When running an Internet business, it’s important to maintain good business practices, just like when having an offline storefront establishment. The major difference in operating online is that you have a much larger market—and therefore potentially can do many times the business that you would be doing locally. All the more reason to keep your business practices up to snuff! :-)
An example of how you can go off the rails in your business practices is this…
Say you are communicating to customers via email. You should treat email as if it was a handwritten letter. Sign it! Otherwise how does the person receiving it know who you are? Then how do they address you when they write back? “Dear Ghost”? Or “Dear you-won’t-reveal-your-name”? Or “Dear you-want-me-to-visit-your-web-site-and-search-for-your-name?”
You won’t be using letterhead with email, so the best way to handle that is to have not only your signature at the bottom, but the name of your company and your contact information, too. Or perhaps a great, catchy headline making them want to click through to your Web site.
The same goes for greetings. Don’t just start messages with “I wanted to write to you about your last purchase…” Use their name in a proper greeting, “Dear John,” and give them some respect. In your offline business, you would never write a letter to a business associate and fail to use a greeting at the head of the letter, would you?
In a store or office, when a customer comes in with a question or complaint, it gets answered right away. You can’t turn away someone standing there in front of you. Even phone calls are answered and you deal with the person on the other end.
The same goes for an Internet business. The communication methods will often be different. They will usually email you or fill out an online form. These have to be handled rapidly.
When you don’t answer communications right away, you can lose a good customer. They wonder if you are really there at all, or if you are really serious about your business.
Perhaps you went out of business. They don’t know. It’s not like calling a company and hearing a voice on the other end stating the company name and giving you the option of speaking with a live person.
Truthful and accurate descriptions of your products or services are a must, too. If someone can walk into a physical store, they can inspect the merchandise for themselves.
They can’t see the actual item online, so you must be able to substantiate whatever claim you make as to its appearance, ability to do any function, etc. To advertise a product otherwise would be misleading and can result in less sales and countless refund requests.
Offline, when a store gets unsolicited referrals from a “competitor” it is likely that competitor becomes a partner in that you also refer customers to that store. Do the same online.
Does someone recommend and link to one of your products? Recommend and link back to one of his/hers, at least to his or her Web site!
Bottom line? Run your Internet business with all the care of one offline, and you will be respected for your good Internet business practices… and likely get more business through word of mouth!