An online business cannot be strong everywhere. It is better to ensure that there are only small, known weaknesses which are manageable, according to Mark Canty of Ebusiness Guru. This article appears in our latest e-info magazine for online sellers.

I‘ve learnt a few things about ecommerce over the years; one is to accept you can’t be strong in every area, and to make sure that any weaknesses are known about, small and manageable.

Treat chances to grow as a measured risk. Know the risks and resources you need for it to grow and become successful. There are times that an expert can help you save time and help you to focus resources in the right place.

What are you selling?

Always remember the bottom line. You should make a profit (and pay the bills). Sell something you’re passionate about, with a clear market. Ask yourself why YOU would want to buy something from your business. If not, why would your customers?

Sell at a price they (and you) can afford. If this isn’t true, or is becoming difficult, find something that meets those criteria.

Everything has a cost, whether it’s stock, rent, or staff wages. But can you justify it? Be aware of what everyone and everything brings to you, and only keep them if they make a positive contribution.

Why are you selling here?

Don’t sell on a site unless there’s a reason. You’ll generally make more per sale on your own website.

Fees on marketplaces hurt, but Amazon and eBay reach customers. Some people treat those channels as a shop window, selling at cost to get attention.

It’s an investment. When costs change, re-evaluate, and don’t pour good money after bad.

Selling abroad is just another marketplace (but in another language, and with different laws). If there is a market, and your costs (including shipping!) make sense, then try, but carefully, and be ready to stop if it’s not working!

How are you making your products visible to buyers online?

Most people list their own products, directly, or with specialised software. Consider outsourcing; can your people fill other roles? Does it cost less to pay while your staff work on other areas? Could you get a nice polished, responsive listing template in the package, offsetting some of the cost?

What tools are you using?

Don’t buy a tool or service because it looks good. Buy it because it meets a need, and costs less than it saves you. Buy it because it saves you time.

How are you getting customers to look at your products?

Think about promotion. If done badly, this is money poured away. A professional will be able to show you why they’re worthwhile and the value they can explain to your business.

First and foremost, your website should be easy to find. This usually means the black arts of Search Engine Optimisation – and advertising!

Ensure your eBay listings show high up on the search results (both in eBay & search engines). An expert will know what they’re looking for, and how to build your listings correctly, saving you time and money.

Look into advertising with Google, Bing or Facebook to draw attention from carefully targeted potential customers. Used carefully, it will get the best return.

What about social media?

Social media can help you to get the word out about new products through competitions, links to articles, etc. Your customers will do the advertising for you because it’s new, and interesting, and cool.

Use more than one platform too – e.g. Pinterest and Tumblr are different to Facebook or LinkedIn. If you’re using multiple social platforms and want to reduce your workload, consider an automation and scheduling tool like Social Pilot.

And remember…

The right tools and help can ensure you remember that being your own boss should be fun. The wrong ones can make it nothing but headaches and paperwork.

Mark Canty is the Multichannel eCommerce Consultant at Ebusiness Guru, which offers solutions, tools and options for businesses of all sizes.

Twitter @ebusinessguruk