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Articles - Internet Marketing

Your Total, Effective Online Marketing Plan

Author: David Gikandi

Everyone is looking for that magic formula that will propel his or her web site to phenomenal success. Sooner or later, most people give up their search for this mythical online marketing secret and accept a mediocre level of online business performance that they know deep in their hearts is not what it should be. But a few people discover the secret. As you now will.

The secret is that there is no super-duper secret method of marketing that will get you all the success you dreamt of. But there is a formula which when done in totality, without taking any shortcuts, will multiply your online business success many times over whatever it is now. The ingredients of that formula consist of very basic and low-cost tasks that I am sure you have heard of before but ignored or applied partially, as most people do. The 'secret' is that you have to apply all the methods correctly and in totality. And you should spend 80% of your daily work time doing this (or get someone to spend 80% of their time doing this for you). This article might disappoint you initially because it pretty much talks about what you have heard before, but please read through it and you will be glad you did. It shows you the right way to use that 'old' knowledge for great results. These results may not instantaneously come crashing through in a few short days, but they will solidly build over a few weeks and months to create a large stable and permanent success base.

Before we look at the methods, let us briefly take a look at some items or tools you need to gather for use. You need a collection of:

1. Signature files - these are simple text files, the electronic equivalent of your business card and should be no longer than 8 lines long. They carry your contact details and a quick intro to your business. Make a few different ones and append one at the end of your outgoing emails and postings. You can also use them to track the source of inquiries resulting from your postings and emails.

2. Blurbs - short one-paragraph text pieces about your business or related topic that you can post or paste to emails when required.

3. Reports - these are the longer version of blurbs, detailing your business or any other related topic. Post these to selected places on the Internet and provide them whenever required.

4. Newsletters - for a wide variety of reasons, it is very important that you start your own newsletter and work at getting subscriptions. There is a lot of information on the internet about how you can start, grow and manage a newsletter so I wont get into it. The only idea I would like to give you is this: actively ask your current subscribers to forward your newsletter to their friends. Offer a free gift that has true value to those who forward the newsletter to 20 friends. That will get you amazing growth in newsletter subscriptions and sales!

5. Banners - make sure you have professional quality banners of different sizes. My favorite place to get custom professional banners at an affordable price is www.buyabanner.com.

6. Press Releases - create professional press releases for everything about your web site, from new product announcements to site changes. Post them in appropriate places on the Internet and to press release services.

7. FAQs -
Frequently Asked Questions files. Create a few of these about your industry or any other related topic. Make them in a question-and-answer format and post them in appropriate newsgroups and email them when necessary. They should not be blatant advertising of your products but they should have your signature file at the bottom and maybe a 'Created By...' line at the top to get you the recognition. A well-done FAQ can find itself copied all over the web and referred to by thousands!

8. Autoresponders - if appropriate for your business, it can be a great idea to get a powerful autoresponder that will be able to read incoming email and automatically and instantly send out information files and answers that are appropriate to the query. That way you can manage thousands of email inquiries on time without any effort. Find one at http://www.web-source.net/.

9. Articles - write a few good articles every so often that are related to your industry. Contribute these for free publication in various ezines and web sites (make a list of a few hundred sites and newsletters that can take your article). This is one of the most effective tools in your arsenal as it reaches thousands at one go, grabbing their attention for extended periods of time. The article should not be blatantly marketing your business, but at the end of it you should have your signature.

Now let us look at the methods that build success. Basically it works this way: apply the above tools to each of these methods frequently, daily where possible. It's that simple, but remember the key point here - frequently, all the methods, daily where possible. All the statistics below are taken from the GVU WWW User Survey of October 1998 ( http://www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/user_surveys/survey-1998-10/ ).

Incoming links 88.3% of people find new sites through links on other sites. The smart way to approach this is to start a good affiliate program that pays a commission to people linking to your site for sales, leads or clicks. I highly recommend that you get any of these three affiliate program management companies to run yours: LinkShare.com, BeFree.com or CommissionJunction.com. These are the leading ones, with Link Share being the biggest and most well known and CJ being the most affordable but significantly smaller. The advantage of going with Link Share, for example, is that your total affiliate program will be run by them including check writing and reporting. You will get immediate exposure to over 1 million affiliates who use them, many of them immediately starting to promote you, and people will believe in your affiliate program because of the reputation Link Share carries. So with your affiliate program in place you can now contact the webmasters and site owners of heavily trafficked sites in your industry - resource sites, sites selling complimentary products, directories, newsletters, clients, even competitors - you would be surprised at what you can get! Offer them a special affiliate commission package (with Link Share you can customize your commission rates). Give them banners and promotional text. Maybe even offer a small discount to their clients - that will help them promote your products. Make a contact list of as many sites as you can daily and contact them and follow them up until you get the deal done. Start with a few hundred. All they would have to do is recommend your products or site to their customer base by placing your links, banners and reviews on their site and newsletter or mailing list. It is a very easy job for them, but one that will earn them a guaranteed commission of 10 - 20% through an affiliate program that they can trust. Considering that some sites have mailing or customer lists in the tens or hundreds of thousands, plus online visitors, this will work very well. Again, use your tools here to the maximum effect. 

Search engine and directory positions 84.8% of people find new sites through links on other sites, but in terms of sheer numbers, this is the leading provider of traffic to most sites. Note that it says 'position'. A listing on a search engine or directory doesn't count for much, unless it is positioned well in the eyes of search engine users. Otherwise a search engine listing just gets lost among the millions of other pages on the engines. Only the top 10 to 30 links returned for any given search count - the rest is almost always ignored. Positioning is the easiest and most affordable yet most evasive and misunderstood method you can use. There is a lot to learn about this, especially if you want to do it manually. But lately there a few good software packages you can use to avoid the hassle and get positioned well quickly and safely. For most sites, the search engine traffic makes or breaks their success and it is very important to know how to work well with them. Using software tools, you should  be spending some time every day tracking, improving and managing your positions.

Friends 64.7% of people find new web sites through friends. On your site, make it easy for people to recommend your site, product, page, special offer, or article to their friends. Add some scripts that make it a one-step process at any page for the visitor to enter their friends email addresses and send a  quick but effective recommendation. Make a nice letter that will go out with the recommendation. If you want advanced features in your recommendation feature, use a customized CGI script. To get many more recommendations, offer the person making the recommendation a chance to win something for his or her effort. You can use www.recommend-it.com or find a script at www.cgi-resources.com. This is probably the only method that doesn't require your daily or frequent review and attention. 

Printed Media 62.6% of people find new sites commonly through the print media - advertising, press clips, articles, whatever. Identify magazines, newsletters and journals around the world that could have an appropriate audience. Then give them your articles, reports, blurbs, etc. build a database of journalists that you contribute these items to. Send out press releases to publications and writers. Use a press release firm for best effect. Again, this is a method you should be doing something about very frequently. If you have the budget, you can also do display and classified ads where appropriate.

Newsletters and Mailing Lists These are really underrated, yet so effective. What you need to do is find as many lists and newsletters as possible that are related to your business. Yes, that will get you a lot of email every day but it is worth it. Read the postings and respond to them when you can, preferably daily, using your blurbs, signatures, FAQs and articles. Many lists have thousands of subscribers and by becoming an active contributor to a number of them you will be getting exposure to thousands of focused prospects for free - very powerful yet underrated. Make sure you do not become overtly commercial in your postings - just let your signature do the work of directing the reader to you for business. Your actual posting should be a helpful bit of information, not advertising. You can find lists at http://tile.net/ and Yahoo.com's categories.

Newsgroups and Forums Newsgroups are under-estimated by most. Yet over 20% of Internet users use them at least once a week. Forums are like newsgroups, the most popular being the forums on AOL and CompuServe. Subscribe to all the newsgroups and forums that are related to your industry. You can find them at http://tile.net/, and by joining AOL and CompuServe. Read new messages regularly, daily when possible, and reply to them using your arsenal of signatures, blurbs, reports and FAQs. Just don't be overtly commercial in your postings.

Other Things You Can Do There are obviously many other ways you can promote your online business. You can learn a lot of tricks by visiting successful sites and seeing what little gimmicks and techniques they are using and copying them. Depending on your budget, industry and audience, you can get into banner advertising, offline advertising, promotions and contests, coupons, selling through auction sites like eBay, classified ads on AOL and CompuServe, sponsorships, and much more. You might want to buy some good books at Amazon.com on online marketing for a thorough look at many of these techniques.

The Bottom Line The Internet is a complex place and concentrating on just one marketing idea will not get you any long term, huge gains. Your best bet is to follow the time-proven strategies we have talked about in their totality, daily. And this marketing should consume 80% of your daily work time (or get someone to spend 80% of their time marketing for you). I guarantee you that if you spend this time daily enjoying yourself as you get into the things we have talked about, your traffic and online success will grow to amazing proportions! It is a time-proven 'secret' success formula.

 

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