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Direct Sales Channel Strategy: 22 Ways to Get Started Today

Here's why you should use a direct sales channel strategy, and 22 ways you can start taking action today.
height=”148.5″ Image courtesy of Alex

Most businesses have a weak web presence.

That means their website doesn’t sell, you can’t find them in search results, and they have no social footprint.

Why?

The most common answer is because they sell through “traditional channels”. So they don’t need (or want) a web presence.

They rely on word-of-mouth referrals, a brick-and-mortar retail store, or other online sales channels like Expedia for all of their business.

That’s a huge mistake.

Here’s why you should use a direct sales channel strategy, and 22 ways you can start taking action today.

 

The Dangers of Relying on Sales Channels

Most businesses are over-reliant on third-party sales channels.

Why?

Because it’s easy to get started and they provide a steady stream of customers for you.

So it takes you very little work to get going. You can just sit back and fulfill the orders and services that these customers are asking for. (Marketing? Who needs marketing?!)

But all of this comes at a price.

You pay a premium for access to these customers. Maybe you need to get an expensive brick-and-mortar lease for a store to reach more people. Or perhaps you’re giving up a share of your revenue to partner with others. Either way, you’re willingly reducing your margins before you’ve even made a dime.

You’re paying a majority of your revenue in rent each month, or giving away a substantial portion to affiliates and other “store fronts” to carry your product and recommend your service.

So your actual profit is only a tiny fraction of your gross revenue.

And your competition and technology are driving down the prices you can charge. So you can’t compete being the low cost provider.

You’re not actually in control of your business.

Your landlord could raise the rent, or your virtual sales-channels could stop taking your inventory.

Historically you had to build a sales force to sell directly to your customers. But with the internet today, it’s unacceptable that your main sources of business are controlled by other people.

Today, you need go direct to the end users and create an online marketing asset that grows in value over time.

 

How to Build a Web Presence that will Thrive

By selling directly to end users, you’re able to control price points and the margins you actually receive.

But in order to do so, you need to build a thriving web presence that will pull people to your business and compel them to take action.

How do you do that?

Here are 22 ways.

  1. Realize that what you’re selling isn’t actually your products or services. You’re selling solutions to your customer’s problems. So figure out what really motivates your customers (pain or pleasure), and emphasize those needs and wants.
  2. Focus on maximizing the lifetime value of a customer. Getting new customers is going to be more difficult, so focus on building a recurring income stream. If you provide services, then think about how you can “productisize” them.
  3. Build a website that sells. Your website only exists for two reasons: (1) to generate leads, and (2) to make sales. Static-brochure websites aren’t good enough anymore. Everything on your site needs to funnel people to opt-in or buy something.
  4. Blog about what your customers are interested in, not about your products and services. Use content marketing to bring customers in and get them interested in your offer. Make your blog “sticky” so that people actively seek you out over other alternatives.
  5. Create a strategy that uses integrated internet marketing tactics that work together. You’ll maximize results and create a defensive “moat” around your business. And focus on inbound channels (Content + SEO + Social) because they provide a much higher ROI over time.
  6. Exploit opportunity gaps with arbitrage marketing. Because your competition’s tactics aren’t going to work as well for you. So you need to look at other industries and make little bets to see what works and what doesn’t.
  7. Always think about your marketing funnel. You need to get more traffic to your site, turn their attention into interest, build trust with them, and then ask for the sale. This should be a system that moves people from one stage to the next. Think about how users will flow through your site and hit the major points you need. Then you can focus on a few key metrics to measure your performance, and take action to improve each step.
  8. Design is important. First impressions are lasting impressions, so your web design is the front-door to your business. If people don’t like your visual appearance in just a few seconds, then they’ll never even read the content on your site or browse the products in your store.
  9. Make marketing decisions based on real user behavior… not verbal feedback or focus groups. Humans are irrational. It’s been proven that we don’t always know what we want, or even act in our own best interest. So stop listening to customers, and start experimenting to find answers.
  10. Prioritize your email marketing list over your social media channels. Because this list becomes a marketing asset, and it still converts better than every other option.
  11. Stop worrying about Fans and Followers. It really doesn’t matter how many you or your competitors have (this will only get you in a social media arms race). Instead, focus on driving engagement to virally grow a loyal and passionate audience. These are the people that will actually buy something from you. Those 100,000 fans you bought from third-world countries on Fivrr may impress your friends, but they aren’t going to move your bottom-line.
  12. Realize that social media is the new PR. So start using it for business development. Contribute content to other, larger sites. Reach out to bloggers and create relationships before trying to pitch them. Focus on building your brand and getting traffic to your site… and the social media audience will follow.
  13. But don’t waste your time and energy if you don’t have any social media goals. Most companies have no idea how social media will benefit their business. So pick one of these three goals and coordinate your daily activities to support that goal.
  14. Use the analytics at your disposal. The key to online marketing is to do more of what people like, while doing less of what they don’t. So get comfortable using tools like Facebook Insights and Google Analytics to see what your customers respond to.
  15. Figure out a way to start using Google+ for your business. With over 3 billion searches per day, Google+ is going to grow quickly. And it will have a huge impact on your organic search engine optimization.
  16. Infuse your site with good SEO principles from the beginning. It’s not too difficult or time consuming, and you’ll see compounding results over time.
  17. Only focus on real links that build your brand and traffic. Link building is the backbone of your SEO strategy. But too many people focus on low-value links that won’t help them much in the future. Instead, you want to only use link building tips that also get traffic to your site and build your brand at the same time.
  18. Create dedicated landing pages that match a specific offer and the customer who might see it. Using landing pages is one of the best ways to increase conversion rates and make more money. So figure out how people are going to get to your site (what channels – i.e. AdWords, organic search, Twitter, etc.) and create specific landing pages for each one. Then your offer should have one specific Call-To-Action that gets them to become a lead or future customer.
  19. Reduce risk by displaying your credibility. There are certain things people look for when they’re trying to decide if they trust you or not (and if they don’t trust you, then they’ll never buy from you). So start using some social proof to reassure your customers.
  20. Use split testing on every major element of your website. The truth is that no one knows what will work best. So start testing your offer, headline, images, messaging, calls-to-action, etc. to see what performs best (more sign ups, sales, etc). Test major elements on a small portion of your website (like a landing page) for only a fraction of your audience. Then take the winning elements and carry them through your entire site.
  21. The goal of email marketing is to get people back on your site. So don’t give them too many options and make it confusing. Keep it simple and present them with one option (CTA) at a time. If you want to present them with more options, then just increase the frequency (i.e. daily or weekly) of those singular-purpose emails.
  22. Start using lifecycle email marketing to systematically follow up with qualified leads and existing customers. Every-time a user completes (or doesn’t complete an action), they should receive an automated follow-up email. Focus on these users that are actually buying from you, and you’ll be able to increase each person’s lifetime value.

 

Conclusion

Today you have the channel (the internet) and the motivation (falling prices) to evolve your business for the future.

And you have the opportunity to create something of value (a marketing asset) that appreciates over time because it will continue to bring in customers directly for you.

It’s not hard, but it does take work.

And it gives you control of a customer base that doesn’t cost you anything to reach. So you can take that extra profit and reinvest in your business… or just take a vacation once and awhile.