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We have built many e-commerce websites for all kinds of businesses.  We have seen great successes and great failures for our e-commerce sites, and there tends to be one common theme in the ones that failed. The failures were almost always the smallest businesses.

Which sites are the successes? We have a website that sells steam cleaners that averages between 700 and 800 site visits per DAY. Their sales are truly impressive. We have a company that sells precision hair cutting shears that has been very successful for the past 5 years. We have a stand up paddling client who uses e-commerce to sell boards and accessories that has a great record of success.

But which sites don’t tend to do well? It’s almost always someone who decides to start up a small e-commerce system as a new career on a budget.  Sometimes it works. One client has a very small business selling flatware that offers specialty flatware for people with grip impairments.  It’s been working well for the past four years. But sadly, it usually doesn’t.

What’s the difference? For one thing, all of the larger businesses have been around for a long time, and were willing to invest in getting good search engine rankings to help the visibility of their websites. And to be fair, several already had online stores before they asked us to modernize them and make them more user friendly and efficient.

So if you’re a small startup that wants to sell your products online, what can you do to help bring success to your business? Here are some tips:

  • Find a good niche product. I can tell you right now that if you think you’re going to find quick success by selling baby clothes online from a small budget website, you are probably going to regret it. Find a product that has a much smaller audience, where the big boys aren’t putting up thousands of dollars in AdWords and other publicity. You are simply not going to compete with The Gap, Ralph Lauren and Belk
  • Use guerilla marketing. Find ways to get your store noticed, by advertising in those little local shopper newspapers.
  • Offer your products to local merchants too. Even if you don’t make much from their sales, your product will be out there to be seen.
  • If you have a niche product, find online forums for people who use the product and post there. Talk about how your product meets the needs of those people, and ask for feedback. People LOVE giving opinions, and it makes them feel like they are a part of your brand.
  • I know it’s tedious, but blog about your products and your industry. It takes awhile, but if you know how to use tags and submit your blogs, your blog WILL be read eventually.
  • If you buy products from a large supplier, get listed on their site as a seller, you will get you a valuable backlink that search engines love.
  • Depending upon your product, consider budgeting for Google AdWords.  While not a guarantee of success, at least it will get you listed on Google, where you have a chance. This option is VERY dependent upon the product’s niche. A small market means that there won’t be thousands of competitors out there bidding for placement.
  • And finally, have faith for the long haul. Because your likely won’t make any money for awhile.  Stick to it, keep working, blogging and everything else to give your business the best chance for success.