Marketing your Website

Having the best website in the world will not do you any good if no one knows about it. Therefore, it is extremely important that you promote and market your Internet presence both on- and off-line. More effort needs to be put into marketing your website than designing and maintaining it.

To help Internet users find your business website on-line, we recommend that you:

1. Register with the various search engines. This can be done one at a time or various services exist that can handle several. There is usually no charge to register with the various search engines although some offer extra advertising for a fee. Registration can take place within a day to several weeks. Periodically use the search engines to see whether you can easily find your site; if not, you may need to re-register with that service.

2. Get listed on other websites. Many sites are willing to put a link to your website. Contact them and ask to be put on. There are also many private directories being established to provide links to common services. Some listings are free and others charge a nominal fee. Use the search engines to find these, and register with every one.

3. Make deals. Try and arrange reciprocal arrangements with non-competitive sites. Offer to list their site if they would list yours. The best arrangements would be for complementary products and services, e.g., if you sell pheasant make a deal with a site that sells wild rice. Make arrangements with other farmers, suppliers, processors and retailers.

4. Expand your search terms. Some search engines such as look at every word on every web page at your site. You can take advantage of this by specifying somewhere on your site certain key words that may not otherwise appear. The more related words you have, the more likely you will be found. Also use META tags to provide a description and a list of key words. These are often used by most search engines.

5. Register a domain name. Your electronic address should be easy to remember and find. The best way to do that is to register a domain name unique to your business. Names can be registered in the United States or in Canada and can be done by your Internet Service Provider.

6. Include you physical address. If your visitors know where you are located, they may well stop by when they’re in the area.

7. Use an establishment date on your on-line storefront. Customers are leery of Net businesses because they could easily have been established yesterday. If you’ve been in business for a long time, let customers know that. Also mention any membership in organizations such as The Better Business Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce. They gives potential buyers additional confidence.

8. Invite calls. A lot of people on-line don’t want phone calls and don’t include phone numbers in their e-mail signatures. This is a mistake! Make it easy for people to call or fax you to place an order or get more information. If possible get an 800 or 888 toll free service. Remember the easier you make it for customers to do business with you, the more money you will make.

9. Suggest informal gatherings at conferences. When you attend a conference or trade show, mention it in discussion group messages and suggest a get-together at the conference. Meet your customers in person.

10. Include information about your business when you ship orders. If you have a printed catalog or information about your business, be sure to include it with any orders you ship to on-line customers. It could promote a who side of your business that on-line customers probably don’t know about.

11. Another option is sending out a newsletter via Internet E-mail using what is known as a listserv. People subscribe, and your newsletter delivers messages to their electronic mailboxes. This is a valuable and profitable service for your customers.

12. Take advantage of government services. Be sure to register your business on Industry Canada’s Strategis in their Canadian Company Capabilities database. This will give you world-wide exposure. Send an e-mail with your e-mail address, URL and products/services to Alberta’s foreign trade offices and the trade officers in Canadian embassies around the world. Get listed and have a link to your local community’s home page.

No matter how exciting the Internet is, the fact is that your customers spend most of their time off-line. So no matter how much you promote your business on-line, marketing of your Internet website will not be complete without use of off-line marketing support. We suggest that you look at:

1. Your stationery. Your letterhead, invoices, business cards, packing lists, cash register tape and other print media should carry your e-mail, URL and physical addresses. If you take on-line orders or offer catalog shopping on-line, your stationery should include a line that say “Open 24 hours a day on-line,” so your customers have a reason to use your on-line service.

2. Your business location. Your business location gives lots of opportunities for promoting your on-line presence. Window signs that announce, “See us on the Internet!” will bring in customers and alert them to your on-line presence as well. You can use in-store signs to announce the specific advantages of visiting you on-line.

3. Signs. If you have signs either at your business or off-site, include your e-mail, URL and telephone number. Put this same information on signs on your farm trucks and other vehicles. In Britain, farmers are making extra money by putting advertising on cows pasturing near major traffic routes.

4. Packaging. Just as many companies now put an 800 number on their packaging to call for information on their products, an e-mail and URL should be included. This provides your customers with another way to get more information about your products and services.

5. Print advertising. More and more companies are  including e-mail, URL and storefront addresses in print ads. When you include these, make sure they’re prominently displayed, not hidden in the fine print at the end of the ad.

6. Publicity. If your business is the first in its category or in your geographical area to go on-line, send out some news releases to local, provincial and national media, and related trade magazines.

7. Direct mail. If you already have a customer mailing list, send them a postcard with only your electronic address on it. Curiosity will lead most customers to check out your site. If you send out direct mail on a regular basis, be sure to include information about your on-line services and the advantages of them, e.g., available 24 hours a day. As discussed earlier, targeted mailing lists are available for rent. One strategy may be to include information about your website in a direct mail campaign to potential customers. This gives them some options in doing business with you.

8. Advertising specialties. Buy computer-related specialties such as diskette holders or mouse pads that feature your URL, e-mail address or even a picture of your home page.

9. A demo system. Put up a PC in your business or in your booth at a trade show and let customers tour your website.

10. Yellow Pages. If you are advertising in the Yellow Pages, include your e-mail address and web address as well as other information.

Promoting your on-line presence off-line lets you reach customers you can’t reach in other ways, and it polishes your company’s image as a modern, technically-savvy enterprise.