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Shoestring Marketing: Ten Steps to a Successful Internet Business on a Budget

Is your web site pulling in the kind of traffic you hope for? If not, take a few steps in the right direction.

© 1998, by Joe Spataro

"...We have the latest marketing data on your site and the board has approved your marketing budget for the next fiscal year. Let's have a meeting to decide when the next staff meeting should be."

Your bedside alarm rings. Wake up!
Welcome to the real world.
You are short on cash and time,
and you need results as soon as possible.
You have only one reliable employee: YOU!

I have outlined ten "steps" that you can use to help you be more successful on a shoestring budget. I have used these ideas every day to build a successful Internet business and perhaps you can too!!

1 -- Find your niche.

Try to identify something that people need. Look into your own life and see what you need; maybe other people might need the same thing. When I started the Homeschool Zone, my wife and I needed to find a way to educate our two daughters. In gathering the information to do this, we found many other people in the same boat. This was a real niche that was being under served -- an opportunity we jumped at!

2 -- Know your product.

Whatever product or service you are selling, know all about it. If you have found your niche properly, you are probably already an expert in that area and have developed expertise over many years. You will also have passion about your product or service. Doing the marketing research for your business is fun, because you love it anyway!

3 -- Have content, not just ads.

Most website have flashing lights saying "new," "buy me," "ain't I cute" -- but the bottom line is that they're just selling stuff. If someone wants your product or service, give them a reason to visit you. If you're selling cross-stitch kits, have some cross-stitch tips and tricks that might be useful. They might tell their cross-stitching friends, who may stop by, and perhaps buy some kits.

4 -- Offer events and recurring themes.

Once you've persuaded someone to visit your site, give them a reason to come back again. You'd never buy a newspaper that always has the same headline every day. A very successful program on our website is the Craft-of-the-Week, where each week people can come by and see a new craft for free that they can try. Since this is a constant feature that is always changing, people get in the habit of dropping by. People also get comfortable in visiting you and will develop trust.

5 -- Know your customers.

Give your customers an easy way to give you feedback. When you were in grade school, you probably preferred the "multiple choice" exam to the "essay question." People haven't changed since they were kids. If you just provide an e-mail address, they may not use it. People like to use click boxes and forms to send you information. Use this information to get a better idea of what your customers want.

6 -- Develop your community.

Reach out to people who have already found you. Tell them what you're doing on a regular basis without coming across as a blatant ad. Newsletters are a great way to get people to read your material and perhaps re-visit you. They provide for community building. People in your virtual community may have good ideas. Your newsletter may provide the vehicle for their ideas to get out and attract even more people. A newsletter that serves a niche community is a great way to fuel the passion you have (see Idea #3) and to attract the people who feel the same way.

7 -- "Help" your way to success / Use the "Power of Serendipity."

As you go from place to place on the net, see if there are people who have a problem that you can solve. "Pull the thorn from their claw" and perhaps they might become a new customer. Perhaps a newsgroup/mail-list onlooker, with a similar problem, might see your solution. They may become another customer for you. I find that some of my best ideas come from the serendipity of interactions with people. Perhaps you might identify a new way that you can use your core competency to offer a new service, based on an idea you develop while helping someone.

8 -- Be an expert.

No one knows more about your business than you. Don't be shy. Expand on Idea #7 and write articles for your own newsletter and/or syndicated articles in other people's newsletters, just like this one (you're reading this, aren't you?). Go to newsgroups and listserv discussion groups, but don't just spew ads for your product. That is such a turn-off. If you are helpful and knowledgeable, your contact info in the tag line (see Idea#10) at the end may provide a route to new business contacts and sales.

9 -- Remember to be honest and courteous.

The beauty of the net is the democratization of information -- allowing the little guy to have access to a big audience. This is a double edged sword, however. The "power of e-mail" could backfire, with the "power of the CC:" rendering your campaign severely tarnished. The old "Golden Rule" is very important in any sustainable strategy. Treat people as you would want them to treat you. Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing weapon in our arsenal, and we are actually proud to wield it. Don't throw it away.

10. Word of Mouth -- The "Signature File"

Help people find you and tell their friends. Use a signature file for your e-mail. Most e-mail programs let you create a small text file with your name, e-mail address and maybe your website address & motto. Please keep it small! I am often turned-off by a massive and unwieldy signature file, bigger than the message itself, which is more of an autobiographical sketch than a signature. For many, these files have proliferated like the crab grass near your mailbox. It should be no more than four lines and should give people a short and easy concept to grasp.

I hope that you have enjoyed these ideas. Incorporate them into your daily marketing activities. They should help you develop more clients. Oh, by the way, when people ask you how you became successful, tell them Joe Spataro gave you some great ideas! (Idea #7) ;-)


Joe Spataro is the creator of the Homeschool Zone, HomeBiz, and many other inter-related family sites at http://www.homeschoolzone.com, featuring FREE newsletters and many activities and events for the whole family. You can contact Joe directly at: .

 
 
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