A Web Site is a Part of the Whole
As part of a sound marketing plan, the Internet can be a powerful, cost-effective tool for target marketing, one-to-one relationship building and increased sales opportunities.
To market online or not - that is the question. Studies introduce that there are a billion people online globally. Could some of these individuals be customers for your products or services? The answer to this question begins with the traditional principles of sound marketing - know who your present customers are and why they buy from you. As part of a sound business plan and marketing strategy, the Internet can be a powerful, cost-effective tool for target marketing, one-to-one relationship building and increased sales opportunities.
Once you have decided that an online marketing campaign makes sense for your business, developing a company website is the most common starting place. Building from this base, e-mail marketing, e-mail discussion lists, newsgroup sponsoring, chat lines, multi-site links, banner ads, contest offerings, electronic newsletters, and co-op are further examples of online marketing opportunities. When planning your initial website, there are a few key questions to ask. Do you intend to use the site to sell a product or service? Do you want to collect qualified leads? Will it be a tool for communicating with employees, suppliers or other marketing channels as well as potential customers? The answers to each of these questions will determine the level of complexity of the site and also relate to levels of cost. Generally, the more purposes you are trying to serve, the greater will be the cost. For most first time small business online marketers, a basic website that contains straight text, a few graphics and e-mail response capabilities is a good place to start, but it is not where you want to stop because the web offers so much more to support attaining business objectives.
You can develop the web site yourself, hire someone else to do it for you, or tap a range of online web design tools. If you are doing this yourself, programs such as Microsoft FrontPage™, Adobe PageMill™ and others, help make this task possible. Outside web development services can average around $100 to $150 per web page. E-commerce, database and other web marketing features represent additional cost and can be added at any time. When considering an outside developer, select one with the most experience and best success record in providing the type of web site functionality you seek. Don't hesitate to ask for examples and references.
Whether you choose to have the site built externally or internally, understanding the nature of one-to-one marketing and having an overall marketing strategy are essential prerequisites for success. The ultimate goal is to have the site generate business. Therefore, it must be well organized, attract repeat visits and motivate a desired response. The two basic building blocks are graphics and content. Graphics help to make a site more visually appealing yet should not be so complex that they slow down the site's access speed while loading. Site content must give users a reason to want to visit your site often. This is most commonly achieved by providing free, unbiased, quality information about your company's area of expertise. One of the most successful websites, Amazon.com™, , sees itself in the business of providing information about books, not in selling books. By providing interesting and quality information, they sell a lot of books!
Registering with search engines and directories is the most common starting place for marketing the existence of your site on the Internet. Approximately 70% of web page "hits" come from these sources. Websites may be registered directly with individual companies, such as Google, Alta Vista, Lycos, HotBot, Excite, WebCrawler, and Yahoo, or by using a submission service such as All4one Submission Machine, Easy Submit, and Submit-It. Submit-It charges under $100 for approximately 400 registrations and The PostMaster charges over $200. The difference in pricing reflects the quality of target registrations and ability to tailor submissions. Other online approaches for attracting visitors to your site include links, press releases, banner advertisements, newsgroups, chat lines, mail discussion lists and other site sponsorships. Traditional promotion vehicles include posting your URL (website address) on all marketing collateral, T-shirts, radio and other advertising medium as well as issuing press releases.
Before registering, you can increase the likelihood that visitors will find you when they search the web (surf) by providing specific keywords or phrases. You must determine what the correct keywords and phrases are, and then have them placed within the header code of your web page. There are three sections in the web page code that serve this purpose, the Page Title, Keywords, and Page Description. The Page Title is what visitors will see when the search engine finds your page. Therefore, you want the title to motivate visitors to want to click on it. Keywords are the types of words you believe visitors will use to find you. Here, identify 25 to 50 keywords that you feel are appropriate, without repeating any word more than three times. The Page Description can be around 150 to 200 characters and does not need to include the same words used in the page title. Some search engines use the first 200 words of text to identify your page, so try to also utilize the most important of your keywords at the top of the actual web page copy.
Selecting an Internet Service Provider (ISP), such as ValueWeb.com is the final key step toward having a successful online marketing presence. There are thousands of ISP's nationwide offering global, national, regional and local services. Selection criteria include pricing, access speed, ease of service set-up, tech support availability and knowledge, dial-up access capabilities, local calling access, and reporting capabilities. Additional key considerations are overall reliability (do they have back-up systems), capacity (are lines frequently busy when trying to connect), and reputation (ask for references, what types of other web sites do they support). Counting overall site hits along with which page visitors go to and where visitors come from are examples of valuable quantitative data that an ISP can provide. Profiles on many ISP's can be found online by searching Tile.Net/Internet References, ISP-Planet , and the Top 10 Web ISP List . Newsgroups, such as Google Groups , are also valuable sources of unbiased information about ISP's.
In summary, having an online presence today can represent a valuable, cost-effective marketing opportunity for building customer relationships and increasing sales. However, this can only be effective as a part of your overall business development and marketing strategy. Understanding the pro's and con's of one-to-one marketing, and applying the basic rules of traditional marketing will help to make your web presence a long term asset in your overall business strategy.