What's in it for me?

I sell more in a day on my websites than many of my customers do in a month. After being in the ecommerce business for over a decade, I have figured out how the game works. Sadly though, most online store owners still don’t get it. It continues to amaze me that business owners think that just because they have a website, that they should be selling something. The same problems exist in the virtual world as in the physical world. The store owner must do something to bring people into their shop. And once they get them into their shop, they must get them to buy something, and then to come back for more.

Just because I set up a physical store on some side street downtown, doesn’t mean that people are going to walk into my shop and buy something. And even if they do, will they come back? Will they tell all of their friends? No matter what “search engine optimization experts” may tell you, a new website will not appear on page one of Google. You get listed on page one because you’re the most popular website for a specific search term. You have to become popular first! You have to get people linking to your site, then get people to click on those links. There has to be something on your site that is going to get them excited enough that they will tell all their friends about you. Then, maybe, you will finally appear on page one of Google.

So what about paid links like Google Adwords? How about free shipping? Free content like a whitepaper? Security seals? Do these things work to bring in and create more customers? Sure they do! That’s why everyone does them. But your competition is doing all these things too – you have to do something that no-one else is doing. That way people will start promoting your site for you.

Here are two simple examples that I’ve implemented:

1.    CyberbaseTradingPost.com. This site sells campfire and ceremony supplies to scout units. I created a little program that dynamically generates printable certificates for any award you want to give. You can create as many as you want – free. The only thing I ask for is your email address prior to being able to print the certificate. You better believe this generates a lot of word of mouth! And yes, I do suggest they buy something to go with the certificate – many don’t, but some do. An almost everyone recommends my site to many other people who do end up buying.

2.    MasterNursery.com. this is a site I developed for a garden center coop, primarily for their own use. But it has one great feature called “Green Buyer”, where a member garden center can search for plant stock from national and regional growers, and compare availability and costs in real time. Then, they can place orders from multiple growers simultaneously – no more looking through availability/price sheets and placing numerous phone calls. If a grower isn’t in the system, the garden center is the one pressuring them to upload their data. And each of the 800 members tell each other how they are using the system, creating buzz about the site.

Now it’s your turn! What can you do on your site to generate word of mouth?