Jul 30, 2010

Setting up a small online business

By Sharon Teal-Coray



Do you have a small online business or are you thinking of getting one? Here are some things you need to consider that will help you build your business

Today there are way too many businesses who are very shortsighted in the way they treat their customers. Their attitude is sell the product, take the money and then get the customer out the door.

This is not the way to treat your customer. It does not matter if you are selling art supplies or Cadillac’s, you treat your customers the way you would want to be treated, clear and simple!

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with a number of businesses online and locally. I have seen some good ones that have lasted and I have seen some bad ones that have disappeared and for good reason.

Before you even begin, you need to set up some rules on how you will treat your customers.

Today we hear so much about the ethics of businesses. Deteriorating ethical standards causes the demise of many companies in today’s world. For proof, just look at Enron and WorldCom. How much has our government paid to bailout these unethical companies? You cannot have a lapse in your ethics if you want to grow your business! Our ethical standards are diminishing and you do not want to be lumped in with these companies that refuse to or adopt high ethical standards no matter how big or small your company is.

I recently read an article where a study was conducted to assess if there was value in spending money on implementing and promoting a business’ high ethical standards.

They took three groups of consumers and asked to appraise the same types of products; t-shirts and coffee.

The first group was told that the products were manufactured by businesses with high ethical standards. The second group was told that these same products were made by businesses with low ethical standards. The they had a third group which was a “control” group that was not told anything about the business’ or products.

They asked the participants to tell them what they would pay for the products. This is what they found:

All groups agreed they would pay a higher price for the product that was produced by the companies that had high ethical values. They essentially were willing to pay 15 percent more for the products than the consumers in the control group who knew nothing about the ethical environment in which the products were manufactured. What was interesting was that the consumers penalized the low ethics business’ by saying they would pay 20 percent less for the same products! As we can see the perception of low, ethical values by bushiness can be very costly!
So we can conclude from this study that that having high ethical standards is more than just good feelings. High ethical standards have a positive impact on the price at which you can sell your products. Therefore, the first thing is to make sure your business starts out high ethical standards.



Here are some important rules to keep in mind.

1. Always have a positive attitude toward your customer.

2. Be accessible. Give your customers a way to easily contact you. If there is a problem it is much better they can contact you fast than jump to conclusions and start blogging about you!

3. Show appreciation to your customer, offer them specials or free items, this will build a bond with them that will keep them with you.

4. Always put yourself in your customers shoes, this will guarantee customer service quality!

5. Never show irritations to complaints even if they seem illogical to you. Pay genuine attention to any complaint showing you understand and make the necessary changes as soon as possible.

6. Practice the values your company has. This is one of the very best ways you can preserve your reputation.

7. If you promise something then you deliver it!

8. If you claim something, you back it up! This way your customers will know what to expect and be eager to refer you to others.

9. Never, ever invalidate or ignore a negative response from someone.
 One negative response, if handled improperly, can be more powerful than you think. If someone is saying bad things about you, go to them, be honest, and ask them to tell you what the problem is. If handled appropriately, you can turn a complaint into a constructive experience, to change customer perspectives.

11. Make multiple choices for a customer that is unhappy with your products or services. let them choose what works best for them.

12. If you have made a mistake be proactive, don’t just react, put yourself out there by email or a friendly note to your customer, and let them know what happened. Never try to cover it up., Be honest and forthright with them!

13. Send emails about your specials and if possible offer a newsletter.

Keep in touch with all of your customers, remember that just being nice is easy, it is like Karma, what goes around comes around, the nicer you are the more customers you will win and keep. Always remember that the customer has power. This is more evident in this day and age with all the blogs on the Internet! They have to power to walk away, the power to take others away, through word of mouth which we must always remember is the biggest threat to our business. Moreover, there is always the case of the malicious person who is deliberately out to ruin business and make your life horribly difficult with lies and slanderous remarks. The power of choice and word of mouth means businesses need to be extra vigilant about keeping customers happy.

You want your site to be a very “computer friendly” site that is easily navigated by your customer. You have to remember that not all customers will be computer “savvy” so you need to make things simple!

The majority of shoppers only place one or two orders with a website unless you are talking about EBay or Amazon. You want to should give first time shoppers incentives to come back. For this very reason, you should make things easy as you can for repeat customers to order from your site.
Find an extraordinary online business and you will see one that offers an easy and efficient way for customers to place an order.
If you are thinking of starting your own on-line business here are the things you need to get started:

· You will need to have a good computer that has at least a 4GB hard drive, Pentium II processor and 56K modem, and 96 Mg Ram.

· You will need to find a website designer or if you plan to maintain your website, you will need to educate yourself on how to do that and have a design program.

· You will need to find a host that has a secure server for taking credit cards.

· You will need to open a merchant account so you can accept credit cards and the one that I prefer is PayPal. It is safe, secure, and easy to set up and use.

· You need a fax machine a scanner and a copier and printer.

Good luck with your adventure!
 Remember that your customers are what will make you or break you, take every opportunity to treat them well!



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