Possibly the oldest business model of all-time is also the most familiar: Selling your own physical products. It’s a concept we’re all familiar with, and we see it play out from the corner lemonade stand to Mrs. Fields Cookies. I have something you want, so I sell it to you. Simple and straightforward.
When selling online, however, there are a few questions to answer:
- What am I going to sell?
- How am I going to accept payment?
- How will I let people know about my products?
- How will I handle fulfillment and customer service?
Let’s look at each of those questions in turn.
- What am I going to sell? Choose a product that is of interest to the majority of your readers. For instance, if you have a Hawaiian vacation blog, your readers won’t necessarily come to you for the brand-new flea collar you invented. A few might be interested, but keeping synergy between your blog theme and your product is essential. Any disconnect will lead to confusion on the part of your blog readers, and confusion leads to distrust. Sell those Hawaiian vacation dreamers your own ukelele music CD, or your audio guide to the Big Island, or posters you’ve made from photographs you took on your last excursion to Maui.
- How am I going to accept payment? Ten years ago, would-be online entrepreneurs would have had to dream up some complicated work-around for customers to get them cash. Now, we’ve got a number of options. The easiest is PayPal, which will allow your customers to pay using their credit card, debit card, or PayPal balance. Go to www.paypal.comand click on “Business” for more information. PayPal can help you create “buy now” buttons for your site, issue invoices, and more, and it is easily integrated into your blog.If you outgrow PayPal, there are a number of shopping cart services you can check out, including 1shoppingcart.com, Americart.com, vshoppingcart.com, and many more. These services are more expensive than PayPal, but will add functionality you may eventually desire, such as affiliate management.
- How will I let people know about my products? Marketing your wares is an essential part of your business plan. No matter how good your mousetrap, ukelele CD, or homemade cookies are, if no one knows about them, no one can buy them. You can spread the word through forums, search engine optimization (SEO), Google AdWords, Facebook advertisements, and a number of other methods. The key is to know beforehand how you’re going to tell people about your products.
- How will I handle fulfillment and customer service? Unless you enjoy making numerous trips to the post office and answering calls 24/7, as you grow you will need to have a scaleable plan for shipping out orders and handling customer questions and complaints. You can outsource fulfillment to a local business or individual (try Craigslist.com), or through a service like Amazon’s amazonservices.com. Likewise, you can outsource customer service to a virtual assistant, or to a company that specializes in customer service.
Selling your own goods online can be a profitable and satisfying way to make your mark on the online world – and to make money! Many businesses of all sizes incorporate a physical sales component to their offerings.