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There is a pervasive myth floating around these days that people just don't buy anything online. I am here to tell you that this is patently false. People are buying like crazy and it just keeps getting better. Many of us mistakenly use our websites as high-tech calling cards. This is a tremendous opportunity lost. If what you're selling doesn't require a lengthy closing process (like Real Estate) or cannot otherwise be handled with a simple transaction (like a Legal service), then it won't hurt to put up an online order form where folks can order your products - and do so without ever talking to you on the phone. What can you lose?

On the other hand, there are some people who would be better off spending their money otherwise. For example, where I live in Houston, Texas I was approached by a man who wanted to develop a website for his law office. I asked him: "Do you do business outside of Houston?" Of course, he said, "No". I told him to come down off his techno high, take the money he was going to spend on a web site and invest it in a great big Yellow Pages ad. People aren't using the net these days to find local resources as much as they are the phone book. If you don't have money to burn on the website, stick with the Yellow Pages for the next few years. I promise you'll get more ROI (Return of Investment).

Now, if you have passed the above tests and you're ready to start conducting e-commerce, be sure to take the time to do it right. Here are some quick tips to get you on the right track: a) Attract people to your website with the offer of something free - then close in for the sale. b) Make sure that everything on your site leads a visitor toward the sale. If it doesn't, have the courage to take it off your site no matter how much you like it. c) Don't waste the web surfer's time. There are thousands of sites out there that don't serve any purpose but to gratify the ego of the webmaster. If that's what you want, fine, but if you want to make money with your website, gratify the ego of the websurfer!

What if your sales suddenly slammed to a halt? If you were like most entrepreneurs you'd be caught off guard.

Without new customers you could not stay in business. Unless you could find a good paying job, you would loose your house, your car, and even file bankruptcy.

It is every entrepreneur's worst fear. And it happens to 9 out of 10 businesses.

You've heard it a million times before. To stay in business you must advertise. Yet most businesses don't do it.

And where do you start? Advertising is very expensive and produces little results. It is almost like throwing your money away.

Advertising for businesses on the Internet is even harder. To get new customers, increase sales, and make more money, you need to have good search engine placement, banner advertising, web site design, and more. All of this can seem overwhelming if you don't know where to start. And the results can be devastating.

Here are some recent "horror stories" of people just like you that almost lost their businesses because of poor advertising:

A business associate I know hired a search engine placement company to raise his web site's listing on the major Internet search engines. The company charged him $300 initially and only $.25 every time someone visited his web site. The service worked too well. Soon Joseph owed the company $13,588 that he could not pay. The company had no choice but to turn off his web site until he could pay the debt. Eventually the company agreed to accept only $6,528 but he would never regain the valuable search engine placement. To date his business has never recovered.

Another company was forced to pay $4,320 to a popular "Internet Mall" for a featured Web Site. It attracted no visitors. After one year it had only produced 2 sales for their $39 per month service.

Mistakes like this have always been disastrous for small companies with a limited budget.

Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs simply learn by making mistakes. Probably because they don't know how cheap Internet advertising really is. And to a small company it seems down right silly that any good advertising could be done almost for free.

Advertising has always been a bother, and an expensive one, especially for small companies. People just don't like to spend time learning do it right. It seems so easy to do.

Not if you ask the thousands of entrepreneur's who have lost fortunes because they made only a few advertising mistakes. You should look at Internet Marketing this way: Learning how to do it right is the only way to protect your business from failure.

An Internet Web Site only exists on the World Wide Web. Advertising in the real world simply does not work. Newspapers are useless, and television and radio are simply out of the small businessman's reach. To be effective, you must advertise on the Internet itself.

You can hire an Internet Marketing Agency like the big companies do, and pay $3,000 for just one Internet Advertising Campaign. But you may need at a minimum, a half dozen or more, just to keep your business alive for one year.

This type of work is the bread and butter for most Internet Marketing Agencies. Most of the work can be done right from their desktop computers on the World Wide Web. They use services that cost them almost nothing. Yet they will charge you enormous sums because they know how important marketing is to your business. Marketing Agencies know without effective advertising your business will fail almost immediately.

1. Use webcards to announce your URL to existing mailing lists. These inexpensive 4x6 inch cards feature a graphic of your homepage on one side and a sales message on the reverse. Use these cards to announce your website to all existing customers. http://www.printing.com

2. Start an e-mail based newsletter. Provide a form within your website that makes it easy for a visitor to subscribe to the newsletter. Publish your newsletter periodically and include information that is relevant to your audience.

3. Ensure that your URL address appears on everything you can think of! For example;

Business cards and stationary Return address labels Telephone answering machine message T-shirts (great customer giveaway) News releases Display advertisements Brochures and other sales literature Yellow page advertisements Business checks

4. Utilize news releases; both traditional and e-mail based. E-mail based releases can be sent for anywhere from less than $100 to a few thousand depending on coverage. Try these folks for sending your news releases electronically:

http://www.newsbureau.com/
http://www.internetwire.com/
http://www.newstarget.com/
http://www.xpresspress.com/
http://www.urlwire.com/

5. Search engine registration and verification is mandatory! There are thousands of search sites on the Internet but only the top 100 are really important. Professional registration services cost from $200 and up. It is important that your website is search engine ready. Specifically, ensure the following:

a. All images should have tags containing keywords

b. The visible text on the homepage should include as many keywords as possible.

6. Announce your website to relevant newsgroups. Be careful ≠ donít make your announcement sound like an advertisement. Visit each newsgroup of interest and carefully craft a message that contains useful information relevant to the group. And of course include your URL in your signature. Find newsgroups by using www.dejanews.com. This takes time but it worth the effort.

7. Ensure you include a signature as all your e-mails. Keep it short, keep it useful.

8. Strategic mutual link development is a must. As time goes by these mutual links can represent a significant percentage of your total traffic.

Parker Information Resources
Houston, Texas
E-mail: bparker@parkerinfo.com

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