Every small business owner knows that competition is tough, but he or she may not be able to pinpoint exactly what changes are needed in order to get to the top. Conducting business as usual may no longer be sufficient. Investing in the technology that is now available can be a great help or a bank breaker. It seems that most small business and home based business are either starving (they don’t have enough technology) or they are obese (they have everything piece of new technology that comes down the pike).
There is, however, some fairly new technology that every small or home business owner needs. It can answer questions like; how can small businesses identify noteworthy trends, Identify an existing hot demand and make better decisions faster? Answer: business intelligence software. Business intelligence is the crystal ball of the 21st century.
Purchasing business intelligence (BI) software is one of the most strategic investments that a business can make. Using data mining, reporting and querying, BI helps businesses understand, monitor, manage and respond to specified situations. This software empowers decision-makers — and staff — to connect the dots around key business numbers in a way previously unimaginable.
BI helps you figure out:
- Which customers are profitable?
- Which customers appear profitable but aren’t?
- Are you close to — or far from — reaching critical milestones?
- When is the best time to launch a marketing campaign?
- What was the best performing product or service last quarter?
Business Intelligence software may be more of an investment than small businesses can bear. It can certainly be pricy. Small business or home business owners, however, can subscribe to BI services on the Internet at a fairly reasonable cost. There are several to choose from. eBay also published a ―Hot Items list the first week of each month. It gives valuable information to eBay sellers who use drop shippers.
Choosing the Right Product
When you first start your online business, the first and most obvious question you will ask yourself is… what am I going to sell? Points to consider when deciding the answer to that question are:
- Is it light and easy to ship?
- Is it a digital good that is downloaded (e-book or software)?
- Is it perishable or fragile?
- Does it have to be seen and held (designer fabrics, perhaps)
- Is there enough demand to make your venture profitable?
- Does it have little competition from large online companies (niche products)?
The last two characteristics are the ones that can be hard to pin down. Here is a generally accepted method of arriving at an idea of how heavy the demand and competition is for a product. If you have a special interest in some products that meet the above criteria, great, but don’t limit your investigation just to items you like. You are looking for a niche product with relatively good demand (enough to make it profitable), but without heavy competition.
One way to see what the demand is for products you are interested in is to look at search engines to see how frequently people search for the product you are considering.
The result of all this research should be that one or more products will fit into a niche market – products with some demand, and relatively little supply. For the best results, focus on one niche product category, and offer a wide selection.
That way, you can become the best online source for that particular category. For example, instead of offering general craft supplies, offer the widest possible selection of needlepoint kits. This strategy will also allow you to rank higher in search engines because you can optimize your pages for fewer, more specific, keywords.
Where to Look for the Right Product Online
When you are just starting your online business finding the right products to sell online is the number one problem. Knowing where to look can help.
- Drop Shipper Directories: Drop shippers are wholesalers that will ship direct to your customers so that you don’t have to invest in or store inventory. Directories of drop shippers are for sale online, but make sure you’re buying a reputable one.
- Local Businesses: You may find businesses in your backyard that offer just the right products, but are not yet into e-commerce. Offer to sell their product online in exchange for a percentage of any profits you make.
- Crafters: Local crafters are a good source of unique products, and may be willing to reduce their prices for you if you purchase in quantity. Either buy the item outright, or set up a consignment arrangement with them.
- Garage sales and flea markets: G garage sales are a good place to look for items to sell online. Do some research into categories that interest you, and then start scouring sales for good prices.
- eBay: eBay itself can be a source for products. Look for wholesale lots that can be broken down for individual sale.
- Wholesaler Directories: Your local library will probably have directories of manufacturers, wholesalers, and/or distributors. Most directories are organized by SIC code so that you can zero in on the product categories that interested you.
- Trade Shows: Trade shows are a great way to source products. Lots of merchants gather in one place to look for resellers. To find trade shows in a particular industry, contact trade associations and industry publications.
- Importers/Exporters: You might want to consider contacting companies that import goods from overseas. It’s possible to source directly from overseas. This requires a lot of expertise, but many companies do it successfully.
How to use Auto Responders for Maximum Benefits
With the goal of profitability in mind, the most important question a web site owner must address is how to maximize the value of visitors once you get them to visit the site. One important element of the strategy is to make use of an auto- responder.
One of the best marketing tools on the Internet is the auto-responder. This widely used marketing tool responds automatically to any email message sent to it. They are triggered by a blank email sent to the auto-responder email address.
For example, when someone sends an email to an auto-responder, the person receives an already prepared email message with the requested information. This happens automatically and almost instantaneously, depending on the Internet and email servers. If you have properly set up opt-in plus an auto- responder series, you aren’t personally involved in follow up. The auto-responder contacts the prospect with the initial reply and beyond, becoming in effect you’re constantly at work, automated sales force.
All you have to do is set it up one time. Write the follow up messages, program the intervals at which you want your messages sent, then the auto-responder set-up works for you again and again on autopilot. Always keep in mind that the visitor isn’t interested in your objectives. They only want to know what is in it for them. They’ve given their email address mainly because they want to get information, not so they can read your advertisements. So give them what they want: accurate and useful information on a particular subject. Earn their trust. Then, you can tell about how your products and services could benefit them. If you don’t give good content, prospects won’t keep opening the emails in your series.
Make it a win-win. They get good information and you get a well-qualified prospect thanks to your auto-responder messages.
Have a Mailing List of Your Own
No matter what type of email you send out, you’ll need a mailing list. The basic way to build a mailing list is by capturing name and email address information for everyone who buys or shows interest in your product. An email list that YOU COLLECT YOURSELF is worth its weight in gold. This can be accomplished by using a list manager on your site. List managers also provide the HTML coding for the form on the Gateway pages. A list manager collects the email addresses that are gathered with the form. Thus, your email list is collected. This might take some time so there are methods to use until you get your own email list built.
One way to build a mailing list is to do ad swaps with other list owners. The way this works is, you (as company A) have an email list that you send newsletters to and another list owner (company B) has a list they send newsletters to. Company A and Company B place ads on one another’s mailing lists. Each of you is promoting the other’s list. You can rent or buy targeted email lists. The list you develop using your own customers’ names is called your ―house list.
Of course, when you’re first starting out, your house list is likely to be skimpy. To augment it, one way to go is rent or buy a mailing list.
There are two ways to buy or rent a mailing list—approaching the company you want to rent from directly or using a list broker. Any company that emails information to its customers usually has a list manager, who handles inquiries and orders for the mailing list. Another way to build an email list is to list your newsletter in all of the e-zine directories.
Have Your Own Voice Through Creating Special Reports
You’re probably searching for additional revenue streams to keep your business solid and secure in this contracting economy and uncertain world. Producing specialized content for sale is one of the fastest, most reliable methods of making extra income fast. Writing a “white paper” or a special report, is a great way to set yourself up as an expert in your field, and share valuable information with your prospects. You may already have most of the ingredients for an e-book or special report in your files or archives. Find out which ingredients make customers willing to pay you for material available from other sources, and what elements you should include in your marketing copy to spark their interest in buying now.
Here are the steps to take when writing your special report:
- Have your end goal in mind before you start.
- Do you want to find a way to increase sales, while reducing your cost to acquire those sales?
- Who are you trying to impress and what is important to them?
- What distribution method will be best?
- How many people do you want to impact with this report?
- Make sure the layout of your special report looks pleasing, and is very easy to read.
- Keep in mind that it’s basically salesmanship in print.
- Keep your facts accurate, very brief and to the point. The denser your information, the more valuable and more likely to keep the interest of your reader.
Write an attention getting headline.
95% of your readers will decide if they will read your special report based totally on your headline, so make it great and make it benefit driven. Get it on the web. When emailing others, include your white paper URL in your SIG line of your Email or include the URL when promoting your special report on Email discussion lists.