Saturday, November 15, 2008

Small Business Online Marketing & Sales

From the perspective of a small business who provides mail-order products, such as RS Motorbike Paint, here's an example strategy to create an online marketing and sales capability. Adding together the various options available, here's an example strategy. I think it makes sense to go for minimal upfront investment, and operational costs - both in time and money. The ability to measure the effectiveness of the online channel is also important, as is the option to incrementally increase investment in the channel if the stats tell you that the investment is worth it.

Step One: Visibility

The first step to an online presence is a professional website with a strong brand image and well structured information. This includes a domain name "" and email addresses "" etc. To begin with, the key purpose of the website will be to give the customer the assurance that you are the business that they want to deal with, and guide them to your phone channel. The key to utilising both the phone and online channels properly is to ensure that both the phones and emails are well manned, with well defined processes run off the back of them to agreed SLAs. This will give your customers rapid feedback and confidence that the online channel is being well managed. Online customer experience and customer service is as important as offline.

Add your domain name/url to all your business cards, letter heads, company vehicles etc.

Search-engine optimisation is very important at this stage to allow your customers to find you via Google.

You need to have statistics available from your website service provider so that you can see, at a minimum, how many people have visited your site. Being able to understand the proportion of people who make contact is a key statistic.

Also, adding your company to and linking this entry to the website is a very useful way to channel customers to your website.

Step Two: Online Marketing

The easiest way into online marketing is via Google AdWords and AdSense, paying per-click. It might make sense to put together some simple ad banners, but this is not necessary with Google, which primarily operates on a text-advertising basis.

Identify key websites that have a large user-base primarily made up of your target demographic and see how you can get your links and marketing onto their site. Keep these to a minimum as they probably cost more and take more management effort.

Step Three: Online Sales

Create yourself as a business on ebay and list your major products there. Its probably worth making the jump to an ebay store at this point to ease management effort, provide a consistent set of product offerings, a single url to link to, and a more consistent online brand image.

Link to this prominantly from your Step One "Marketing" website wherever the customer may want to buy immediately. Also, take advantage of the various tools provided by ebay to manage and monitor your online store, plus take advantage of the access you have to ebay's user-base through optimising the keywords you use to describe products, and also cross-marketing with other stores.

Online Sales

Once you've got people to your website through your online marketing, and they've found the product or service that they require, you need to make it as quick and easy to buy that product as possible. If done properly, the best way to do this is to offer an online catalogue with checkout capability.


This is quite an investment if you wanted to build it yourself. Therefore the easiest way to provide this capability is through a website like ebay. Its free to register as a business, and you get access to ebay's user-base, and a secure payments capability through PayPal. You then deliver your products by post. Ebay takes a listing fee and sale fee (based on sale price), and Paypal takes a percentage of the amount it processes too.

Ebay Stores

The next step is to open an ebay store, which requires a regular fee (starts at £15/month). This gives you your own online storefront which is customised to your business' brand, and your own ebay shop web address (eg You also get various tools for marketing, tracking etc.

Online Marketing

You could write the best website possible for your business, but if you don't drive traffic through it, you won't generate value from it. So the question is, what's the best way to attract the right sort of people to your site?


Most people will go to google as a first port of call, so you need to make sure that i) your pagerank is good and ii) your website is associated with the words that people will type in when they need the services/products that you provide.

The second port of call will probably be the online yellow pages ( You need a listing here, and preferably a link to your website.

Online Advertising

Other websites that attract your target demographic often sell advertising space. This is often done through third parties. Two of these are DoubleClick and Google AdSense.

Google AdSense

The Google model is to allow web publishers to offer ad space on their websites. On the other side of things, marketers provide their adverts to AdSense and associate them with keywords. By reading websites to understand what they're about, AdSense can work out which adverts are the most appropriate to put on each website. Then if somebody clicks through to an marketer's website, the marketer pays Google and the web publisher that provided the ad space a small fee. You can monitor your campaigns through online Google tools.

Google AdWords

When somebody performs a search on Google, if your site is associated with those keywords, you get a sponsored link on the right of the search results. You pay for click-throughs.

I've recently tried Google AdWords and AdSense to promote RS Motorbike Paint, but the click-through rates have been poor, but that might be due to the fact that the site is SEO'd and appears at the top of Google search results


DoubleClick has recently been acquired by Google, and is a leading provider of online advertising services and solutions.