So you’ve finished building a great website and you’re ready to start raking in the profits – if you can figure out how to let the world know your business exists. Although creating an attractive website is an important first step if you plan to start your own online business, it is definitely not the last. In fact, once the website is complete you’ve still got quite a lot of work on the horizon.
Just because you have a website up and running, it doesn’t mean people will automatically know where to find you. And yet, surprisingly, many first-time web entrepreneurs drop the ball at this point in the game. They assume customers will find them amongst all the other sites floating around in cyberspace, as if through some kind of psychic connection. But if you think about it, this type of thinking is very misguided.
It is the same with any business: Customers won’t start flocking to your store unless you invest some time and money into advertising. Depending on your budget, you can either blast the trumpet really loud or toot the horn a little bit at a time. But in the end, you have to make some kind of noise in order to be heard.
But how do you achieve this in the vacuum of cyberspace? Or perhaps more fittingly, how do you make yourself heard amidst a crowd of other aspiring musicians all trumpeting their own cause? Obviously, online marketing is different from marketing a bricks-and-mortar business, so it’s important to know exactly where to begin. If you take the proper steps you will be attracting interested customers in no time.
The first step is to know your customer, inside and out. This is key if you want to be successful in your marketing strategy because you can’t market to potential customers if you don’t know who they are. For someone selling baked goods, targeting the “Carb-Haters of America” might not result in the profits you are anticipating.
Next, determine where you want to market your product. The Internet allows every new or expanding business the opportunity to reach a global market, but not every business is aiming for that goal. If your website is set up as one arm of your existing offline business, you might wish to target potential customers in your local area who also want the option of online shopping. In this case, integrate your website into promotional materials for your store so people will learn about the new branch of your business. Essentially, the efforts you make to promote your business outside of the Internet can be used to get your web address out there as well.
But of course, most people who begin an online venture are looking to broaden their customer base and attract a global clientele. There are several ways to start advertising online. Just remember: online marketing is always changing, and nothing works perfectly for every business. You might have to tailor a marketing plan to suit your company’s specific goals, or if Internet marketing makes your head spin, you also have the option of hiring a company to do the marketing for you.
Step one: register with search engines. Unfortunately, this doesn’t guarantee hits to your site, and the promises many search engines make are usually more pie-in-the-sky than realistic, but it is still a necessary evil. If you have to choose, register with Yahoo! and Google, as the highest percentage of web traffic originates from these two giants. In the past, achieving top search results could be done for free; now you have to shell out some cash if you want to get top placement and advertising space. Yahoo! Express and Google’s Adwords program are two examples of this type of paid search engine placement.
Another way to get noticed is to participate in a link exchange. Simply put, this involves seeking out other websites that are related to your company or product in some way and asking the owner if he/she will post your link on the site. If the owner agrees, you offer to post their link on your site, hence the term “link exchange.” This is a good way to start advertising your site because it involves targeting the right kind of people (someone visiting a site already related to your business) and forming solid bonds with other websites. And the more links other sites have to your site, the more popular you become with the search engines, without having to pay for top placement.
Finally, don’t sit back and wait for customers to come to you. Be proactive and go directly to your clientele. Of course, this means you must know where to find them, but this sounds harder than it actually is.
For instance, many new businesses actually use eBay to source potential customers. It depends on what you’re selling, but if you know a lot of people looking for your product spend a good amount of time making eBay purchases, that might be a good place to begin and get your name out in public. Use eBay as a marketing tool – sell a few items for very low prices, get people on your email list and invite them to consider future purchases from your website. EBay is more than a place to sell goods; it can be used as a highly effective marketing tool.
Or, as mentioned above, make business connections with people in a related business. Pay to have banner ads displayed on other websites to help spread the word about your business. This will bring you closer to the people who make up your target market.
This is just the beginning when it comes to online marketing, but if you start off on the right foot and persevere, you will succeed.