This article is part of the "Net Results for Business" series, a syndicated column by Al Bredenberg.
Copyright 1996, Alfred R. Bredenberg
All rights reserved.
Contact: Send e-mail to Al Bredenberg
Can you make money on the Internet and the World-Wide Web? Certainly. Thousands of other small business people are making money and saving money right now in this new communications medium.
But if you want to set up shop on the Net, it's important for you to be just as professional, businesslike, and cautious as you would be in any other new venture. So I suggest taking time to get to know the Internet and to develop a strategy.
Here in this free report I'll clue you in on a few vital tips that will give you a good head start.
If you're already on the Net, you're way ahead of the pack. I've run into plenty of people who are gung ho to advertise on the Internet before they've even got their own account.
You need to know what you're getting into. Sure, you can hire someone to set up a Web site for you. Nothing wrong with that. But this is your business, and you should have a good feel for how it's being promoted. You know your business better than anyone else. Because of that, you're going to find dynamite ways to put the Internet to work -- ways that no consultant or presence provider could ever think of.
In most places, especially in the U.S. and Canada, you can get decent Internet access for about $25 a month. If by any chance you're reading this and you haven't already got an Internet account, here's my advice: Go do it. Join in some electronic discussion groups. Surf the World-Wide Web. Start communicating by e-mail. Don't wait. Do it now.
Internet users expect information.
So make sure your message is more than just hype. Add value. Be an information provider.
Participate in online discussion groups, and be helpful. If you have a World-Wide Web site, provide useful background information about your industry, your specialties, your areas of expertise. You will become known as an expert on the Internet, and others -- including potential customers -- will be drawn to you.
This won't help your business and will just get recipients angry. There are much better ways to market your product or service.
Electronic mail is different from postal mail. For one thing, sending out a conventional direct mail package costs you, the sender. But often your electronic mail message will cost the recipient money!
If you become a regular user of e-mail, you'll see how annoying it would be if your mailbox got filled up every day with e-mail advertising. There's nothing to be gained by this.
Newsgroups and e-mail discussion groups can be fertile fields for marketing. But watch out. Most groups don't tolerate commercial postings.
Instead of barging in to hype your product, be a real participant. Lurk and listen. Answer questions and offer help. Include a "signature" block at the end of your postings to let people know how to get in touch with you. You'll be surprised how often this will bring in leads from potential clients or customers.
People on the Internet expect fast response. I recommend checking your e-mail messages twice a day. Respond as quickly as possible. This shows that you're serious about your Internet presence and that you care.
I'm talking particularly about your World-Wide Web site, once you start setting one up. Because the Web allows graphical presentations, it's easy to get caught up in designing something you like -- but that does nothing to sell your product.
Make sure your site communicates and offers value to the user. Make sure it's readable and that it's easy to get around.
Your Web site doesn't have to be boring. You can be clever and you can be visual. But just remember this favorite advertising maxim: "If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative."
Repeat visitors are more likely to become clients or buyers, and they're more likely to recommend your site to others. To draw users back to your site, you need to keep it changing. Update your material. Take advantage of new technology as it appears. Add new features, new resources, new information.
I'm surprised how much poorly written copy I see on the Internet. Project a professional image by correct writing. Even if it's a lowly e-mail message, double-check it for typos or vague language.
What do you want the user to do after he or she has followed your presentation? Purchase a product? Request a proposal and price quotation? Join a mailing list? Ask for more information?
Let them know what you want them to do, and ask them to do it in clear, direct terms. Make it easy for them to respond. Set up a response mechanism -- a direct e-mail link, a form to fill out, a button to click. The more direct and immediate the better. A phone number, a fax number, or a postal mail address is a second choice but better than nothing.
Let your regular customers and the public know about your Internet presence. Put your e-mail address and URL on your business cards, stationery, ads, brochures, packaging, signage -- anything you can think of. Send out press releases. Get the word out.
Marketing over the Internet and the World-Wide Web can bring results in the form of leads, direct sales, publicity, and image-boosting. Get to know the medium. Work up a sound strategy. Seek out appropriate online marketing methods that will get your selling message across while respecting other Internet users.
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.
Copyright 1996, Alfred R. Bredenberg
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