Starting an online business is the last American Gold Rush. Think about it. These days, the top 1 percent of the country controls 40 percent of the nation's wealth. This makes it harder and harder for the "Average Joe" to break into the business world and become a massive success, especially when it seems that we live in a world where chains and corporate conglomerates have taken over nearly every neighborhood in America.
Yet, for the time being, the Internet remains the one sanctuary where anyone — no matter who you are — can compete with the big players and still yield great results.
In order to do so successfully, we must learn how to separate ourselves from the competition and stand out as a company that people want to do business with. Here are three basic (but often overlooked) ways to make your startup unique and start running a successful Internet business today:
- Develop a clean and professional website. For an online business, the quality of your website is paramount to your success. It needs to look professional and clean, and present all the information that your customer needs in a very accessible way. The Internet is a fast-paced world where people will leave if you can't hold onto their attention, meaning that customers will make a decision about whether or not they'll stay on your page within the first few seconds. If you have a website that is full of clutter, hard to navigate, and not extremely specific about what it is you sell, you will lose out on potential sales, no matter how great your services are.
- Invest in search engine optimization. SEO is absolutely essential to being a successful online business owner. It is the process of getting your page ranked higher in search results for your niche — the higher up you are, the more clicks and traffic you'll get, resulting in increased sales. Think of SEO as comparable to a store's location: walk-in traffic is limited in a secluded area, but that same store's sales would thrive if located on a crowded street. The higher you climb in the search engines, the busier your business' metaphorical street will become -- assuming you've got #1 in place already.
- Maintain superior customer service. Many people assume great customer service simply means responding to customers quickly and being available at convenient times. However, to truly offer great customer service and separate yourself from the competition, you must strive to exceed customer expectations. Be available for support via multiple forms of contact: toll-free telephone numbers, emails, social media channels and live chat are a few available options. The variety allows you to interact with your customers using the mediums with which they feel most comfortable, leading to increased sales. For example, our live chat support software is very popular among our customer base and has paid for itself 100 times over because the conversations lead to the sale of countless more cabinets. Don't forget to follow up with a phone call or a thank-you card to build customer loyalty and attract repeat business. The convenience of working with your company should be about your customer, not you! Build a connection with your customers.
These three suggestions only scratch the surface of things you can do to separate your company from the rest of the online competition. Never stop trying to exceed customer expectations, always look to innovate ahead of others in your industry, and you will be well on your way towards success.
Anthony Saladino is the co-founder and CEO of Kitchen Cabinet Kings, one of the nation's largest distributors of kitchen and bathroom cabinetry on the Internet. He is the visionary behind the custom online-shopping system, which has revolutionized the industry.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.