A Few Reasons To Stay Online For Business – E-Commerce Web Solutions!

More and more businesses are establishing an online presence. This is because customers are increasingly going online to access the goods and services they need. Also online business-to-business transactions have become a common trend. Going online brings your business to more people that you would expect a brick-and-mortar store to. When you strategically launch your online business, you will not only gain greater visibility but also improve your return on investment. Here are 10 reasons why your local business should establish an online presence:

1. Customer Accessibility

Consider this: a survey conducted by WebVisible & Nielsen showed that 3 out of 4 people use the major search engines to find local businesses. This means that if someone is looking for a local restaurant, a shoe repair shop, a specialty bookshop or any local service, 75% of the time they will use a search engine such as Google to find this business. As such if you are not online, it means that up to 75 percent of your potential customers are not finding you. However, what if they could find you and see the range of products and services you are offering? This can go a long way in boosting your customer base and your business profits too.

Unlike the brick-and-mortar shops that have to close at some point in the day, the Internet opens 24/7. By having an online presence, your business will go on regardless of the time of day. Customers will still be able to look around your online shop and your product offering and make purchases. This essentially maximizes the business hours so that you are operating a 24-hour business without the need to be physically present. By being open for longer you will be surprised at just how much you will be able to improve on the sales numbers and overall business revenues.

2. Wider Audience

Over 2 billion people have access to the Internet today. This global audience presents a lucrative opportunity as prospective customers. If you have the capacity or the long-term plans, you can sell your goods and services to people in other countries. Instead of setting up a brick-and-mortar shop in every country or geographical location that you want to reach, you simply need to set up a virtual shop that anyone can access.

Gaining an online presence for your local business is made easier by free online tools and mobile & web applications that your customers can use to find out what you are offering. Because people are looking online first before they can make purchasing decisions, it means that those local businesses that have an online presence are attracting more customer inquiries. Any business knows that inquiries, even though they do not lead to an immediate sale, are not necessarily a bad thing. It is through answers to inquiries that you are able to pitch to your local customers. But without an online presence you just might not have as many prospects to pitch to as you would like.

3. Customer Reviews

Both online and offline businesses rely on ‘word of mouth’ as one of the most significant channels of their marketing. But as an offline business, ‘word of mouth’ reviews by customers can only reach so many people, usually a customer’s close friends and family. Yet an online presence allows customers to post reviews about your business and thousands of potential customers will access the reviews and your product offering. Of course, reviews can make or break your business; you need to offer the best services and customer support for your business to receive great reviews. Having an online presence offers your customers a viable platform to undertake ‘word of mouth’ marketing on your behalf. Many studies have shown that potential clients often look through reviews before they can purchase a product or service offering from you.

4. Brand Building And Visibility

Brand visibility means making your brand known to potential customers. As a brick-and-mortar business, you might be surprised to find out that just a few people know about your business brand. But by bringing your business online you become more visible to the people that matter the most: potential customers and the media. The media, whether social or mainstream can play an important role in promoting and marketing your business, but you have to let them know that your business exists in the first place.

Brand building means building trust between your business and these potential customers. Bringing your business online serves as an effective way for prospects to see what you have to offer and what your business is all about. An online existence allows your prospects to realize whether you are the right business to purchase a product or service from. It enable potential clients to compare your offering with that of the competition and it also offers you ample opportunities to tell the client why you are better than the competition.

5. Marketing And Selling Made Easy

It is a known fact that people do not like to be sold to and businesses do not usually like to come off as being too pushy. However, the Internet provides an ideal platform for businesses to effectively market and sell their products without having to apply too much pressure on the customers. By creating great informational and marketing copy for your product offering, you allow the customer to make an informed and relaxed decision. When done strategically, online marketing can be effective in building rapport between you and your customers and establishing long-term partnerships.

Online marketing also allows you to present your offer in a way that is appealing to your target audience. You not only sell them your product offering but you can easily give your audience incentives that they can access easily. For example as part of your marketing campaign, you can give out free digital products such as ebooks and white papers at almost no cost at all. Compare this to offline marketing where you would have to print out these incentives or give incentives that cost you so much.

6. Reduced Cost Of Operation

Having your business online will greatly reduce your cost of doing business. Admittedly, the initial cost of setting up will cost you a significant amount, but the long-term benefits far outweigh these initial costs. The best thing about setting up online is that once you set up, the costs begin to reduce as you enjoy an improved business bottom line. With an online presence, you may eliminate costs such as customer support, office space, marketing research and advertisement as various online tools can help you automate most of these.

7. Affordable Infrastructure

One of the apprehensions that businesses have when going online is related to payment and delivery, however there are plenty platforms and solutions available to you to make business transactions much easier. First, your e-commerce website will be protected by Secure Socket Layer encoding that secures the transactions between you and your customers and will warn you in the event of any security threats to your e-commerce site. Additionally, you will have access to a large number of online merchant payment options such as PayPal and others through which customers can make easy payments just from your own e-commerce website.

8. Connecting With Customers

More and more businesses are looking for innovative ways of connecting with their customers, without breaking the bank. The Internet offers the perfect opportunity for businesses to find where their target audience is and to engage them.

Once you bring your business online, you can connect with your target audience in many ways. You can send them personalized emails about product offerings, offer them informative articles on your site, or create entertaining and educational videos. Additionally, you can develop interactive applications to engage your customers with your business or provide value on forums and social networking platforms.
9. Effective Tracking Of Progress

Sometimes offline businesses do not have a cost effective and reliable method of tracking progress. Yet with an online business, you can track, monitor and measure just about any metric that is important to your business. There are both free tools such as Google Analytics and commercial ones that will allow you to measure your online e-commerce business progress at any time and receive instant results.

10. No Inventory Required

There are companies that do drop-shipping for you so that you, unlike an offline business, do not have to keep any inventory. Drop-shipping companies are suppliers of the products that customers buy from your site. These companies simply ship the product ordered to your customers without you needing to source for the availability of that product and to go through shipping logistics. This can eliminate a significant amount of operational costs that you would have otherwise incurred if you kept inventory.

Forecasting – A Tool for Small Business Success

Putting together a budget has left me feeling both satisfied and empty. When I was wearing my finance hat, I enjoyed seeing how all parts of the organization were putting together strategies and action plans to accomplish goals that would help grow the business.

The other positive was that as a finance team, we had a tangible output – a budget. We consolidated all the inputs from other departments, asked questions, challenged assumptions, performed what-if analysis, and put together a pretty package that was sent to the executive teams and department heads.

After the “high” of completing the budget, reality soon set in. In working with colleagues from other departments, I could see the budget package on a shelf, under a stack of papers, and in some cases, the budget wasn’t to be found. Talk about a cold dose of reality.

Budgets will always have a place in business, but to increase their effectiveness, you have to incorporate forecasting into your business planning. The forecast helps take into consideration the changes that are happening in the business right now and those you expect to happen very soon.

A budget is static, and serves as a baseline. The forecast is evergreen – it changes each time you take a look at conditions, and provides you with the ability to make small gains in your business, hit a homerun, or protect your current position.

In volatile times, forecasting is an essential tool. Pull together your sales, marketing, and service and operations team. Ask them to take a look at the market, and analyze and develop a 4 quarter or 12 month rolling forecast. When you do this, you can optimize your investments, and pare back those that just won’t cut it in the current market.

Along with the sales piece, review the expenses. When people have a budget, many will spend to the budget. It’s human nature. Have your department heads or key leaders reevaluate their spending, and tie it back to the new direction that the forecast is dictating.

Budgeting is a baseline. From the CFO chair, it will always have a place in business. Drive innovation and resource optimization, you MUST do the forecast. Forecasting leads to agility – being quick on your feet to respond to threats, and take advantage of the opportunities that are right there.

With your business and the economy in a constant state of fluctuation, can you really afford to rely solely upon a static budget?

How to Strike the Right Tone in Your Business School Essays

Finding the right balance between confidence and humility is one of the critical challenges you will face in crafting your business school essays and in delivering answers to admissions interviewers.

No one likes a blowhard, but at the same time, no one else is going to “toot your horn” in your MBA application either. It’s all about your attitude, which will permeate your essays and set the tone for the way the admissions committee views you.

One of the key questions applicants often have is how confident they should try to appear. When you tell a story lauding your achievements to the admissions official across the table, that person’s visual cues can help you know when to scale back the confidence by one or two levels.

With business school essays, you have one shot to craft your message, and admissions committee members with diverse personality types and differing levels of acceptance and patience for bravado will read your prose.

Likewise, some applicants face the dilemma of how much of an “expert” to paint themselves as in their field. It is critical to portray yourself as someone from whom your classmates can learn.

Many business schools are case study-oriented; the quality of the education is essentially determined by the content the students contribute in the classroom. Additionally, offline conversations are a huge part of the learning process for both academic subjects as well as issues related to career choices.

However, the “I’ve seen it all” attitude is definitely not something business schools are looking for from their typical 25-to-30-year-old applicant. Even as you highlight the fascinating experiences you’ve had and the cutting-edge knowledge you possess, make sure you take careful stock of what you want to learn, both from your professors and your fellow students.

The people who take the best advantage of business school are those who come in with a high level of curiosity and a willingness to absorb new information like a sponge. In short, the appropriate balance is struck when you have a developed a detailed awareness of what you have to teach and what you have to learn.

So, how can you highlight your business and leadership achievements without sounding like you think you are God’s gift to commerce? Here are three pointers:

1. Acknowledge the team: NASCAR drivers use the “we” technique to a fault. “We were running great today. When we took that first turn, our car was running perfectly.”

You don’t want to sound like a cliché, but positioning your achievements as team achievements works wonders. Plus, your abilities as a business leader will ultimately be more dependent on your abilities to achieve in a team format than in an individual setting.

2. Balance your portfolio of essays: You will probably have more license to emphasize your impressive achievements in some of your essays if you gain credibility in others by being honest and open about failures, weaknesses, and doubts.

If you just highlight how the incredible amount of work you pitched into an entrepreneurial venture led to its success, you shouldn’t half-heartedly chime in with “sometimes I work too hard” as a personal or professional weakness in another essay.

3. Highlight mentors: If you are shining the spotlight on your leadership capabilities, make sure you also acknowledge people in your academic, extracurricular, or work settings from whom you learned some of these skills. This works equally well for hard skills-such as finance and negotiation-and for “soft” skills, such as leadership, communication, and mentoring abilities. Doing so shows you are good at recognizing the strengths in others and know how to learn from them.

It’s also important that folks who come from positions and industries lacking that “glamour” factor don’t downplay their accomplishments. Certain high-profile investment banks and consulting firms are definitely the main feeder companies to American business schools, but it is often the people who come from less well-represented areas that have the most to teach the section or study group.

You may have run a T-shirt shack. Or conducted accounting audits for sketchy firms. Or monitored quality control at a Senegalese ball bearing plant. Rest assured, you do have valuable things to teach your classmates. The trick comes in thinking through what those lessons are and showing you have an unusual perspective on them.