The internet is an extremely over-hyped area of opportunity but there are several tested, proven, practical and almost universally valuable uses mentioned in this article.
To begin, you need to create a website for your business, not so much as a means of acquiring customers via cyberspace, but a customer service, education, and information center. For example, your website could offer answers to all the commonly asked questions, diagrams, etc. accessible free, 24 hours a day. You could even make a portion of your site “access restricted,” for customers, clients, subscribers, or “members” only, adding mystique to your marketing, and adding perceived value for your clientele!
This technique would work whether you have a brick and mortar or internet based business. For example, a restaurant could do this with “secret recipes” and special VIP offers; a clothing retailer with etiquette and fashion tips and special offers, and so on. Of course, you’ll also want a promotional area on your website designed for new customers and you’ll then want to add your website address to video brochures, audio recordings and infomercials for your advertising and marketing materials.
Second, begin collecting and organizing the email addresses of your customers and collecting the email address of visitors to your site.
With the list, you can do virtually free, push button marketing anytime you like, as often as you like. You can send out an email newsletter to your customers, or other information like tip sheets.
Let’s say you have a rather ordinary business; kitchen and bath business, for example. Here are a few of the things you might transmit by email to your customer list:
1. Resources to upgrade your countertops to granite or marble
2. Cabinet grade tips and suggestions
3. Special offers for new plumbing fixtures
4. Tips on determining the grade of cabinet materials
5. New product information
Keep in mind, regardless of your business or product you can use the above techniques for creating and marketing your website and business.
Third, in seeking publicity from the media, being able to fax, email or mail very brief, provocative news releases that refer the recipients to your website for more information is very useful.
Everybody in the media is online. And, some are lazy, so if they can research a story without leaving their chair, believe me, that’s the way they’re going to do it. If you go the route of writing articles for publication in your industry journals or article forums, you can even post a whole collection of them on your site, and invite any publication to download and use whatever they like.
In summary of my advice to most business owners about the internet: do Not be seduced, do Not buy into the hype and expect miracles or invest inordinate amounts of time or money. Do Not let the internet take away from your commitment to more reliable, predictable, results-measurable advertising and marketing media. But DO get involved. At whatever pace is comfortable for you, begin learning about the internet, getting your business on the Net, and experimenting with practical applications like those just described. Proceed calmly, deliberately, strategically.
Above all else, Just Do It!