Information & Instructions

How To Make A Fortune On the Internet
by Izzy Goodman

Part 4: Give Visitors Value

In a previous article, Part 3 - Get Exposure, I presented some tips for getting visitors to your site. Getting them there is only part the battle. Keeping them there long enough to make a purchase is the rest. I have been to sites with such slow page loading that I left before the page was even displayed. Before you even work on getting visitors, you have to prepare a site worth visiting.

Your visitor's intent in visiting your site is not to read a sales pitch, but to either make an immediate purchase or gain the knowledge to make an educated decision. How do you reconcile the two seemingly different purposes?

We can borrow an idea from the advertising world. Which of these would be more effective in making you buy a medical product: seeing an ad on television or having a doctor you trust recommend it? Advertisers have learned that the best spokesman for a medical product is a doctor, and sometimes not even a real doctor, just someone who plays one on TV. People tend to trust those they see as experts.

It is an unfortunate problem that the Internet makes it easy for people to pretend to be experts. That is why I advised you earlier to sell items with which you are familiar, so that your expertise is genuine. If a question comes up, do not answer off the top of your head. Do the research and be accurate. You may "waste" an hour to answer a question concerning a $10 item, but the time was really not wasted since you have accomplished two things: 1) You’ve demonstrated reliability. The person asking the question should now be impressed with your response and will recommend you to others. 2) You have added one more piece of knowledge to your store and can answer the question if it comes up again.

In order to make visitors stay on your site and return, you should do the following.

1) Clearly express the purpose of your site. You have to think about what your visitor wants and state a purpose that is also important to him or her.

2) Establish your philosophy and credentials. Explain why your site is different from all of the others.

3) Link to informative articles, some written by you and even some written by others. If you are linking to other sites, you might want to ask them if they would link back to you.

4) Make some recommendations about the items that you sell. I once sold digital cameras on my site. What differentiated my site from many others? Where other sites simply named the item and the price, my site offered advice and recommendations, and I answered visitors' questions. Many visitors do not make a purchase until they have returned several times and asked a number of questions. The sites that offer "instant purchase" with no other advice or human intervention are losing these customers. What's even more important is that these are not just customers. After we have emailed back and forth, we often form a relationship that is beyond that of a simple customer-vendor. These customers often came back for other items and recommended family and friends.

I now sell printer cartridges and you might think there really isn't that much information needed beyond the item number and price. The number of questions received by e-mail and phone prove otherwise. I also have articles comparing Epson's proprietary ink formula to compatible ink, tips on extending the life of a printer, solving printer problems and discussing various options such as disposable cartridges vs. reusable vs refillable vs continuous ink systems. Other sites have linked to these articles which bring me even more visitors.

5) Offer good values on the items you recommend. All your good advice doesn't help if your prices are way out of line. This is not a problem I face now since I believe my site is the only one offering a unique reusable cartridge for Epson printers which holds almost three times the ink at a price about 90% less. However, when I sold digital cameras I did have difficulty competing with larger distributors on price alone. If you have this problem, you must appeal to your customers based on other criteria.

This is where the value comes in. There are many customers looking for more than just the price. They want to know "what else." With digital cameras, the questions are often, "What else do I need? How much additional memory would you recommend? Do I need a card reader? What kind of battery do I need? What kind of charger?" I answered questions patiently and put together a package deal which also included software - much of which was available free on the Internet. Many people don't realize that there is plenty of freeware available which is just as good as the commercial version, or perhaps they don't have the time to search the net and test out all those programs. But I put together a full CD of video burning, photo editing and other software which I included free with each order. The cost was minimal, the perceived value high. If I couldn't compete on the price of the camera alone, by the time the entire package was put together, I was probably pretty close to the same deal at one of the "big sites."

6) Offer a newsletter and/or contest - a reason for visitors to email you and hear from you on a regular basis.

Your site will get two kinds of visitors. There are methodical guests who want to learn something and make an informed decision. They will follow your links and read the articles because they are gaining knowledge. By the time they come to a conclusion, they will appreciate your efforts and are prepared to "reward" you by placing an order. Even if they don't make the purchase immediately, having spent so much time on your site, they will remember it for next time (and offering a guest book or ezine subscription helps you remind them).

There are also folks who either know exactly what they want or are impatient and have no time to read. They just want to see the item and the price. The only way these folks will buy from you is if you have the lowest price. There is really nothing else you can do. But there is no reason to write anyone off. Don't make them hunt. Offer a link that takes them directly to items and prices. I have been on sites where simply finding this information was a task. I have also been to sites where adding things to the cart was a chore and checking out required numerous clicks.

Another tip: put the total cost up front. Don't make them have to go through the entire checkout process to discover the handling and/or any other charges. If I can't see the full amount I will pay BEFORE I am asked for my name, address and billing info, I will abandon the cart. But how do you determine shipping before you have the customer's address? On some sites you can enter the zip code and have the shipping calculated. That's better than having to enter the entire address. But I wanted to make it even easier. So for a while I offered free shipping on my site and built the cost into the price of the items. Then I realized this wasn't fair to customers who placed large orders. It cost me 4.80 to ship 5 cartridges via USPS priority, so I built this into the price. However it doesn't cost 9.60 to ship 10. I decided to set a flat shipping rate of $7 regardless of quantity. The extra I made on the smaller orders would help pay the difference on the larger orders and the rest would be covered by the increased profit on quantity sales. Not only did this make it easier to program my website, it resulted in larger orders. Since I started selling more, I started buying more and received quantity discounts from my distributors. So in the end, my customers and I both gained.

Finally, do not force your customers to create an account to place an order. I have on occasion found a good deal on a site I never visited before. But if the site forces me to create an account in order to buy it, I usually leave. Wy would I want my information stored on yet another server whose security may be questionable and subject to hacking? If I am paying with Paypal, all I should have to do is select the item and click the Paypal button. I remember watching my sales jump exponentially in the days which followed my adding the Paypal button to my site.

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