10 Ways to Develop a Platform for Your Online Business - dummies

10 Ways to Develop a Platform for Your Online Business

By Greg Holden

The ultimate goal of your online business is to develop a seller platform. You want to have repeat customers, subscribers to your newsletter, readers of your blog, and followers on social media. It’s a matter of branding yourself, and it’s something that’s easier than ever to do online.

Follow Wilco’s example

Wilco made headlines in 2002 when its record publisher rejected its album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The record company gave the band all the rights to the album; they started streaming it online to their fans. It turned out to be the band’s most successful album to date, selling 670,000 copies.

Wilco has more than 500,000 “Likes” on Facebook and 92,000 followers on Twitter. They let people listen to their music online before they sell it in their online store. It’s all about driving fans to their various locations online and building a sustainable customer base.

Create a logo

A logo is like a storefront sign. A good logo is professional-looking. It represents who you are, what service you provide, or what you sell. But it can be simple, almost homemade-looking, like the logo for the Enchanted Hen website.

If you are creating a business or a brand that you want to promote for years to come, it’s really worth your effort to spend some money on a professional designer (Check out Elance for designers).

List on EveryPlaceISell

This business has multiple storefronts and points of entry benefits by having a single location where all those venues are brought together under a single virtual “roof.” A website called EveryPlaceISell provides such a home base for free.

A typical EveryPlaceISell listing not only lists the various storefronts operated by a single individual or company, but also includes background information about the owner, something that customers might not be able to find elsewhere.

Be a social marketing maven

E-commerce, like more traditional kinds of business, is built on concepts like trust, brands, and reputation. The better you can brand yourself and prove that you are either an authority in your field or someone who has desirable merchandise, the more successful you’ll be.

You can go beyond sharing to offer freebies, conduct contests, and even post items for sale through a social networking site or, at the very least, advertise them online.

Develop an e-mail campaign

It will likely benefit your business to pay a modest monthly fee for an e-mail service provider (ESP). An ESP keeps track of mailing lists and streamlines the process whereby individuals can subscribe or unsubscribe from those lists, which is required by law.

ESPs also help you with designing and revising e-mails. You can save an e-mail as a draft; you can resend e-mails with a single click; you can copy e-mails and revise them with new content. Finally, you can keep track of how many people opened your e-mail and how many clicked links in the message.

Post on your blog

A business blog has a special purpose. It shares news and the views of a businessperson who’s knowledgeable about a particular area of commerce and who wants to connect with people who are interested in the same subject.

A blog is another way of building your platform. By inviting comments from readers and responding to them, you give your customers another reason to visit you.

One of the biggest benefits of having a blog and updating it regularly is that you improve your search engine placement.

Give something back to your supporters

A small Chicago company called The Scrumptious Pantry sells organic and heirloom food products. When they were just getting started, the owners went on Kickstarter, where anyone can raise money from sympathetic individuals for a personal project or a cause, trying to raise $12,000, and they reached their goal and then some.

Look up this business on Kickstarter, and in the right column you see all the things The Scrumptious Pantry is doing to keep up with its donors and give something back. This is a great way to market and expand one’s customer base and build a brand.

Pop up on other people’s websites

Look for sites that sell items that complement the things you sell. Ask if you can trade advertisements or links. Because the other site isn’t a direct competitor, the owner should be receptive.

Look for blogs that discuss topics or areas of business that relate to what you do, or that focus on your own area of expertise. Ask if you can write a guest blog post that provokes discussion.

If someone asks you for an interview, jump at the chance. Having your name and the URL of your website in an article on a well-traveled venue is like business gold. It can be available in Google search results for months, even years.

Publish your own newsletter

You need to gather names and e-mail addresses, and one of the best ways to do this is by creating a newsletter. Here are some ideas of what a newsletter might contain:

  • Announcements of special sales and promotions

  • New products

  • Instructions on how to use your products

  • Keepsakes

  • A bonus

Once you sell to someone, put his or her name on a mailing list. Send that person a newsletter or e-mail that tells about your new products or that simply describes what you’re up to.

Keep your content up to date

Do you have a favorite blog, comic strip, or newspaper columnist website that you like to visit each day? With luck, your customers will want to visit your site, eBay Store, or other sales venue every day as well. Of course, that won’t be the case unless you come up with new material on a regular basis.

If you have so many things to do that you can’t possibly revisit your website every day and put new sales online, consider hiring a student or friend to help run your site.