of the Internet is exploding. By current estimates, there
are more than 40 million users worldwide, growing at
a rate of approximately 10 percent per month. At that
rate, there will be over 100 million users in less than
a year! This is an adoption rate unmatched since the
growth of television in the early 50's. The Internet
and the World Wide Web are redefining the ways in which
companies do business and market themselves. They are
leveling the playing field, removing the barriers to
entry and making it possible for even one-person businesses
to compete successfully with large companies. The most
powerful and compelling benefits to using the Internet
Accessibility: Worldwide access, any hour of
the day, any day of the week.
Flexibility: Unlike paper or more common forms
of electronic media, such as television or
radio, the Internet allows for instant, inexpensive
Space: Although there is a cost associated
with how much information is on your Web site
, the Internet allows you to have volumes of
information in almost limitless variations.
While this new frontier is exciting, it can also be frightening.
Using the Web effectively requires a whole new way of thinking
and a different set of skills than traditional business
and marketing models. Web site content must be designed
for interactivity; you can't just scan in existing paper
materials. Because the medium is so new, everyone is in
a steep learning curve, trying to figure out what works
and what doesn't. But customer expectations are changing,
and businesses can't afford to sit back and wait to figure it out. We're
all experimenting and evolving rapidly. This article will
help you get your online marketing efforts off to a successful
start. Marketing on the Internet - Setting The Objective
If you don't know where you're trying to get to, then any
road will take you there. In order to understand how to
market your business on the Internet, you must first determine
what you are trying to accomplish online. There are three
main categories of objectives that a business might set
for their Web site. Note that, while well-thought-out sites
can accomplish more than one goal, each type of objective
requires a somewhat different approach.
Company: You might want a slightly enhanced version
of a Yellow Pages ad -- address, phone, fax,
hours, specialties, etc.
Sales and Support: This could include detailed
information on the type of products you supply
or services you provide. If you were a coin dealer
you might use a Web site to list your inventory.
An oil company might want to describe types of
maintenance contracts provided, and a landscaper
could provide detailed lawn care plans.
Variable: One of the most compelling benefits
of the Web is that content can be changed easily.
Your Web site could post nightly or weekly specials.
Restaurants, local hardware stores, travel agents
and retailers can greatly benefit from this type
of information posted on a Web site. Realtors can
show their newest listings along with exterior
and interior photos.
Your Web site can make
it easier for your customers to do business with you. You
can allow customers to send in orders electronically 24 hours
a day, seven days a week. Although fax orders also provide
this capability, it is much more convenient for customers
to be able to look at the product information they need for
a buying decision, and then to order right then and there
with just a few more mouse clicks. That convenience
can be a very powerful competitive advantage.
Here are some examples of how different types of small businesses
can use the Internet to enhance sales:
Florists can display photos of special occasion arrangements
on their Web sites and allow customers to order
Restaurants can place corporate take-out menus on a Web
site to encourage office workers to place larger orders
for pick-up or delivery. This is much better than phone
or fax, for two reasons. First, it allows the person ordering
to send the order any time without getting a busy signal, etc.;
and second, a restaurant can post the entire menu along
with specials, saving valuable time on both ends!
Bakeries can show different style cakes for special occasions
and take orders right there on the Internet.
A third objective you could
have for your Web site is to gain valuable market
data about your customers or potential customers. Smart
businesses will use this data to market to those
customers and prospects more effectively through more
conventional mediums such as direct mail, circulars,
radio ads, newspaper, etc., as well as through new,
There are several keys to using your site to get this
type of information:
Don't make it difficult for the person supplying
Don't make the process too intrusive.
Always remember, "you can't get something for nothing." If
you want the user to provide
you with some type of personal information,
you need to give them something in exchange.
You can get very creative here, however,
and offer a variety of incentives. For example,
you can have a contest with all respondents,
awarding the winner a gift certificate
for your company's product or service, or
you can offer each respondent a discount on
a future purchase from your company.
Some businesses that can use this approach are:
Travel agents - get a profile of a potential customer
so that you can inform
them of special airfares or cruises that will probably
Realtors - What better way to sell a house than
to match up a buyer with the house of his or
her dreams as soon as it hits the market.
Furniture stores, pet groomers, automobile dealers,
antique dealers, financial planners,
insurance agents, chimney sweeps--the opportunities
are limited only by your time and imagination.
There are many ways in which small businesses can use the Internet
to find, attract and keep customers. Just like any other marketing
medium, the people who figure out how to use it to their advantage
tend to grow a lot faster than those who don't. The Internet has
a unique advantage over many of the more traditional media, but it
is also very new and changing rapidly. The time to learn and understand
it is now.
now before you put it off any longer. Your clients are already using
the internet for email
to find the products and services they need. Why not use this
to your advantage?