For many business owners, the foray into e-commerce feels like a dive into a vast sea of ambiguity. Even established companies have to develop new means of getting noticed and attracting customers when they venture into the online market. But just because your expertise is not in the field of internet marketing doesn’t mean you can’t build a prosperous online business.
A lot of online business owners have in depth knowledge about their product offering and industry, but know little about how to use this expertise to their advantage online. Here are some techniques to help you leverage your own expertise to the benefit of your online business.
Make your Site the Premiere Resource for Information about your Industry and Products
Business is about relationships, and relationships rely on each party understanding what the other is about. You have to understand your potential customers in order to give them the right information, and consumers have to understand what your business is about before they will purchase from you.
You know all about your products and their benefits, but how will you convince visitors that your site is the perfect place to purchase them? You can start by providing a plethora of valuable information so that they can research and purchase from the same place – your website. Establishing your site as the premiere destination for resources about your industry enhances the user experience and builds trust, an important foundation for making sales.
In addition to providing informative, relevant and grammatically perfect content on the main pages of your website, an excellent way to position your site as a premiere destination in your line of business is through a regularly updated blog hosted on your server. A corporate blog, used effectively, enables visitors to research your products and industry without leaving your site, and demonstrates your company’s expertise and commitment. Here are a few more ways a corporate blog will help your online business:
- Regularly updated content relevant to your industry can help your site attract traffic through natural search. Frequent updates of related content will increase the chance that pages of your site will appear in search engine results when potential customers search for terms related to your products.
- Valuable content on your blog can also help you attract links from related sites, which can send you direct traffic and help your pages rank better in search engine results.
- Enabling comments on your blog provides an interactive environment in which you can reach out to targeted customers who are already interested in your products. For best results, garner relationships by personally responding to comments, and take advantage of the opportunity to connect directly with potential customers.
In communicating your expertise through your website content, blog posts and product descriptions, be sure to maintain focus on the benefits your customers are seeking. Instead of starting every sentence with “we,” speak to and about the customer.
Consistency is key to this approach. Establishing your site as a valuable resource is not going to happen overnight, but with regular effort toward building a content-rich, high quality website, you can earn the trust and loyalty of your customer base without having to convince them of anything. Tad Chef wrote an excellent list of 50 Blog Post Ideas for Business Blogging that will certainly get you started, and keep you busy for a while too. (See? It works. He wrote a great post that earned links and more readers :D)
Use your Knowledge to Merge the Physical and Virtual Worlds
There are lots of ways to reach out to consumers online, but marketing your online business does not have to be limited to the virtual world. Branding offline can certainly impact your online sales, so put your industry expertise to use getting the word out about your site in the places your target market hangs out offline. Here are some site promotion ideas that require no technical knowledge to accomplish:
- Attend industry trade shows, conferences or seminars as a guest or a speaker. Use the opportunity to build your credibility, network, find new leads and research ways you can improve your business. Just as establishing your site as a resource carries numerous benefits, earning an esteemed reputation within your industry will improve awareness and the credibility of your business. Bring the benefits back to your website by blogging about your experience. You can also kick it up a notch by supplementing your blog posts with audio or video of the event.
- Sponsor or advertise at events related to your industry. If your target market is comprised of runners, you might get the word out by sponsoring at a local marathon or 5K race. If your target market is primarily music enthusiasts, give away merchandise or sponsor a contest at a local music venue or festival. Hosting drawings or contests that require visiting your website can be a good way to attract new visitors. Get creative about promoting your site to the right people online and off, and you will be well on your way to building a strong brand that will have a long term impact on your bottom line.
Achieving success in any business – online or not – tends to fall back on a popular marketing mantra: Know Thy Customer. As an expert in your industry, you are uniquely suited to understanding what needs drive consumers to purchase your products, so you can tailor your marketing messages to speak to those needs in the context appropriate for your market. If you need help defining your target market, check out Choosing a Target Audience that will be Profitable to your Business.
-Pam Westbrook, Ecommerce Marketing/Copywriting