Launching Your Online Storefront: 3 Guidelines to Spare Your Sanity and Help Build A Convincing Foundation posted by Jonathan Kieran

It doesn't need to lead to Rogaine, friends!

It doesn’t need to lead to Rogaine, friends!

The prospect of promoting a product or professional service on the Internet by launching a storefront and social media network is daunting to a lot of new entrepreneurs. On the one hand, there are literally millions of consumers out there willing to be engaged and more than ready to spend their money and, quite frankly, they don’t even have to like what you’ve got all that much. Indeed, with a quality product and a compelling image, tagline or description, you have every reason to count on the power and magnificence of human impulse-shopping when it comes to your target audience. This is a fact. A recent study by a British company called Npower concluded that the average person spends $114,293 in their lifetime on impulse buys. That’s a lot of books, jewelry, sundresses, chocolate-covered grasshoppers, Easter bonnets or whatever it is you’re trying to vend in cyberspace.

Think about it! You have something to sell and there are vast numbers of real people ready to buy what you’ve got. If you can successfully connect with a just a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of that enormous and captive cyber-audience, your success is fait accompli. In the bag. You can start thinking about whether you want that summer-house built on the lake … or by the sea. You can send your mother-in-law on that Two Year Cruise Around the World you’ve she’s always dreamed she’d take. Humans need food, water and sleep, and even the offering and acquisition of those necessities can be diversified and marketed in hundreds of different ways! Everything else pretty much falls under a broad spectrum of luxuries that command wildly varying degrees of priority in human life. You know it. We all know it. Bottom line: there are millions of people who are ready to buy your stuff on a whim, even if they don’t know it, yet.

Having achieved the realization that you already have hordes of online customers waiting to give you their money, your first glimpse at the other side of this coin is a lot more challenging and not nearly as gratifying. People completely new to the business of launching and then promoting a solid Internet storefront had better be prepared for imminent dental work and possible hair-transplants, because there shall be grinding and gnashing-of-teeth, along with several tufts yanked directly from the scalp by your own gnarled Claws of Frustration. You may even find yourself baying at the moon, from time to time, wondering how you got outside in your pajamas at midnight … with a half-empty bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Why? Because your own online customers, though plentiful, do not know who you are, what you do, what you’ve got to sell, and they don’t know where to find you. Face it: at the beginning, you don’t have a shop with open doors and attractive salespeople beckoning while pedestrians browse one inviting storefront after another at the local outlet mall. You’ve got to build your online store (or brand) and then you’ve got to direct as much traffic as possible to your retail site while always keeping your target audience in mind. In order to do this you must be able to effectively navigate and coordinate a bewildering network of cyber “street signs” and social media systems.

Discouraged? Don’t be! There is a fabulous upside to this far more intimidating aspect of online commerce and the ascent begins with that fact that others have gone before you and are willing to share their triumphs so that your tribulations will be as minimal as possible. Below are three straightforward guidelines that I hope will help to illustrate this truth while sparing you and preparing you for the exciting process of launching your online commerce adventure convincingly. Whether you are a confectioner getting ready to unveil your line of delectable sea-salt caramels or an author dying to find an audience for your sensational new “zombie romance” novel, these things will help ease the burden of befuddlement as you build a solid foundation for future success online.

POINT 1. BE READY TO WORK HARD … BE READY TO GET STRESSED

Remember when I mentioned dental erosion and hair-loss above? Well, it doesn’t have to get that bad, but above all else be aware of the fact that launching any successful business involves discipline, hard work, dedication and at least the willingness to wrack your brain when it comes to problem-solving and thinking of answers that just might dwell outside your emotional comfort-zone. I have encountered a great many people who think that just because they’re at home in a bathrobe tap-tap-tapping a keyboard their business efforts are somehow going to be magically less “real” then the efforts of brick-and-mortal business people. Think again. The husband and wife downtown who just opened their postal-service store are having some sleepless nights and they’re barking at each other. Maybe they’re crying and throwing stuff at the walls even as I write. Guess what: the same thing is going to happen to you. Deal with it. If you’re not feeling the heat, you’re not getting anything done. The rewarding aspect of this reality is that the experience of stress is telling you that you are accomplishing things and that you are moving in the right direction. As you launch your entrepreneurial enterprise, be mindful of how you are managing your stress. Let’s not kid ourselves. You’re not going to come out of this looking younger. Make your online store a smash-hit and then pay for a plastic surgeon later. In the meantime, try to eat as well as you can, take some strategic time-outs to hit the gym or go for a brisk walk to clear your mind and dispel pent-up energy, and then get back to work. Most of all: BREATHE. You’ll thank yourself for looking after your health, even in little ways, as you fight hard to launch your dream.

POINT 2. AVAIL YOURSELF OF THE BEST PROFESSIONAL ADVICE YOU CAN FIND FOR FREE AND BE PREPARED TO SPIN YOUR WHEELS NOW & THEN

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get cutting-edge advice from professionals who have become super-successful in the world of online commerce. In fact, you don’t need a dime to avail yourself of the latest, greatest tips and how-to suggestions. All you need is your computer and some well-delineated time set aside specifically to do streamlined research about those who have already succeeded in launching your type of online business. Look at the people who have soared doing exactly what you want to do and find out how they did it! Don’t just give their success-stories a cursory glance. At the outset, spend a week engaged in hard-core detective work and draw-up an outline that you can build upon and use for handy reference. When your online business is launched, don’t stop exploring. Continue to spend one or even two days a week studying and making notes. Narrow your scope of research as best you can and tap into a few online discussion groups that are well-organized, moderated and pertinent to your kind of product or company. Ask polite questions of people who have a solid, all-around online storefront and/or social media presence that impresses you. Are you going to make some mistakes and spin your wheels in directions that take you nowhere? Absolutely. The point of maintaining a solid discipline of research into the successful strategies of others is to keep those “wheel-spinning” interludes as brief as possible. The more you know, the more swiftly you will be able to move forward during the trial-and-error process and the better equipped you will be to recognize potential errors you’re making in the first place! That’s a natural part of business and you should expect to experience this. Use information as your all-purpose weapon against ruts and roadblocks.

POINT 3. HIRE PROFESSIONAL DESIGNERS AND CONSULTANTS IF YOU HAVE THE RESOURCES

Most everyone realizes that launching a business requires some form of investment, whether it be time, pounds of flesh, heaps of money or all of the above. If you do have some money to spend and have already adapted the attitudes and work ethic described in Points 1 and 2, then this piece of advice follows rather effectively as a matter of course. Okay. Let’s take stock of things. Stress is being experienced and managed without marriages crumbling, minds melting, pets running away and dishware being smashed in shattering episodes of high-drama. You’re in the zone and handling it. You’re having a reasonably painful amount of fun. You’ve done tons of intelligent research and you’ve sifted and selected the best bits of strategic advice from proven winners. Presuming that your product is ready to be sold, you’ve also made some decisions about how you want your online store and your social media presence to look, the tone you want to project, which trajectory you want your company to take (at least at the start) and when you want to get things up and running. Now is the time to look into professional design services, seeing as you have finally reached the stage wherein you are able to articulate your vision effectively to professionals who will appreciate your hard-earned clarity and who will therefore waste none of their time, your time or your MONEY.

You’ve got the “pearl of great price” in terms of knowing what you want and what has worked successfully for others who have wanted the same thing you do! You’ve done your homework and can now employ experts to help actualize your professional vision online. In the course of your research you have heard about a few companies (web-designers, marketing associates, PR consultants, et al.) who have helped clients enhance a specific e-commerce vision and achieve certified results in keeping with informed expectations. Do some more research. Look into the companies and related services thoroughly and discern which packages best fit your budget, your plans, your product and even your temperament. Set up conference calls and get to know the people who might be instrumental in helping you achieve an impressive launch for your store and sewing-up any loose ends you may have missed in your own explorations. That’s what they are there for. Ask questions, even if you think they are stupid questions. If possible, talk to people who have worked with a given design/consulting firm in the past. What did they like about this company? What didn’t they like? A brief Google search will reveal clients comparable to yourself and a little more effort will get plenty of references you can trust. If a given company seems to have a lot of a la carte services beyond your budget, ask them if they can go the prix fixe route and if they are willing to tailor something as all-inclusive as possible that won’t break the bank. The key here is being judicious. A careful, well-scrutinized selection of expert services from tried and true professionals can make the difference between bringing your online commercial vision to life … or obscuring it hopelessly, out of the gate.

Good luck, aspiring entrepreneurs! It takes a lot of work to launch a solid foundation for your online storefront and coordinated social media network, but following the three guidelines above will hopefully help lessen the stress and improve your chances at a time when getting the project off-the-ground properly is, by far, the most crucial part of the ongoing and adventurous journey.

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All Rights Reserved. Jonathan Kieran 2013

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