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Put At Least 20% Down On A Home - Your home is most likely the biggest purchase you will make in your lifetime, so when planning for the big day,...

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Direct-Selling E-Commerce Web Sites

Q:I need to get this thing off the ground, but I'm fumbling in the dark here. I have enough skills to produce a smooth-functioning web site with an advanced and powerful ASP-based shopping cart. I have created 2 e-com sites for relatives and taught myself the programming needed to do this. In the past I have done ok at selling directly to the consumer, small items. I am not sure if there is a basic list of do's and don'ts for selling webs to small and very small businesses (my market). Any basic suggestions?

A:With all due respect, Daniel, that's not a resume that's going to blow anyone away. You understand, don't you, that there are many, many thousands of people offering similar services who have better qualifications to present -- and tons more experience? You also need to realize that simply having the technical skills to put a site together is not the same as helping your clients build a successful site. Right now, your own web site is not all that successful according to its Alexa ranking, while your two "client" sites aren't even registering a ranking... So the first thing I would consider is starting LOCAL and PERSONAL to build up some more experience -- and hopefully some success stories and testimonials. In other words, so you can tell people that the sites you built actually helped your clients become more successful -- and get your clients to write you letters attesting to that fact and telling people how wonderful you were. Remember that most small business people (especially ones not already on the web) don't understand the Internet very well. They are either afraid of it because they themselves are not regular users or they have the opposite problem -- they think it will make them rich beyond belief in no time at all. In my experience, educating the typical small business owner on the REALITY of e-commerce (as opposed to the hype often propagated by the people in your business as well as the media) is always step one. When I do that, most people recognize that their OFFLINE marketing activities will be a lot more likely to produce results, and that if they do chose to proceed with a web site, they should seriously revise their expectations and probably shift the primary purpose of the site from actual selling to information, support or service for existing customers, and marketing content that will drive customers to call (or to visit if local). Definitely helpful. I had thought that was the approach I should take. It also suits my personality, as I don't like selling things I don't believe in myself, or that I believe the customer doesn't need and which aren't a good value for the customer. I guess I need to learn a bit about how to market my clients' sites so that they are an effective and cost-efficient part of their marketing strategy. I know I need to learn more about search engine submittal and the associated page design and meta tag issues that go along with that. I am working on that. What other affordable things can I do to help market these sites. I want to provide some sort of rudimentary marketing service to my future clients, even if it is just to rely on an outside affordable web-marketing service that really works. I know there are very expensive options that are well suited to the "big boys", but what about cheaper methods for the small guys?

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