By Peter Andrew, Head of Innovation, Alba Innovation Centre

There’s no getting away from the fact that selling on the web widens your reach and a wide reach is particularly important for tech start-ups. It may be that your product has a global (as in a really wide market) appeal, in which case, with the right web strategy you should be able to make a killing; or it could be that it’s so niche that you need to cast a global (as in worldwide) net in order to have the chance of reaching out to sufficient people to make your business worthwhile. Either way, there are endless great reasons to sell online, so don’t let the thought intimidate you.

According to Bosch, by 2015, not only will 75% of the world’s population have access to the Internet, so will some six billion devices. It’s an accepted fact that people are buying online more and will continue to do so. However, there are certain behaviours associated with this habit, so getting your web strategy spot-on relies on knowing a bit about what works from a consumer or buyer’s perspective, because as a tech start-up you need to get the message right to convince people to buy, no matter how great your offering is.

People’s online behaviours are very specific and it’s generally accepted that most people don’t trust online advertising. Right now, people prefer to share experiences online, get information from people they know or imagine are like them; in other words, they trust their online ‘friends’. They also have a tendency to engage in two-way conversations when making their buying decisions. There is a very strong desire to belong online and belonging for many people comes from buying, owning and sharing ideas with others. The web is the perfect place to breed this buying frenzy around your product.

Add to this the fact that selling your technology on the web enables you sell direct without the cost of a reseller and it becomes clear that there really are great reasons to make the effort to get online. Not only will it allow you to reach out to those people seeking the solution you have to offer, but it will also allow you to create a whole persona around your brand. People love brands with stories and if you can create a story around your product or brand it definitely has more chance of getting noticed.

The Internet, and social media in particular, has enabled the global population to connect on an emotional level that would have been pretty much unimaginable only a decade or so ago. Everyone from CEOs to grannies are tweeting on twitter, linking on LinkedIn and sharing their life’s experiences on Facebook. What this means is that there’s a great opportunity for brands, big and small, to share in this opportunity to differentiate themselves by telling their story and becoming a personality in their own right. If you can create a story around your brand that is interesting and provocative for your target audience you’re almost sure to make your mark. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Having the courage to speak in the second person and almost intimately to your online visitors will help your engagement and ultimate conversion.

If you have a story to tell, have the guts to tell it online. In the current consumer climate, an authentic brand story will make you stand out in a crowd, it’ll breathe life into your brand and will give you the edge to make people want to be part of your story rather than part of your competitors’ story. It will help get you the market share that you’re after. Be brave, be energetic, be enlightened, be enthusiastic and your target market will soon buy into that if you get it right. In order to achieve this, you have to have a sound communication strategy and stick with it. There’s no point going out all bold and bolshy and then losing your bottle when you’re about to make your mark. This is why it’s essential that the values you associate with your brand are aligned with your personal values and beliefs, otherwise it’ll all tumble down around you.

Once you’re online and you’ve created your brand story, you might be interested in A/B testing. A/B testing on the web is a great way to improve your conversion rates once you’ve built up some traffic to your site. The idea is that it allows you to offer two web pages to site visitors, so they can choose the page they prefer. A/B testing is a great way to be more certain about what works and what doesn’t work online for your particular product or service. This type of testing lets your website visitors engage with your design and choose the page they prefer, enabling you to improve your online presence to (pretty much) perfection.

Peter Andrew is Head of Innovation at Alba Innovation Centre.
Alba is a technology business incubation centre, providing advice and support to early stage businesses, and is home to some of Scotland’s leading innovative tech companies.