Top 5 Questions: How to Increase Online Sales?

2007 was the first year of MyOrbit – and full of great experiences. We consolidated our ground in E-Business and learned new things from our clients worldwide. Though we have completed 3 quarters, this New Year 2008 gives an opportunity to share the top 5 questions from our customers in 2007. If you are in any form of business – these will help you.

Q1. How can I increase my sales through online channels?

Answer: This really is a big question with no one answer – otherwise everyone would have done it! What we have found from our experience of running multiple businesses is that there is a need for a structured approach to attract targeted visitors (prospects) and ensure that the entire chain of events is planned – till the time an order is placed.

Many services companies will say “oh, this may work for product companies, but not for us”. This is just a lame excuse by someone who fears change. We have seen successful examples of services companies generating almost 80% revenues from their website + other online channels. The need is to create an online platform (say, a part of your website/blog) which shares valuable information with prospects, and a system which can do all of what a physical sales person can do. With Audio and Video possible on web-pages, a good website can generate more sales than a team of salespeople, at a fraction of the cost. The only expenses you have to make are for online marketing, for which you can see other posts on this site.

Q2. We have built a great website…now how do we promote it?

Answer: Do you know which places your clients and prospects visit often? That’s the place you need to advertise in some way. Consider buying text links, we have found them best on performance/price. Some sites also offer paid articles referring your site – those are good too. For example, our clients often visit sites like: www.cio.com, www.cfo.com, www.ft.com, and many smaller sites – all of them are good options to advertise. Small sites and blogs can give a great return on online ad spend. So invest some effort in that. Over the last 6 months, we have developed a way to identify such small sites relevant to each business, and you can contact us for more info.

Q3. What are the options to increase my online sales?

Answer: There are numerous options, and each product/service should plan a suitable mix of them: Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising, Text Link or Banner Advertising on High Traffic Sites, Sponsored Articles on Sites or Blogs, Email Marketing, Mobile SMS Marketing (this is a very exciting area, and will evolve rapidly in 2-3 years – if you are a consumer products/services company – you just can’t afford to ignore this).

Q4. How much should I spend on online marketing?

Answer: Just like in a physical, brick & mortar business – your online marketing budget would have two components: (1) Brand Building (2) Product/Service Marketing. Now, if you already have a known brand, then skip (1), and spend effort and money only on (2), which is more focused towards earning dollars by selling your Product and Services. Plan to spend up to 10% of the sales volume, and spend in phases to ensure results are coming. So if you have a product/service of $500 value, and you want to sell to 200 customers, then your desired sales volume = $100,000. So you should plan to spend up to $10,000 in online marketing. This does not include your fixed costs, like staff salary and business operating expenses.

Now, it’s important to note that the amount you spend will depend on the gross margin you have on the product/service. So you can choose to spend just 4-5% as well. But 10% is on the upper side, and will perform very competitively to physical sales people. If you are spending more, you are probably not executing well and there is room for improvement.

Q5. What kind of team and skills do I need to increase my sales online?

Answer: The team can be very lean, but must understand your business and products/services well, and also understand how information is shared in the Internet space. Many Small and Medium businesses are able to do it (with some initial guidance) with just 1-2 full-time staff because they can easily coordinate with the sales and production teams. But its a different problem in large companies: the marketing departments often don’t have the skills and support to generate online sales, and the sales teams don’t have access to any part of the website – so it’s a difficult situation.

Our recommendation is to give the responsibility of online sales also to the Sales/Product Teams, and give them the tools and training to make it happen. Regardless of your company size, new media tools can be (and should be!) used successfully. If you are not sure about your team’s understanding/skill of operate your blog (write and discuss with audience), you can contact us for inputs as we have done it for a few companies in 2007. At its core, your website is an extension of your key business people and presentations – and is best suited to generate business leads.

We hope you found these answers useful. You are welcome to ask your questions on how to increase online sales.

Wishing you a great 2008!
Shankar AVSB
CEO, MyOrbit

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