|Those are the ones with sharp looking sites that you say, "Wow! Great content, enjoyable, and/or I bookmarked it". |
However, it would not surprise me that the majority of internet business veterans and novices do not fully comprehend the significance of approaching the development of a web site for their business the same way. I did not say spend the same amount of money. Just apply the same methods.
Why? Simply put, it is all about marketing! A web site should represent the essence of a business. And it must convey and present more than what a business offers outside of the Internet. Let me elaborate.
FREE CONTENT A VALUABLE FEATURE
The majority of a commercial site's content should be free, especially a small business site. Most small businesses and "unknown" larger businesses should address 10% of a site towards revenue generation with a few exceptions like catalog and other similar shopping Internet sites.
A site must be developed with getting "the message" to the targeted visitor(s)/audience. It includes both the free and revenue part of the site. The free information must be interesting and have value, because it could lead to even more revenue generation due to the referral factor and/or being touted by various online media and award sites (sweet, free publicity). The free part(s) need to complement the revenue part and should include direct worthwhile information related to the services and/or products offered.
I am talking about one or more micro sites (sub-sites) with specific free useful content. Lets take my marketing and business consulting company, FOCUS Associates, as an example. While specializing in small and medium-sized businesses, FOCUS Associates does not have the financial resources necessary to develop significant online name and service awareness through advertising and other direct marketing activities. (As a consulting business that depends on referrals, the return on investment is suspect even with the financial resources.)
So I utilize selective online marketing approaches in conjunction with offering several micro sites that are now receiving good exposure with traffic steadily increasing. They are major contributors to the target audience visiting FOCUS Associates revenue generating services section, which also offers over 20 pages of free and useful information. Even the service section has received its share of accolades.
FOCUS Associates free micro sites include: (1) a unique search section covering 10 categories, including business, career, international, and medical. There are over 200 search engines/resources (46 on site) with its most popular category being AWARD SITES (200 of the best awards with graphic links and a short description); (2) the FOCUS MARKETING AWARD that is presented to commercial sites that exhibit excellent marketing presentation along with solid design and content; and, (3) a links section with 75 categories that respective sites can add a two line description or banner. Of course, there are reminders about FOCUS Associates corporate and AWARD SITES banners for reciprocal link purposes.
Think about some of the small and medium-sized company sites that you have visited and really made an impression on you beyond their revenue part. These may be the reasons that initially brought you to the site, and eventually led you to purchase and/or will entice you back. If you did not purchase the first time, there is a chance you or someone that you told about a given site may on a subsequent visit.
There are other excellent sites that you can visit to see how free content is used to attract a large audience with the goal of also reaching its target audience. Here are a few with a part of what they offer for free:
Yes, these sites offer services, but they also understand the importance of marketing on the Internet. If you are an owner or marketing executive of a business that offers products, it would be wise to think about what else can be done to attract visitors that will include the target audience. Contests, sweepstakes, and cross-merchandising links are other free content tools that product-oriented sites can utilize.
PURPOSE AND FOCUS
Now, with all this said, the revenue aspects of a site must have purpose and focus with a well-written presentation. Otherwise, the impact of the intended message (if there is one to begin with) will be minimal or ignored. Synergy is very important. Each aspect of the site should contribute to marketing presentation.
The copy (written word) is critical. Grammar, spelling, and font size/style/color can ruin an otherwise well-designed site. Why spend money on excellent graphics and advertising, only to miss the target audience due to a badly written message. Spend the time and money to have a written message that grabs prospects interest, compels them to learn more, and along with "supporting" good graphics and easy navigation . . . answers the need or creates an impulse to purchase. This combination when working together is synergy and effective marketing presentation.
The next step is a well-conceived strategy for advertising. Of course, like I mentioned about FOCUS Associates, financial constraints for small businesses are limiting, but selective use can be rewarding.
Here are some approaches that even small businesses should be able to handle financially:
Free banner exchange services (worth trying to see if it works for your companys site)
Targeted direct e-mail (not spamming)
Sponsoring newsletters, awards, and/or discussion lists
Mention the web site with the URL and e-mail addresses on all offline collateral materials, P.O.S., advertising, and other marketing tools/efforts (a must!)
- Note: Banner advertising is a viable option with the right product(s) and/or service(s). A financial commitment is required. Use expert assistance.
And for those companies that have the financial resources, but do not have brand/name recognition it is spend money wisely - not miserly that can maximize web site revenues. There should be no excuses to market your companys site fully, if you are truly committed to maximizing business on the Internet.
Finally, utilize skilled professionals and/or consultants as necessary to accomplish your Internet business goals, especially in the evaluation and development of a web site from a marketing perspective. It is the best investment towards your companys web site you will make, because all the following efforts results will be impacted by this decision.
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Published by ClickZ Today . . . November 24, 1997