Welcome to the world of commerce on the web. Here are the top five things that any business that wants to participate in this space should do:
Evaluate the field
This does not mean respond to the first marketing solicitation that comes along. Meet with the serious exchanges. Check their references. Don't assess the options strictly from a cost perspective. Most exchanges are as much in the business of recruiting merchants as they are in the business of running exchanges right now. By being one of their early buyers or sellers, you have a much better chance of negotiating a favorable deal with them. Assume their published terms are a starting point for negotiation. Don't agree to any deal with an up-front cost. Let the exchange earn its way based on a sustained transaction volume. The cost of having to start over is going to be much higher than the cost of transactions, should it come to that.
Implement the minimum necessary to play on their field
I've always supported the software development maxim, "You can do it right or you can do it twice." However, in this case, you really should do the minimum integration you can get away with until you're sure that you're in the right space. While your project managers and architects will grimace at the idea that you may have to accept orders by e-mail rather than by EDI or WebAPI, you want to lean toward the minimum investment in time and energy on the part of your over-committed technology staff until the field narrows and you're sure you're not going to have to change horses in mid-stream.
I recommend you evaluate using e-mail parsing (using Perl or something else) to pull the necessary fields from a predetermined format of e-mail to get the necessary order details into your order-management or procurement system. The downside risks are that the e-mail format may get changed without your knowledge - in which case you have a backlog of e-mail to process - or some necessary fields may be missing. Proper escalation procedures should be able to mitigate both these risks.
If you'll indulge me for a second, my advice would be don't do any development until you have signed contracts (with whomever you are integrating) . I've seen more time wasted (and wasted more of my own time) in implementing solutions based on promises from Business Development that everything would come together before the contract was signed than I care to recall. Assess needs and plan for the solution - then wait for a signed contract before you implement.
Participate in and support the development of standards for your industry and its specific business processes
If standards are going to be developed, you want them to work with your systems. The genius is in the details - make sure the details will work with your systems by having a say in what they are. In eBusiness, all solutions are ultimately implemented at the bits and bytes level. If no one is working on standards for exchanges in your industry, spearhead the development of standards with your competitors and the major players in the exchange marketplace. There is power in collaboration.
Evaluate all future technology purchases based on how easily they permit integration with key trading partners
See what software your competitors are using. Investigate and query other companies that are using any software you're considering purchasing. Try to find commonality in software. Look for competitive advantages over your competitors in other areas. Think of your IT infrastructure like the tax rate - if you all work together, you might be able to get the legislature to give your industry a break, in which case you all win - rather than as a differentiating factor.
Continue to investigate available options
As the field narrows - if the field is indeed too broad in your industry - evaluate integration options. When it's clear that one exchange (or more) is here to stay, invest in integration. By then, there may be standards you've been part of creating, the software you're using may already support integration, and the exchange's software may offer more of the hands-free functionality that is supposed to save your company money.
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- Choose Your Merchant Account With Care
Here's an invaluable report by Bob McElwain that discusses everything you need to know about choosing a Merchant Account...
- Jump Into E-Commerce Action
As you probably know, the e-commerce industry is growing at an exponential rate. If you are not already part of the exploding e-commerce action, you are missing out on your piece of the pie. Until now, one of the major reasons for people to miss out on e-commerce action is that they didn't have an online store or product to sell. Now, they can jump into the action with affiliate programs. Affiliate programs are also known as associate, commission, referral, bounty and partner programs.
- International e-Commerce Trends
According to Forrester Research, the Business-to-Business e-commerce market will skyrocket to $1.3 trillion by 2003 - up from a mere $43 billion in 1998. Given these stunning numbers, you'd better be ready to address the latest internet marketing trends. So where the heck are the Internet marketing trends going? Here are some international marketing trends I've identified that say a great deal about where the online marketing game is heading.
- Guerrilla Insights Into Direct Response Marketing
Direct response marketing is a lot different from indirect response marketing, although guerrillas like it best when the two are teamed up. The first is geared to obtain orders right here and right now. The second is geared to obtain orders eventually. Although a fair amount of standard, indirect marketing often is necessary to set the stage, to make prospects ready to buy, and to separate your company from strangers, it's when you initiate direct marketing that you first taste blood.
- Modeling on the Web for Money
New business models are appearing each day on the web -- most of which were never thought offline. In fact, several dot-coms are completely revolutionizing the way we do business. It's not surprising as life on the web is five times faster -- creating, reinventing, tweaking, testing and measuring results, all done quite rapidly, is probably *the* advantage of the Internet.
- Is Pure Play the Wrong Play? Yes, Says New E-tail Study
A number of big e-commerce sites have fallen by the wayside recently, and no doubt that's of concern to you if you're running a small- to medium-sized site. Perhaps you've noticed that the revenue stream is no longer growing much, or the average profit per sale is on the decline. Could it be time to consider adding some other sales channels?
- Ask for More and You Get More!
In this tip you will find out why you'll never get that next sale unless you ask for it - and ask in the right way! This tip will provide you with the precise details about the immense power of marketing systems and how to use them to maximize your sales and profits.
- The Number One Reason For a Web Presence
Someone once asked in the Marketing Challenge private site, "What's the number one reason a business should have a web presence?" This is a fascinating question because, very often, many businesses (particularly with those I've consulted in my practice) have no clue as to why they are online. Yes, it is a new medium that's affordable, more effective and wrought with opportunity - especially for smaller businesses.
- How To Accept Credit Cards Without Need For A Merchant Account
Whether you are selling something now or you are planning to sell something in the future, it is best and important that you can accept credit cards for your customers' purchases. Accepting Credit Cards is your ready answer to your customers buying habits (impulse buying) and enables you to deliver at once the goods that they have bought for instant profit!
- There Is A Fortune In Follow Up!
Internet marketers often run into a unique challenge on their way to "leaving the rat race" for their own successful cyber-businesses. Once their online marketing machines are running fairly smoothly, generating a healthy flow of leads generally isn't a problem. The challenge lies in generating the most profit from the existing flow of leads.
- A Venture Capital Primer For Small Business
This report discusses what venture capital firms look for when they analyze a company and its proposal for investment, the kinds of conditions venture firms may require in financing agreements, and the various types of venture capital investors. It stresses the importance of formal financial planning as the first step to getting venture capital financing.
- Survival Tips For Small Businesses
You may be in Mail Order, Direct Mail, or you may be a local merchant with 150 employees; whichever, however or whatever - you've got to know how to keep your business alive during economic recessions. Anytime the cash flow in a business, large or small, starts to tighten up, the money management of that business has to be run as a "tight ship."
- Ecommerce Startup Kit - by Chris Yates
The Ecommerce Startup Kit is a downloadable ebook in PDF format containing several step-by-step guides. These guides are designed to help you start your online business as quickly and as easily as possible. This is an excellent place to start with setting up a new online business. Download it now!
- Increase Sales with Payment Solutions
Accepting credit cards is the most well known way to accept payment on the Internet. Almost everyone has a credit card and by accepting his or hers, it makes customers' ordering process much more convenient and time saving, not to mention it encourages them to purchase from you. Accepting credit cards has become a necessity to the survival of e-businesses.
- Off The Continent But Still Online
This is an in-depth report on the issues surrounding your ability to access the internet when travelling overseas. This report will help you outfit your notebook so that no matter where you go, you'll be able to hop online in a matter of minutes to check your e-mail, your stocks, or your travel reservations for the trip home.
- CRM in SmallBiz: Disappointing Misconceptions
In the last few months there has been quite a lot of discussion on CRM (customer relationship management) solutions in the forums and ezines. Although it is extremely positive that people finally started to talk about the one concept that will make the future of a business successful or unsuccessful, there are quite a few misconceptions about the term. Those misconceptions make people lose time and energy finding solutions in areas they should not be even searching, instead in concentrating on the really important things.
- Small Business In Canada: No Trivial Matter
Canada's small business sector is anything but trivial. The fact is, small enterprises and the self-employed contribute as much or more to the economy than the large businesses that often take credit for Canada's economic growth.
- Checklist For Starting A Small Business
Starting and managing a business takes motivation, desire and talent. It also takes research and planning. Here's a checklist to help you see what awaits you as an entrepreneur.
- The Christmas Sales Letter that Got a Whopping 35% Response
This sales letter was sent to all customers and prospects last year. I sent the message in the first week of December, when most people are actually starting to think about the holiday season. I encourage you to study this sales letter, emulate it, and send something like it to your customers, prospects and everyone on your opt-in lists. If you follow this sample, I know you'll make some decent money from your email direct marketing this year.
- How to Use Other People's Money for Your Business
John Ray, the famous 17th century author, was known to have written the aphorism, "Money begets money." In the business world, I'm sure you've also heard the saying, "You've got to have money to make money." There are countless sources of cash, but by far, the best one to utilize for your business is ... other people's money.
- A to Z of Domain Name Selection
Selecting a domain name, or web address, is the most important task you will undertake when moving your business online. Here's an A to Z guide, which should help you choose the right domain names for your website.
- Learn Your Way to Greater Profits
Teleclasses and Online Seminars are increasing in fervor these days. Aside from the savings such
courses incur (over traditional classrooms and board rooms), there are many other benefits for organizations. Some include increased speed, control and automation of content delivery.
- First Contact
Easily one of the most common questions I get when I talk to people about doing business online is this: "If I can't send them bulk email, how am I supposed to get in touch with potential business partners?" Usually the question is asked in a belligerent, "Who do you
think you are telling me what I can and can't do online?" tone. My response is simple: "I'm just telling you what won't work. Would you like to know what will?"
- Pin The Tail On The Web Marketing Donkey
Jimmy Brown gives you 6 quick LAWS to LIVE BY if you really want to stop walking around blindly online and finally find the promised success you've been reading about...
- Net Auctions As A Business
As a business, Net auctions are truly a whole new kind of opportunity. EVERYBODY's aware of the Internet auction arena. It's a rapidly expanding field for business, full of opportunity for those who want -- and know how -- to take advantage of it...
- Diversify to Survive
Protect yourself in this dynamic and volatile dot-com environment by diversifying your product and service offerings to generate multiple streams of income.
- Eight Secrets of $100,000+ Home Businesses
"Eight Secrets of $100,000+ Home Businesses" is aimed at home business owners who want to make six figures -- or more. Readers will learn 49 ways to improve their strategic planning, marketing, operations, client service, finances and other areas...
- The Big Bang Publicity Campaign
amous is as famous does and the famous get known through publicity. Yes, that's right, fame doesn't discover you, you create it through strategic campaigning. What's more, the techniques for increasing your exposure are not as difficult to attain as you might think...
- Business/Sales "Tip of the Week"
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