1. Know your audience.
How can you tailor information to your audience if you don't know who they are? In almost every article, book, or manual on publicity and marketing you'll hear this one--and yet few people heed it. When I spoke at Los Angeles Gift Show it became evident that many retailers and buyers didn't know their audience. Fellow speaker and communications expert Kare Anderson (http://www.sayitbetter.com) polled over 60 exhibitors and discovered that only 2 felt they knew type of person they were targeting. Huh? How can they sell products to people they can't even profile?
To serve your market you'll want to know what problems you can solve for them, and more specifically what your audience longs for. Most of us have what we need, but desire more or less of what we have--or we yearn for something different or better. A poem by Japanese Haiku master Basho describes this essential state of human condition--this longing for something other than we are or have.
Even in Kyoto- Hearing cuckoo's cry- I long for Kyoto.
Give people what they are longing for and you will find a permanent place in their hearts.
2. Test, test, then test again.
Many webmasters don't test your shopping cart on different computer platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux), with different browsers, or with various computer configurations. This is essential!
The $10,000/hour speaker discussed above insisted that shopping cart on his website worked from his computer, though he admitted that he'd heard from a number of people it was often *down.* I tested it on my Mac and Windows PC with both Netscape and Internet Explorer and couldn't get it to function at all.
Understand that I'm no techie (biggest understatement of year) so these were most basic of tests, all done from a marketing vs. technical standpoint. If you are your own webmaster, have your friends and associates test your ecommerce sections, and your website in general, before you unleash your brilliance on world. It's amazing all things that can go wrong on a web site, including things that you or your tech help hasn't thought of. While it's impossible to go through every conceivable configuration, it is possible to take care of all major ones.
3. Take annoyance out of shopping.
In other words, make buying from you a pleasure. I was on a *professional marketer's* site to scope out a product he sells for $97. I muddled my way through a century of copy before I could get to actual *click to buy button.* I know he and other Internet marketers like him think this direct marketing technique (long copy, addressing every objection, illusion of giving away meaningful information) really sells product--but it doesn't work if they don't make it easy to get product in basket.
After about 5 minutes of clicking forward and backward, I gave up. (By way, women have less patience on Internet than men). Chalk up another lost sale for him.
Use fewest number of clicks to get a buyer to where they're going (to checkout). This means in navigating forward, toward final sale, or backward to add more items to their cart. Don't have your potential customer waste time and effort trying to figure out where or what to click, because they won't--they'll simply leave. Model yourself after amazon.com who makes process simple and easy.
Also, explain every step of your ordering process so that people feel confident of where they are going and what they can expect from you. This means everything from screens that verify information is correctly filled out on forms, to email messages confirming and precisely explaining shipping method and timeframe.
4. Don't sacrifice image for speed.
Think about it. If someone is paying you a substantial sum for your services and your website comes across like a poor pauper, do you think they'll retain their confidence in you?
It's important to concern yourself deeply about kind of image you're projecting before you slap something up on your website that you'll be sorry for later. Donald Rumsfeld, our current Secretary of Defense, former chairman of *transition team* for President Ford, and former White House chief of staff, gives this advice, *Think ahead. Don't let day-to-day operations drive out planning. Plan backward as well as forward. Set objectives and trace back to see how to achieve them. You may find that no path can get you there. Plan forward to see where your steps will take you, which may not be clear or intuitive.*
Some questions to ask to help you get clear:
Is what you're offering soft or hard-edged enough for kind of audience you want to attract? What are qualities your audience is looking for from you? Is what you do completely clear? Are products you sell filled with knowledge and information (or in case of 3-D products originality and true value) your buyers can't get from your competitors? Do you make it easy to buy? Remember that most information can be found elsewhere, but your wisdom cannot.