Online Advertising Without an Advertising Budget

no advertising budgetAre you a small business owner?
What is your marketing strategy for the new year?
The range of options has never been so wide, but most of these options are ruled “out” because they require large up-front payments for an uncertain return.
Now with the Vendexo Internet Marketing Platform, you don’t need to go to the bank for a business loan to do your marketing – you can build brand awareness and grow sales on a pay-as-you-grow basis. And the best part is, that you choose how much you want to pay.

To find out more, watch our 3 minute information video for merchants/advertisers.

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Dublin City Enterprise Board Online Trading Voucher Scheme – PILOT now open

The Dublin City Enterprise Board (DCEB) has announced that in cooperation with the Irish Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, it will run a pilot scheme to assist small businesses to develop or upgrade their online presence, e-commerce and digital marketing capabilities.

In the first batch, 25 applications will be approved, with a further 25 in 2014.

The Minister Pat Rabbitte T.D. acknowledged the enormous opportunity for Irish businesses in the online space and warned of the significant risks for them if they do not develop an online trading capability.

Irish comsumers are increasing their online spend, with 3.7 billion Euro spent online last year, of which 70% was spent outside Ireland. Clearly Irish businesses need to do more to get a bigger share of this spend.

Vendexo, an Irish software business which provides businesses with the software technology to trade online and to grow their market share, is ready and able to help Irish businesses meet this challenge.

The deadline for receipt of applications by the DCEB is 12:00 noon, Friday 15th November 2013.

More information about the DCEB online trading voucher scheme.

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Merchants can get up to €2,500 to set up online trading, Minister Rabbitte announces

Minister Mat Rabbitte T.D. announced on Budget Day 15th October 2013 funding of €5 million to set up a national trading-online voucher scheme aimed at getting 2000 small Irish businesses trading online.

“There is an enormous opportunity for Irish businesses in the online space and significant risks if they do not develop online trading platforms” Minister Rabbitte said. Irish consumers spent approximately €3.7bn online last year, of which 70% was spent outside Ireland. Less than 1 in 4 small Irish businesses are trading online. Research undertaken for the European Commission indicates that traditional businesses which have a meaningful online presence grow twice as fast, export twice as much and employ twice as many people. “In Ireland, where the digital economy represents 4.4% of GDP, there is a real opportunity for small businesses to grow. My ambition is to ensure that a much greater proportion of the online spend stays in Ireland, supports Irish businesses and creates jobs in this country. For that to happen many more Irish businesses need to offer services online”.

Src: Statement on Budget 2014.

To this end, vouchers of up to €2,500 will be provided to small companies to help them develop an online trading presence. These will be administered by local Enterprise boards, with an initial pilot being run by the Dublin City Enterprise Board targeting small businesses which employ less than 10 people and have a turnover of less than €2 million per annum. For more see DCENR.

Vendexo.com is a provider of e-commerce software to help small businesses sell online. Our solutions cost well below €2,500, so Irish merchants looking to set up on online 24×7 trading presence can do so without delay, either with or without one of these vouchers. For more information see Vendexo.com – Irish Software powering E-commerce for Business.

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Support for Stripe Payments is available in Ireland

Stripe Payments

Vendexo is pleased to announce that merchants in Ireland can now accept Visa, Mastercard and American Express credit/debit cards as payment methods in their online shops using Stripe Payments. Card numbers and security codes sent directly from the customer’s web browser directly to Stripe Payments, who are PCI compliant and audited to ensure such information is handled in a secure way.

The Stripe Payments system has a number of advantages for the online merchant:

  • The merchant is not required to be PCI compliant as the merchant never sees the customer’s credit card details. This responsibility is handled by Stripe Payments.
  • Stripe Payments’ fees are competitive. See Stripe Payments Pricing for more information.
  • The merchant does not have to have a “Merchant Service Agreement” with a card processing bank (also known as an “acquiring bank”) which can be expensive and slow to set up. Stripe Payments will send funds to the merchant’s normal bank account 7 days after the customer transaction.

Stripe currently supports merchants located in Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Vendexo provides a low-cost hosted e-commerce system for merchants to want to trade online, and now has support for Credit/debit cards via Stripe Payments fully integrated.

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Goo..ing, Goo..ing, Gan!

The GAN may be gone, but the Vendexo Affiliate Network is open for business. It provides merchants and advertisers with an Internet Marketing platform to grow sales in an affordable way. This marketing technology helps small and medium businesses advertise and have the products promoted without throwing their cash-flow out of kilter.

If you are a merchant or advertiser and would like to find out more about how the Vendexo Affiliate Network can help you, please contact us.

www.vendexo.com/aff/main/

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Recipe For More Customers Visiting and Buying From Your Online Shop

Recipe For More CustomersWith shoppers continuing to incease the amount they spend online, how can you, the small or medium business grow your income from this important market?

Shoppers are buying more online for various reasons, including:

  • Better value. It is so much easier and faster to shop-around online and find deals and bargains than with physical shops. Think of the time saved when you don’t have to take the bus or car, look for parking spaces (which you typically have to pay for) etc.
  • More choice – in terms of range products, prices and suppliers.
  • Security. The legal protection given to online consumers is even greater than that enjoyed by customers in physical shops. Furthermore, payment processors and credit card companies have taken measures to give greater confidence to consumers to make payments online.

So, if you are a small or medium-sized business, how can you tap into this market? How can you get more customers visiting your online shop? If there are lots on online shops within easy access of the online customer, what’s going to make them pick your online shop (assuming they can even find you)? I hope the following will prove useful.

Ingredients

  • Quality products or services. If you are trying to sell poor quality, don’t expect sustainable business growth. Sell good quality at a fair price and the online community will want to sing your praises when they post on facebook, Twitter etc. The more unusual or “hard to find” the products are, the more likely people will choose to buy them online.
  • An online shopping platform which shows your products in a good light, and enables the customer to see multiple views/photos of the products and read the details. Try to imagine the questions which the customer may have about the product, and provide answers for them. There are various shopping cart platforms available to choose from including our own eCommerce hosted shopping cart system, which you can try out free for 30 days.
  • Clear and accessible Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions governing your website & online shop. The Terms & Conditions should also cover your Returns Policy, and provide instructions to the customer regarding the steps to take if the goods arrive in a faulty condition, were not what was expected, if the size or colour is incorrect or the customer simply has a change of mind. Best practice is to remind the customer of their statutary rights under consumer legislation. The following are useful references:
    http://www.nca.ie/nca/shopping-online Shopping Online eCommerce Regulations
    http://www.nca.ie/nca/shopping-from-home Distance Selling Rules.

Method

So you have the basic ingredients in place and now want to get the customers to your shop.

  1. Search Engines: Think about about the words and phrases which your customers may type into Internet search engines when looking for your products. Remember, they probably won’t be typing in your business name. Make sure that you use some of these words in the <title> element of your webpages, and that these words are repeated on your web/shop pages and product description pages. This will be a strong hint to the search engines that your website/shop should be associated with these words & phrases.
  2. Branding: Be clear in your own mind what your brand is and what it stands for. Let this guide your website and shop design, appearance, pricing, the support and after-sales service you give to your customers, and any communications you send out. All points of contact between your business and the ourside world should reflect the values of your brand.
  3. What is your website address? Ensure that your business cards, letterheads, compliment slips, invoices, receipts (including till receipts if you have a physical shop) include your website/online shop address.
  4. Encourage your existing customers to come back for more. They may just need gentle reminding. Why not send them an e-mail if they haven’t bought in a while? If you can afford to send a discount coupon (e.g. 10% off)  with a 2-week expiration, it may be enough to bring them to your online shop to take advantage of it. Remember, it is easier to get an existing customer to buy again than to find a new customer.
  5. Build up an e-mail list. A newsletter sent out several times a year to announce new products or special offers addressed to existing customers or those visitors to your website who subscribed. This audience is already interested in what you have to say, so use that. Be sure to include an unsubscribe link in the e-mail to enable them to take their name off the list should they so wish.
  6. Promote your online shop using the various social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, Google+ etc. These and other forms of networking help to raise your brand awareness.
  7. Advertise your business. If you have a marketing budget and know what magazines, or newspapers your target market reads, what radio stations they listen to or TV channels they watch, try running some advertisements. Start small, testing a couple of different ads on the smaller publications/broadcasters to see what works best, and then refine. Search engine and social media advertising can also be tested on a small scale to see if they work for you, before committing larger sums of money.
  8. I’ve saved the best till last. Get others to promote your products and services for you. How? Who? Why should they?

    Recognise that the Internet is a game changer
     — it opens up a lot of new possibilities. Are you prepared to think of new possibilities? Your potential customers are already using the Internet. They are visiting websites, reading blogs, articles, discussion forums, postings etc. related to their areas of interest and hobbies. If they are interested in sailing, they are likely to be visiting sites containing articles about sailing, boats, marine equipment, reviews of sailing books and sailing accessories, news about sailing events, races and so on. Imagine now that you run a sailing school, and have places to fill, or you are selling a new type of lifejacket that would appeal to sailors. The websites where your potential customers visit may be very happy to have some extra income to pay for their website hosting etc. Ads for your training course or lifejacket would appeal to their readership, a good match, actually useful information for their readers to know about.You may not have a marketing budget, or it may not be large enough to pay for this website advertising, and the return is uncertain. But when these websites refer you visitors and they buy, these are sales that you wouldn’t have otherwise got. This is growth. The more you sell, the greater your profit margin because your fixed overheads are spread over more sales. You may also be able to get a better price from your suppliers if you purchase larger quantities now that your are selling more. Growth must be financed, but not necessarily up-front. It can done from your improved profit margin, as the sales come in. By paying a sales commission to these referring websites it gives them the potential to earn more revenue and incentivises them to promote your products and services.

    The practicalities:
    How to set something like this up? How to know where referred visitors are coming from, when commission is to be paid, to whom and how much? Sounds like a lot of work. That’s where the Vendexo Affiliate Marketing Network comes in. It is a marketing network where website owners/content publishers with advertising slots can find advertisers/businesses with products & services to promote. It is also a hosted platform which performs the administration tasks associated with tracking where your referred visitors are coming from, calculating sales commissions, and paying them for you. It provides a control panel enabling you to see these referrals, in tabular and graph form, and the return which this marketing channel is bringing.How to find out more: Visit the Affiliate Marketing section of our website, and contact us with any questions you may have. If you want to try it out, click on the Signup button on that page
  9. Bake for a few weeks or months and then go back to step 1. It is a continuous process. Review what you have done and try to measure the results.Chocolate cake. A symbol for the rewards of following this recipe. You refine it as you go, trying something new, making improvements where required and putting more effort into what is working for you so as to amplify that effect.

I wish you well with your endeavours, and that this recipe produces rewarding results for your business.

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New Year – New Thinking – New ways of Marketing

New Year Marketing Tools

Do you have an online shop? Are you looking to get 2012 off to a good start? Maybe it is time to try something new? Use your imagination and come up with a way to package and price your products in a special way to encourage shoppers to buy. You might try bunding individual products into a set which when bought is better value than if the items were bought individually. You could also work with some other merchants to make up products sets combining products from multiple sources.

Then, most importantly, get the marketing message out there. And that is where the Vendexo Internet Marketing Platform can help you. This platform serves up ads and special offer/promotional material onto web pages where your customers are visiting, and whose website owners and content publishers have advertisement slots to fill. Our internet marketing platform provides the tools to make your promotional material available, to connect you with website owners and content publishers, and to track the performance of your campaign so that you are getting value for money.

Contact us today to find out more.

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Internet Marketing

SuccesInternet Marketings in business is becoming increasingly dependent on success in online business. In the Internet Age, success in online business is all about leveraging the power of the Internet to get your message out to your customers and your potential customers. Partnering with others who already have connections with people who could be your future customers makes sense as they can help you promote your products and services. They can refer people to you and help grow your sales. Internet Marketing brings a multiplier effect, as more and more people get to hear of your products and come to visit your website. The Vendexo Internet Marketing Platform facilitates the bringing together of such business partners, and has the functionality to enable them to promote your business, to track referrals and to enable you to easily measure how effective it is. If you would like to find out more, or see a demonstration, contact us or visit www.vendexo.com/aff/ and get the power of Internet Marketing working for your business.

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What is Affiliate Marketing?

Maybe you’ve heard about Affiliate Marketing and wondered what it was?
So, what is affiliate marketing? More importantly, is it applicable to you?

Affiliate Marketing is a form of online marketing which is used by online merchants and businesses to promote their products and services. It is also known by the term Performance Marketing (because it is a pay-for-performance system).The success of any online business depends on growing the number of visitors to their websites, and once there, converting the visitor into a paying customer. It is hard for a merchant/business to do this on his/her own. A more productive approach is to have visitors directed to the website from other websites and online sources operated by article writers, bloggers, reviewers and online publishers. The merchant/business owner agrees to pay a fee or sales commission to these publishers in return for the referred visitors. These publishers are thereby acting as affiliates for the business.

Affiliate marketing usually involves the use of an affiliate platform. This is the system and software which tracks the referrals and any subsequent lead or sale so that the affiliate can receive the appropriate fee or commission. An affiliate platform usually provides a control panel for the merchant/business to set up and monitor the performance of their affiliate program and online marketing campaign. It also allows them to specify the level of fees and commissions paid to their affiliates.

A major attraction of affiliate marketing for merchants/businesses is that it is a pay-for-performance system. This contrasts with other online marketing approaches whereby the merchant has to pay in advance for advertising without knowing what the return will be.

I hope that this short article has answered the question “What is affiliate marketing?” for you. For more information see affiliate marketing on Wikipedia, and read some of the other articles in this blog.

If you are a merchant and want to start an affiliate program, why not look into the Vendexo Affiliate Network and see how easy it is to get started. This is our affiliate platform which uses a cloud-computing system to host your affiliate program so you don’t have to go through the hassle of installing it on your computer and maintaining it.

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Affiliate Marketing – Helping you grow your sales

Climbing Graph Today, many small businesses including sole traders and companies under the banner SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) are struggling to grow their revenues and profitability. For a considerable number, even maintaining last year’s numbers is a challenge. Although making the most of your existing customers is important, it is also critical to attract new customers.

Attracting New Customers to Your Business

This article examines some ways of increasing your customer base, and for each it discusses the critical factors which determine a successful outcome, and some of the downsides of the method.

Recruit extra marketing and sales staff

staffThis will apply extra effort to the marketing and sales task. The effectiveness of this approach depends on:

  • Recruiting the right calibre of person
  • The experience of the person
  • The availability of additional promotional resources and marketing funding
    which the recruited person can draw from when doing their job.
  • The ability of the marketing staff to identify prospective buyer contacts,
    and once identified, to get their attention, make them take notice of your company’s products/services and eventually place an order with you.

The downsides of this approach:

  • It could take several months from the start of the recruitment process to the point where the additional staff is in place.
  • There is a significant price to be paid, each month, for salary, expenses and overheads associated with the extra staff from the day they start.
  • It is not easy to ramp-up and ramp-down on human resources as the business conditions require.

Spend on media advertising

MegaphoneRun some ads in the print media, TV, radio etc. The effectiveness of this approach depends on:

  • Correct selection of the publishing channel.
  • Timeliness – airing the message when the target buyers are listening/viewing/reading.
  • Appropriate design of the advertisement, and the message it is communicating.

The downsides of this approach:

  • The reach may be broad, but many of the listeners/viewers may not be interested. It is difficult to target the right people.
  • The ad is very short lived. For TV/radio it is “live” for a matter of seconds, and then gone. For newspapers, it is visible on the page while that page is being read, at most a few minutes, and then discarded.
  • Usually some repetition is required, because the ad can be overlooked the first couple of times.
  • Such advertising can be very expensive, and the payment has to be made up-front, with no guarantee that it will be effective.

Pay-per-click, Pay per 1000 Impressions Online Advertising

Pay-per-click adTarget online audiences as they search the Internet or view pages containing advertisements. The effectiveness of this approach depends on:

  • Ensuring that your ad gets selected for display, and sufficiently high up the list.
  • The message conveyed by the ad is relevant and compelling enough to make the user want to click it.
  • The landing page is relevant and has a call-to-action button (e.g. “Buy now”, “Add to Basket”, “Sign up”).

The downsides of this approach:

  • It can be very hard/costly to get your ad showing in a prominent position. There can be many other businesses competing for the same keywords, thereby driving up the “bid” price per click.
  • The marketing budget can be quickly used up due to clicks on ads that never result in sales.
  • The pay-per-mille (PPM – Pay per 1000 impressions) and pay per day/week/month also involve an outlay of cash to the publisher even if the viewer fails to click on the ad.

Affiliate Marketing

partnershipThis involves a partnership between the business owner/merchant and a number of website owners, article writers, bloggers (let’s refer to them as “publishers”). The publishers agree to display ads on behalf of the business owner or, in some trackable way, include links to the business owner’s online shop, alongside the content which they write. If their readers click on such ads/links and subsequently make a purchase, the business owner pays the publisher a commission, usually a percentage of the sale. A fee can also be paid for a lead if the reader leaves their contact details or signs up for newsletter etc. on the business owner’s site. Such publishers are referred to as “affiliates” of the business owner.

The publisher/affiliate gains some extra income to support their writing/publishing activities, and the business owner gains relevant visitors who are interested in their products/services. It uses a pay-for-performance model, and so it is very attractive and cost-effective for cash-strapped businesses. The effectiveness of affiliate marketing depends on:

  • Alignment between the products/services offered by the business owner and the content produced by the publisher.
  • The message conveyed by the ad is relevant and compelling enough to make the user want to click it.
  • The landing page is relevant and has a call-to-action button (e.g. “Buy now”, “Add to Basket”, “Sign up”).

The downsides of this approach:

  • It can be hard for compatible publishers and business owners to connect.
  • It can be time consuming for the business owner to manage their affiliates/publishers, and take care of tracking the payments due to each one, issuing payments etc.
  • The lack of an independent party between the affiliate and the merchant can lead to affilites doubting whether the business owner is crediting them with all of the sales or leads which the affiliates conveyed.

Software packages exist which business owners can buy and install on their web servers to handle the sign-up and management of publishers who are acting as affiliates. Such packages, however, do not address the issue of connecting publishers and business owners, nor does it solve the problem of doubt/distrust mentioned above. These packages also require some technical skill to install, and get working. The business owner must update them them regularly to keep them operational.

The Vendexo Affiliate Network

correct tickThe Vendexo Affiliate Network is an affiliate marketing platform which overcomes the problems mentioned above.

  • It is a pay for performance system, so business owners can choose to only pay out to affiliates/publishers if the visitors they refer place an order.
  • Business owners can also choose to pay-per-click or per visit.
  • It is an affiliate platform which runs on the Vendexo servers, not a package which the business owner has to buy, install, troubleshoot, update etc.
  • Our affiliate network serves to connect affiliates and business owners. it provides tools to enable affiliates to seek out suitable businesses/products to promote on their websites, and to request to act as an affiliate for those businesses.
  • The affiliate network also provides tools to enable businesses to create advertisements in various formats which affiliates can use to promote the business.
  • The platform takes care of tracking the fees and commissions due to affiliates, and for making the payments to them. In this way it is an independent broker between affiliate and business owner requiring minimal administrative overhead by the merchant.
  • Detailed reporting is made available to affiliates and business owners via an on-line control panel. They can see graphs and tabulated data representing the clicks, visits, leads and sales and so easily measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.

This article has only scratched the surface in terms of the capability and functionality of the Vendexo Affiliate Network. To find out more about it and how it can benefit you, please contact us.

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