Online Business Start-Ups: The Agony & The Ecstasy | Online Business

Any business start-up can be difficult but the online business start-up is more so. Both business owners have the same problems of financing, product selection and marketing. However, the “brick and mortar” business owner has one major advantage over the online business start-up. The conventional business owner can see their potential customers. Their potential customers walk by the windows every day. They may even walk into the store and ask questions. With an online business, other than some hard to decipher website statistics, the only time you know you have a potential customer is when they contact you or order from you. This creates many sleepless nights.At 2:00 a.m., an online business owner wakes up in a cold sweat. Where are the customers? Have I chosen the right online marketing strategy from the millions that are available? How do I know? Will a sale come in tomorrow or never? There are literally hundreds of concerns made more difficult by the invisibility of the potential customer. The agony of the online business start-up is in full swing. Will there be any ecstasy at the end of the road? What will it take?Ecstasy will occur once the owner knows the business is successful. The elements of success are actually the same for the “brick and mortar” business as they are for the online business. The difference resides in the feedback mechanisms. The online business owner can’t count on that face-to-face meeting with potential customers when they enter the store or that fleeting glimpse of a customer as they walk by the window. An online business owner must create feedback mechanisms on their website which encourage customers to interact and let him/her know they were there.Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get your potential customers to leave you their email addresses? Not only would this help you understand that people are actually visiting your site but it would also be helpful for future marketing efforts. As online business owners, how can we do this?First, add a simple guest book to your site. Some people will voluntarily sign your guest book, but many will not. So, let’s add a little incentive for the potential customer. How about associating their signature in your guest book with a free drawing for one of your products (like http://www.sweet-vibrations.com, a one-of-a-kind jewelry site) or a free newsletter on an interesting topic (like http://www.aaronzwebworkz.com)? In this way, you offer something of value in exchange for their email address. And, it doesn’t have to cost you anything.There are many free website guest books available online. We use a free guest book from http://www.htmlgear.com on our website http://www.obinstitute.com. Check it out!Secondly, an online business owner can also add a refer-a-friend link on their website. Why not offer potential customers the ability to easily market for you? They may know a friend who would really be interested in your product. That friend might buy something from you, or sign your guest book. The website mentioned above, http://www.htmlgear.com also offers a free refer-a-friend link for your website. And, again, you can check out an example at http://www.obinstitute.com. Is there anything else we can add to a website to make our potential customer more visible before a sale? Yes, an online survey.Thirdly, add an ongoing survey form regarding issues of importance to your potential customers? Most of us find it’s interesting to cast a ballot on an issue and then see what position others are taking. Remember, you have two purposes in mind for this strategy. The first is to make the potential customer and their visits to your website more visible to you. This will help maintain your sanity until someone actually orders. But, secondly, you are developing a website that people will return to in the future. This will increase the potential for sales.Each time the potential customer interacts with the website, using a guest book, a survey or a refer-a-friend link, the online business owner is building a relationship with that potential customer. The more they like using your site, the more likely they are to return. The more often they return to your site, or tell others, the better your chances of the sale.

Holiday Club Membership Can Be a Cost Effective Alternative to Timeshare

Flexible holidays at affordable prices are available through the number of stand-alone holiday clubs that have evolved Since the 1980s.Holiday Clubs, also known as Vacation Clubs, use a combination of unused resort inventory and in-house stock to provide its members with a wide range of mostly self catering apartment holidays at affordable prices. Members do not own but rather rent apartments through the club, usually at around the wholesale price level.The quality of the units tends to be higher compared to what is generally available from the mainstream tour operators selling self-catering holidays because the majority of the units offered are from within the timeshare sector.Most units include fully kitted kitchens, cable TV/DVD and en-suite bathrooms (two bedroom units). Facilities on the sites usually include swimming pool, tennis courts, restaurant, bar and mini-bar.It is important to distinguish between holiday/vacation clubs and holiday/vacation ownership programmes. The latter use their own pool of resort inventory, which is collectively purchased through new membership sales.Resort holiday clubs originally evolved in the early 1980s as a secondary product to offer to clients not prepared to purchase a timeshare while at the resort sales presentations.In most cases the resorts offer prospects a three-year membership which gives them user rights within particular timeshare resorts.The logic is simple. The holiday club membership offer would cover a portion of their sales presentation costs and a nominal commission to the sales agent. The resort then had the opportunity to try to “convert” the holiday club member into a timeshire purchaser while they were staying at the resort. Most clubs permit the owner to pass on their rights to a friend, thus the resort in many cases would have the opportunity to sell to third parties.These ‘Trial Memberships or Start Up packages’ became a solid secondary product among most timeshare developers throughout the world. The ‘club’ concept increased in popularity in Europe when EC legislation imposed a 10-day cooling off period with no up-front deposits on all new timeshares as they fell outside the legislation, if they were sold for less than three years. The developers were permitted to continue their marketing and sales programmes within new EC legal guidelines following a minor change of the documents from three years to two years and 364 days or equivalent.One holiday club known in the marketplace as a travel and leisure club due to its varied products, was established in 1987 as a low cost means to test drive a timeshare programme.To allow potential timeshare purchases to try them out it established a three-year programme using acocmodation the group had listed for resale rented out weeks at roughly the amount of the maintenance fee.The club members were encouraged to convert from the club into timeshare ownership with the incentive that a portion or the full amount of their club membership would be credited toward their timeshare purchase.As membership rapidly expanded – it became obvious that many members preferred the flexibility of the club to the purchase of timeshare.So in the early 90s it was established as a stand alone travel and leisure club offering a one time enrolment fee together with an affordable annual renewal fee and a resort facility fee to cover the apartment weeks drawn down and eventually set up a travel agency to providing a complete range of travel services to its expanding membership base from can booking flights, cruises, hotels and weekend breaks including hotel, theatre, and restaurant reservations.Members could draw down from three to six weeks resort accommodation per year at a wholesale price which usually amounted to the annual resort maintenance fee, together with a small handling fee. Eventually it provided annual savings on their holidays to more than 25,000 families in 25 countries.Unlike timeshare or ‘Vacation Ownership’ programmes however, the scattered inventory within holiday and travel clubs usually requires its members to be flexible when choosing their holidays, for example asking members to provide three locations with a date window for each holiday requested.Properly run holiday clubs are a very viable alternative to timeshare purchase as the outlay is lower (usually from £495 to £3000), members only pay for what they use and may draw down multiple weeks per year.With a well-chosen holiday club you will get quality assured resort apartment holidays from year to year usually with significant savings.Copyright (c) 2010 Alison Withers