8 Ways to Get Results from Your Web Site
by Al Bredenberg
Not long ago I exchanged messages in an online forum with the owner of a New York City art shop who had set up a World-Wide Web site. He was hoping to generate online sales for some beautiful fine art posters. However, he was upset at the lack of response from the online world. In other words, no sales. He had obviously invested much time, money, and most of all hope in his Web marketing effort.
I also met up with a Houston building contractor who had created up a World-Wide Web directory to list contractors and construction vendors all over the U.S. This man also was disappointed (downright bitter, actually) because very few advertisers had signed up for his service. Before long, he had pulled his service off the Web.
Both of these business people, and others I've conversed with and read about in the media, complained loudly about the Web as a marketing medium. Nobody can find you. It's just a big jumble. Nobody's buying anything. It's not worth it.
But you and I are not quick to jump to conclusions. We're convinced that the World-Wide Web has great potential for businesses and organizations of all sizes. We are patient and methodical and careful about how we invest our money, time, and hopes. When exploring a new medium, we are realistic. We take the time to do the research and planning necessary for success in any new venture.
(Except, of course, for the wild-eyed mavericks among us, who love to go charging into uncharted territory and don't mind falling on their faces much of the time. More power to you!)
I've studied and researched online marketing from the point of view of a direct marketing copywriter and small business marketer. Early in 1995, I set up a World-Wide Web site as a means to promote my services as a copywriter and Internet marketing consultant.
As a result of this and other online efforts, I've gained a number of lucrative copywriting and Web development assignments. Recently, I began using the site to advertise my new electronic book, "The Small Business Guide to Internet Marketing." In just seven months my book has been bought direct from me by business people in 18 countries all over the world.
I'd like to share eight Web marketing strategies I've picked up from my studies, from discussions with other Web marketers, and from my own efforts.
1. Make your World-Wide Web effort part of an overall marketing plan.
It's basic business practice to create a marketing plan. Depending on the size and nature of your business, your marketing plan may be a complex multi-volume epic or as simple as "Uh-oh, I gotta remember to renew my classified in the Weekly Shopper!" I think any business will benefit from a written plan, especially if you're going to launch a World-Wide Web effort.
If you don't know anything about marketing plans, do some reading. You can find books on the subject at the book store or library, and business magazines frequently publish articles about it. As you work up a plan, think about each phase -- market research, competitive analysis, promotion planning -- in terms of the unique World-Wide Web environment.
2. Don't abandon conventional advertising.
Don't cut back on successful conventional advertising to go on the Web. The benefits of direct mail, print ads, and other media are measurable. You might want to think of your Web venture as a test. Or as a long-term effort that may or may not pay off. Don't bet the bank on it until you're sure of the results. Monitor the costs and benefits.
3. Don't build your Web site in a vacuum.
Your Web site should be tied into the overall marketing effort of the organization. Don't just leave it up to your technical staff. The Web is a communication medium, so marketing staff should be involved.
Figure out procedures for:
channeling content to the site
responding to e-mail inquiries and orders originating from the site
integrating Web orders into your regular fulfillment procedures
and similar tasks
Think it all out.
4. Provide useful content.
"Useful content" includes thorough information about your services and products. But you can also serve your potential customers by providing resources and background material related to your industry. This positions your company as an industry expert, draws users to your site, and helps you gain visibility.
5. Get help if you need it.
Web technology is developing fast. To learn some HTML can be useful and can be fun, but full-time designers can keep up with new standards, features, and programming tricks. You might do well to focus on your overall strategy and on promoting your site, while outsourcing the more technical tasks.
6. Make sure your Web site's design fits the marketing purpose.
Even if you farm out much of the development of your site, you need to stay aware and exercise control over the overall concept and presentation. Remember that your site is created to play a role in a marketing program, not to serve as a creative outlet for anyone.
Most good business Web sites are content-driven. They don't have to be boring, but design features should enhance the marketing message, not make it confusing or hard to read.
7. Promote visibility through offline channels.
Advertise your URL in all your conventional promotions -- company stationery, business cards, print ads, mailings, signs, packaging, invoices, TV commercials, whatever you can think of. Publicize your site with press releases. When I released my "Small Business Guide to Internet Marketing," I sent out press releases to area newspapers. Within a month, I was featured in four newspaper articles, which resulted in book sales and speaking engagements.
8. Devote online time to building a community.
Appoint someone in your company to be your "Internet Ambassador" or "Designated Schmoozer." Even if you're a one-person company, spend some time online regularly (every day, if possible) communicating by e-mail, participating in forums and newsgroups, exploring relevant World-Wide Web sites, and building relationships and linkages with other companies.
These are a few key strategies I've been using to sell my book and develop my consulting and creative services business. Adapt them to your own circumstances, and you're sure to see greater "Net results"!
More how-to guidance for Net marketing is available in The Small Business Guide to Internet Marketing -- an electronic book you can order from Al Bredenberg Business Reports.
Al Bredenberg is a writer and creative consultant. He is the author of "The Small Business Guide to Internet Marketing," an electronic book. To get in touch, send e-mail to Al Bredenberg or visit his World-Wide Web site at http://www.copywriter.com.
This article and others in the "Net Results" series are available for republishing in print or online media. For rates and permissions, contact Al Bredenberg.
Al Bredenberg is publisher of the Email List Source [http://www.copywriter.com/lists/], the free Web directory of permission-based email lists for advertisers.
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