How to run a business on a budget

1. Shop around for the right deal

If you want so sell something online consider specialist e-commerce solutions. For example, set up an online storefront with Amazon Webstore, integrated in Amazon’s marketplace.

Ebay runs a similar service for a similar price, about £10 a month.

This can be a quick and effective starting point, but you’ll be tied to the trading fees that are Amazon and Ebay’s bread and butter.

Pay Pal offers a growing range of services that let businesses sell online quickly and cheaply, and Shopify provides good-looking professional storefronts.

Once your website is popular enough, however, it may be cheaper to cut out the middle man and sell directly. 

2. Put yourself in the picture

When it comes to creating websites a picture can paint a thousand words. How do you find the right image to make a great first impression on your prospective customers? 

Stock image websites that have hundreds of royalty free images you can use.

Popular choices include iStockGettyimages, Pixmac or Photodune.

Another option is photo sharing website Flickr. Use the advanced search to find content you can use commercially and unearth some bargains.

3. Get searching

Love it or hate it but Google accounts for 9 out of 10 internet searches.

To start optimising your Google rankings, start with Google Webmaster. It provides tools that help explain how Google ranks your site. You’ll see how many people have found your website in search result and clicked on the link.

Google Keyword Tracker is another invaluable tool. It lets you track searches made for certain keywords and phrases. Remember to consider two or three word terms as these may help conversion.

Google Analytics will generate comprehensive statistics about your website’s visitors. You can use aggregated data to track sales and conversions and measure your site engagement. Simpler statistical tools like Clicky offer free trials and allow you to monitor traffic on your site in real time. 

4. Capture enough data

Capturing user data is key to building an online customer base and letting people know about your new products and offers. Online forms can be used to capture and store user data easily.

WuFoo is one great way of creating simple forms. When you design a form it automatically builds a database and provides tools to access and understand your user data.

Other tools such as Unbounce and Optimizely allow you to tweak and modify landing pages without being a tech wizard – and provide key data to help compare and contrast landing pages.

5. Be user-friendly

Finding out how visitors use your website and where they run into problems, so you can improve it. Try WhatUsersDo and UserTesting. These allow you to set goals for users to complete on your website and generate user experience videos, showing how your customers use your website and where they run into problems.

Mouseflow and Clicktale let you track your visitors’ mouse movements and provide tools such as heatmaps which visualise where users click and scroll.

6. Keep ’em coming

Once you have captured user details, regular email newsletters are a good way to tell customers about exclusive offers, great deals and new site features – and to keep them coming back.

Mailchimp acts as a publishing platform for you to design and deliver email newsletters. Mailchimp’s free plan allows you to store up to 2,000 subscribers and send up to 12,000 emails per month.

iContact is another useful service to get started with email marketing.

Andy Yates is director of Huddlebuy.co.uk

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