's it! Yahoo, Excite and many of the big engines all play this game and so should you. Again, text links that work in with the content are better than banners because people generally have learnt not to see banners. Another thing you can do is get a free Vstore and have an instant customized mall for your site without the accompanying hassles of fulfilment and the rest (see http://www.aboutwebmasters.com/free-tools.shtml).
Creating Revenue Streams
Make good use of your existing customers. Once someone has bought from you, they are very likely to buy again because they now trust you. Make good use of this. Find related products and services that they would be interested in and periodically, say once or twice a month, email the current customers thanking them for their previous purchase, asking them if they are happy with it and if they require any help with it, and of course informing them of the new product you have decided to tell them about. If you do not have any other products of your own, sign up with affiliate programs featuring such products and market those. This 'back-end' can actually result in more revenue that you got from the initial sale - it is a constant stream of revenue, actually.
Dominating The Search Engines
Over 80% of people use search engines to find products and services on the Internet. This and links from sites they already know are by far the biggest new traffic drivers to most sites. The good thing with traffic from the search engines is that it is free. The bad news is that you have to be positioned at the top 30 or so results on any search to get any traffic from the engines because most people do not look beyond the top 30 results returned by a search. The good news is that search engines primarily rely on mathematics to figure out the rankings of the search results, which means you can make pages designed to come up tops. You can either create these pages manually (see The Unfair Advantage Book on Winning The Search Engine Wars for details) or using software such as PositionWeaver and WebPosition (see http://www.aboutwebmasters.com/free-tools.shtml).
Building Your Own Viruses
Convert your site, products and processes into viruses. Make them viral by nature. For example, Hotmail grew by leaps and bounds with hardly any advertising because it was very viral by nature. By using it to send email, that little signature at the bottom informed everyone you contacted that a service called Hotmail existed. The easier it is to spread the word about you, the more opportunities there are to do so, the more integrated this spreading is with the actual use of your product or site, and also the more benefits a user gets for spreading it are, the more viral you can get. For details on this, download a free copy of Seth Godin's Unleashing the Ideavirus at www.ideavirus.com.
Its Your Turn Now
Of all these methods, the most critical to have on your site to succeed is an affiliate program of your own to offer other webmasters a commission for driving your sales, good positions on major search engines, and a newsletter or a way to contact customers with useful free information and product offers periodically. Have those three at the very minimal and you are assured of online success. If you absolutely cannot have either one of these three, then you must build in viral marketing to a very high level into your site, products and processes. Do you doubt this strategy? Have a look at Amazon.com, Napster, Ebay, Hotmail and Blue Mountain Arts. Each one of these is a highly successful venture (some maybe not profitable, but definitely leading their space). They all employ all or at least 3 of these 4 critical principles and because of that they have succeeded.
These principles, more than having a cool fast loading site or the lowest prices or any of that other stuff, are the most important ingredients for online success. Plug them in and you will surely profit.
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