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Marketing on the Web is not Just For the Big Boys

by Alf Nucifora

One of the most commonly asked Internet-related questions posed by most small businesses involves seeking and locating sound advice for developing a web strategy and the cost of doing same. As one would expect, there is much inconsistency in the quality of advice that one gets from the growing band of Internet hustlers. That same inconsistency applies to the cost of the advice or service. I've seen the development of websites of similar size, format and complexity vary in price by more than $50,000.

Enter the mix, an interesting new book entitled Internet Marketing for Less than $500/Year, by prolific author and master of creative Internet marketing, Marcia Yudkin. Currently, the moderator for ClickZ Network's online discussion forum for Internet marketers, Yudkin provides a common sense approach to the whole issue of exploiting the Internet as a marketing tool for small and home-based businesses. While the title of her book may be somewhat hyperbolic (can you really develop a website for $500?), the point she raises and the lessons she delivers certainly point to a common sense, cost effective approach to Internet development and marketing.

From Yudkin's point of view, the three biggest obstacles for small businesses online are: 1) lack of knowledge of how to take their businesses online, 2) the mistaken belief that without a huge budget, Internet marketing is fruitless, and 3) disappointment when the mere launch of a website produces no results.

Is It Doable For $500?

Yudkin maintains that there are enough free resources currently available on the Internet whereby individuals or companies can design their own website by following a simple menu and instructions. And they don't have to hold a PhD in html to do it. In her book, she provides specific details on locating those resources as well as sourcing additional information on every imaginable Internet marketing subject, including building reputation online, publicity 101, attracting business through e-mail lists, online style tips, international considerations, and e-mail etiquette.

The Biggest Mistakes

According to Yudkin, website development and marketing mistakes are few but common:

  • Companies don't do enough customization of their sites. They simply replicate the corporate brochure instead of posting compelling, informative and relevant news, tips, case studies, etc…the sort of information that makes the site "sticky" and keeps them coming back for more.

  • Not enough marketers seek permission for e-mail purposes. Prior authorization (to be included in an e-mailing) is not sought and, in many cases, there is no provision for easy opt out.

  • It is not unusual to see a lack of contact information. An effective site should always include a company contact name, phone number and e-mail address. How else can the visitor inquire, buy or complain.

  • Companies don't promote their websites properly in their existing communications. Websites should be plastered everywhere and on everything from company stationary to e-mail messages to the backs of delivery trucks.

  • Most marketers ignore the international visitor to the site. For example, provision is only made for the 50 US states in drop down menus or 5 digits in the zip code box.

Tips Galore!

Internet Marketing for Less than $500/Year is laden with enough how-to info to crash a Pentium 4. When asked for the best advice she could give in 25 words or less, Yudkin, in exceeding the word limit, offered the following:

  • Develop and distribute an e-newsletter immediately. It's cheap and efficient and it expands the company's point of contact. It means that you're there in front of the prospect's eyes when the prospect is ready to buy. Effective design is obviously paramount for garnering attention. And Yudkin advises not buying a list.

  • Always integrate web marketing with off-line activity. For instance, why not feature a special web-based offer in every statement stuffer or outgoing billing invoice?

  • You don't need to turn to expensive outside designers/vendors to develop an effective site. But should you choose to do so, vetting the candidates is essential. Look at their work and always ask for references.

  • Once the site is up and running, review it and make appropriate modifications at least once a month. Never look sloppy or dated.

  • Seek and listen to feedback from web visitors (make sure you feature an easy contact provision on your website). Remember, the same site will look different on a PC versus a Mac; web browsers can also play havoc with how the site ultimately appears on the screen. Not to mention, the universal problem of links not working.

I am not an avid consumer or reader of how-to books. I have scores of them, unread, weighing down my bookshelves. Who has the time to read them anyway? But, Yudkin (www.yudkin.com) has scored a mini-coup with her book. It's well laid out, easy to navigate, and loaded with actionable information, resource listings, online tools and data that make it easy for the first time Internet marketer. Check it out.

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