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It can be a challenge to market real/tangible products in the virtual world. And, it’s certainly much different than marketing services or virtual products. We have put together a quick tip list that every tangible product based business needs to consider when selling in a virtual market.

Image is Everything

You’ve heard it said – image is everything. And, it is. However, for product based business owners, that “image” is influenced by the images. That’s right – the product images that you have on your website! Just like brick and mortar business, you must put your products in the best possible light. How do you do that? Consider our brick and mortarcounterparts.

1. Staging – every product in a retail brick and mortar store is carefully placed. The “stage” is set. There may be suggested accessories strategically placed near the product itself, or there may be “decorative” elements – such as when a home décor company exhibits a vase with flowers inside. We all know that the flowers don’t (usually) come with the vase. But, it puts you, as the consumer, in the right frame of mind. Even in jewelry stores, you will see this example – there are small flowers, loose gemstones and more in the velvet-lined cases. That is another example of setting the stage; making the entire image a “feast for the eyes” will do wonders for your sales.

2. Make it crisp and sharp. Clear, sharp images on a website are a must. It’s better to not have an image at all than to have one that is fuzzy, blurry, under lit, or over exposed. Remember, your product images are meant to entice your potential customers. And, if they aren’t clear, your potential customers can just as easily find another virtual store that has clear pictures.

Sweat the Small Stuff

Unlike virtual products, such as e-books or software, or services such as virtual assisting, web design, or computer programming, you must creatively include every single detail that the customer may notice in the real world in the description of your product in the virtual marketplace. Even if you think that it’s obvious.

Let us give you an example. Dee has silver and gold jewelry on her website. Months ago, there was a customer who ordered, but, when she received her product, she realized that the product had 14 KT gold accents (rather than silver accents – which is what she wanted). The picture was (in Dee’s opinion) clear enough to show 14 KT gold accents – so she didn’t include it in the description. But, it wasn’t clear to the customer. Even if you aren’t in doubt, include the details (even the obvious ones)! Your customers will thank you for it.

That “small stuff” can make or break your product based business in the virtual marketplace! Don’t leave anything to chance or to the customer’s interpretation. Graphically and creatively describe each of your products – down to the minutest detail.

Time Is On Your Side

In the virtual marketplace, just like in a brick and mortar store, you must make time for your customers – take time for your customers. Unlike some service and virtual product based businesses, the time you take with each of your customers can make or break a sale. For example, with Kim’s therapeutic grade essential oils, she must spend time with her customers showing them how to apply the oils, with, for example, the raindrop technique. Unfortunately, in the virtual marketplace, this isn’t possible as a one-on-one activity. However, she does take the time with people to share the various ways the can bring wellness to their pets and their own lives with her products, in conjunction with a complete life change for them. That is a time consuming task. However, in the end, both Kim’s customers and her business benefit 100 fold from the time that she spent.

Simply put, you cannot afford to not spend time with your customers.

Similar to our service based business owner counterparts, time is a valuable commodity. We must take time, though, to build relationships with our customers and potential customers. While an individual customer may not need your products today, a well developed relationship with a potential customer (in the form of giving them time well spent) will keep your business name in their memory for when the occasion arises that they do need your product.

Virtual Reality

Both Kim and Dee have products that appeal to the senses. Dee’s expertly handcrafted, delicate fine jewelry and masterfully created leather journals are a feast for the senses. In person, a customer can touch the ultra polished, extra smooth silver, allowing their eyes to enjoy the shine and glimmer of the bling bling, that is a piece of fine jewelry, or take in the wonderful warm smell of leather, while appreciating the feel of the grain with their hands, the beauty of the hand binding with their eyes. In the same way, Kim can merely open a bottle of oil and her customers can bask in the aroma, the feel, the quality, while listening to Kim explain the benefits of that particular oil – a total feast for the senses.

In the virtual world, we must constructively adapt to be able to give our customers that feast of the senses. While the technology isn’t there for “scratch-n-sniff” websites, there are technologies that you can offer – on top of a description that beautiful portrays the customer’s experience with that product.

1. Audio – you can add audio to your website, describing your products, leading your customers on a virtual tour of your store, or simply giving your customers a “taste” of your products via customer testimonials. One caveat here, though, only use audio that is relevant to your business. “Cutesy” music that begins as soon as someone pops into your web store will have most customers leaving faster than they stepped in.

2. Video – You can give product demonstrations, 360-degree product views, or create a video of you expertly creating that product. The point of video is to bring your customers in, and get them involved with you and your products. The video should enhance the product images you have (not replace them!), and should add to your customer experience, rather than distracting them.

Show me the Money!

So, you have perfect product images, creative, professionally written product descriptions, you are prepared to spend time with your customers, and you are making use of audio and video to appeal to their senses. But, you still aren’t making a profit. What’s happening?

One of the biggest challenges a tangible product based business owner faces is pricing concerns. Like your service business counterparts, you must put a price on your time – particularly if you are creating a product to sell. You also must consider “overhead” (storage space, utilities, employees, etc), just like your service business counterparts. But, you also must consider things like the cost of shipping & shipping supplies, and the cost of your product or raw materials. This seems like it should be common sense. However, the death of many product businesses has been due to grossly underestimating the actual cost of products.

You must account for every single piece of material that you put into your product, and price accordingly. There are some popular mark up plans available online, however, to use those most effectively, you must actually sit down and figure your exact cost. Otherwise, you run the risk of underestimating your costs, and therefore under charging for your products.

As real product based business owners in the virtual world, both of us understand that there are many hurdles to leap over, and often times, different hurdles than our service based business counterparts. However, both of us strongly believe that, even in the virtual marketplace, a real product business can thrive – exceeding the growth and profitability of product business in brick and mortar stores. It simply begins by marketing your real product in the virtual marketplace with the above 5 tips in mind.

About the Authors: Dee Kreidel is a Christian who has been deeply blessed through motherhood, entrepreneurship, single living, and even through chronic illness lupus). She is a single mother to three, author, speaker, and business owner. Visit her web site Faith Minders to find intricate handcrafted Christian jewelry and handcrafted leatherprayer and writing journals and accessories. Also, make sure to visit Ms. Kreidels Quikonnex channel, In the Spirit of Grace

Kim Bloomer is a natural pet care educator helping pet owners learn to care for their pets through natural, holistic means.Disease prevention is her goal to help pet owners lower their pet care costs and extend the lives of their pets. Visit her website Aspenbloom Pet Care and her dogs blog on natural pet care from a canine perspective Bark N Blog Look for our elegant dog gear jv coming in Aug.

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This Entrepreneurship article was written by Kim Bloomer and Dee Kreidel on 8/19/2005

It can be a challenge to market real/tangible products in the virtual world. And, it’s certainly much different than marketing services or virtual products. We have put together a quick tip list that