"How do I grow my business?" is a question that gets asked by every business owner that I have ever met.
There is no simple answer to this question. In fact there are so many answers that it is a major topic and supports a larger community of business and financial advisers.
There are some really good web based resources that you can review and one of the best I found was www.businesslink.gov.uk which is a UK based site but has excellent advice. They have special topics are just on this question and the following link will get you there -
There are also some very good Australian based web resources that are provided by the State and Federal Governments which you can find through a simple Google search.
Our answer to this question is to develop an eCommerce solution or Online Store. You can expect to have to invest a few thousand dollars to get a well presented online store if you are a small to medium sized business. You will also have to run and maintain the store. If the store has around a 1000 products you can expect to spend 8 - 10 hours a week keeping things up to date and maybe more if you have good content. Running costs will vary from $65 per month up to over $250 per month.
How does an Online Store help growth?
Business growth is all about expanding products, market or sales. It is about increasing revenue and profit. The key factors in a business that drive revenue are your sales channels.
You will have either a direct or indirect sales model and maybe a combination of both.
With a direct sales channel the sales volume comes down to sales force productivity. In many small businesses the owner is the sales force. In order to increase productivity in means increasing headcount (adding people). That generally means spending $60,000+ a year (and maybe much more) per person. A successful sales person may return up to 10 times their cost in sales revenue. That is a successful sales person. Unfortunately there are lots of not so successful sales people out there that just get by.
With an indirect sales channel model you have other partner companies take some of the risk and some of the reward. So you find companies that understand your market and products and they go sell for you. You bear the risk of marketing, training, inventory, delivery, support and service. They bear the risk of sales and maybe some marketing. There is a cost attached to a partner or indirect model but it is just no so easy to quantify.
In the last 10 years or so all around the world we have seen existing businesses take their business to the web using an eCommerce channel. We have also seen businesses commence that started with only an eCommerce channel. Well known examples such as Amazon.com and eBay.com have become part of the business landscape but they started out life as high risk potential.
Expanding your business using eCommerce as a channel has become a very accepted way of developing a business. Interestingly what we are seeing now are businesses being valued based on their Internet presence. If you are raising capital the funds providers look for your website and quantify your business based on its quality. New business ventures are not seen as being real until they have a domain name, website and email addresses. Web presence today is a key factor of a successful business.
So if you have to have a web presence why not let it sell for you?
So many companies that I seen have a website which tells you nothing let alone sells anything. It does not matter if you agree or disagree but the method of searching for new products and services today is principally web based. Most people today are time poor, meaning that work - life balance is an important factor day to day. More and more people use their spare time to research products online before making a buying commitment. This is often started as a simple Google search and then spreads out to Shopping Comparison sites like www.shopping.com or www.getprice.com.au. Once the choices are refined then the work on the actual buying takes place. If it is a very personal item then it might be a trip to the store for a fitting but more often it leads to an online purchase. If you don't have you products online you don't have the opportunity to sell.
How do you start?
If you have an existing website then start by making sure that you have a product catalogue online, sign up for the product comparison sites and add your business and products.
You can also start and online store and link it to your existing website with a simple "Shop Now" button. Setting up and running a site will cost you maybe a tenth of the cost of a sales person employed full time.
The best solution is to create a complete eCommerce presence by building an eCommerce website with the ability to sell online integrated into the website.
The very best things about eCommerce Online Stores are:
They are open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
They know no geographical boundary.
They can sell to multiple people at the same time.
They have unlimited revenue potential.
They do not take vacations.
You can easily change the look and feel as required.
They can handle unlimited volumes of products.
They can be multi-channel.
They can interface with many other websites.
The Return On Investment can be very high.