Hartford, Connecticut-based Coastal Tool and Supply first went online in 1995, offering over 500 power tools. The company did $180,000 in business in 1996. Last year, that number soared to $1.2 million. To what do they attribute this success?
Todd Mogren, director of Internet marketing with Coastal, attributes the initial success to search engine exposure. “We were the only ones there” selling power tools, he states. Today, less of their online sales success comes from search engines. And only recently did they begin buying banners to advertise the Web site.
What lessons can be learned from Coastal’s success? Mogren’s experience provides some key tips:
– Be early. Coastal was one of the first in their industry to have an online presence. That definitely helped get sales going. Getting online before your competitors is a clear advantage.
– Keep costs low. Coastal uses Perl$hop, a free shopping cart program. You don’t need something with all the bells and whistles that may cost you more than you should pay.
– Pick a niche that correlates with current Internet use. “Woodworkers love the Internet,” says Mogren. “I don’t know why, but they do.” Look for hobbyists, technology users, collectors and other categories of people who are on the Internet.
– Tailor your online sales to other small businesses. Business-to- business selling is the future of e-commerce. Mogren saw his sales migrate in this direction. “We began selling to individuals. Lots of our growth today is coming from businesses, including IBM, UCLA and Ford.”