By Jim Daniels
I've always been a big "list" guy. Whether it's my daily "to do" list on my monthly calendar, or a piece of scrap paper with a list of groceries, I can put together one heckuva list.
I'm not sure if my memory is really that bad, or if they just put my mind at ease, but lists have always served me well.
Today I'm putting my "master list-making skills" to work for online business owners like myself. Whether you're a newcomer to the online business world or you're already engaged in a cyberbusiness, the following list should be on your desktop. It contains only the key items that make an online business tick.
Take a look at any successful online business. Nearly all of them utilize each and every item on this list. Do yourself a favor and print it. Until you can put a check next to each item, you're missing out on a real key online business component!
-A real ISP.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but if you're trying to do business online, you need unlimited, fast access to the internet. Be sure that you are able to use a 3rd party email program (see next checklist item) with their services. You also need an ISP that allows you to send as much email as you want.
-A professional email program.
Are you still using AOL email for business? If so, you're missing out on lots of features that many savvy business owners rely on daily. Things like auto message filtering, blind carbon copying, auto-reply, multiple mailbox pickup just to name a few. A professional email program will allow you to utilize the low-cost e-marketing methods that are essential to your online business success.
- A professional webmaster or web design software.
A professional-looking website is a must in order to survive online. Unless you can learn to design a professional website yourself, you'll need the help of a webmaster or at the bare minimum a design program. The easiest route is to hire a webmaster with experience and a proven portfolio.
-Your own domain name.
Although it seems cruel, the bottom line is this... If your company won't spring for a domain name at $35 a year, many potential customers will think twice before they even click to your site, let alone buy from you.
-A merchant account and secure credit card ordering.
In order to make a serious income online, you MUST have a merchant account so that you can accept credit cards. Additionally, secure credit card ordering must be enabled at every business site. Every product or service you offer should display an "order" button that links to your secure order form.
-An online shopping cart system.
A good shopping cart system gives you control over your products and services AND makes shopping at your site simple. Be sure to implement a system that is easy to set up and maintain.
A constant flow of current information will keep you informed. I subscribe to over 100 free newsletters. Although I don't have time to read every issue of every ezine, I do make a point to at least scan them for new and important industry news and articles.
-Proprietary products and services.
The best way to maximize profits, whether in the real world or online is to offer at least one product or service that you own the rights to. Either create something that the market demands or purchase exclusive rights.
-A reseller program.
Call it what you want -- an affiliate, associate or reseller program. Your site needs one! This allows your happy customers to refer others to your site and earn money in the process. In turn, your marketing efforts are multiplied over and over. The reason you're seeing affiliate programs popping up at almost every major site, is because they work!
-Add-on products and services.
From the other end of the reseller spectrum, you should always try to offer your customers products and services related to your own. Concentrate on products that create residual income for your company, such as web hosting services or software.
The best way to accomplish this is via your own email newsletter or tip sheet. Whether you "stay in touch" weekly or monthly, the key is to do it regularly and offer something that people will want to read!
-Mission essential software.
Before you try to succeed at online marketing, get the right tools for the job. There are software titles available on the internet that will do just about any task you can imagine. Utilize the new by downloading and sampling different tools for the task at hand. Example: If you're a web designer, you'll need graphics programs and html editors!
-A real-world catalog.
Do you have something you can send to interested parties who find your website? Do you have a hard-copy catalog to send to people who purchase a product or service from you? With many businesses being started online, this important component is missing from their business plan. I know first-hand, I'm designing my catalog now - almost three years into my business venture!