All right, you have this great product to sell, and you've got yourself a spanking new Web site to sell it. Now, you sit back and wait for the orders to pour in...
To your great surprise, the only people to even peek at your site are you, your family, and a couple of your friends. Now that you have spent time and money to get your Web site, you naturally expect some return on your investment. So, you decide you have to market your site and let the world know all about it.
The first step is to start thinking of what you feel is unique about your site and put it in writing. Why would people want to visit your site and not any of the dozens of other sites your competitors have put up? A marketer would call this your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
Work the entire thing into a short, clear note, preferably less than a page in length. If you feel something has to be covered in greater detail, include a link to an appropriate page on your Web site.
Now, you've reached the halfway stage: You have a product to sell, a Web site to promote it, and a fantastic write-up. The next half of the marketing process is to find out where and how to publicize your site.
Use the STP process: Segmentation, Targeting, and Positioning. This is, in essence, a simple concept.
Once you get the drift of what's going on, post a short note to these lists (one at a time, don't cc your mail to half a dozen lists and newsgroups).
Be very tactful about this, or you'll be flamed so bad hell will seem like an air-conditioned hotel room with a tray of chilled martinis by comparison. You might want to check with the list administrator about whether your post is legit or not.
For example, it's not a good idea to say: "Great new site!!! 10% Discount!!! Buy Now!!! http://www.mysite.com ... blah blah."
At the same time, it's perfectly legitimate for you to reply to a query posted on the list, answering the question in brief and adding, "See my Web page at http://www.mysite.com/stuff.html for more details."
In fact, this is more likely to attract people to your site because people then realize that you know what you're talking about and that you are not just some idiot of a marketroid—the sort who rings you up when you're having dinner.
Mail them a press release and place an ad in one or two of the most popular ones, as some of them are likely to mention your site somewhere after the obituaries or even ignore it.
Remember that reporters already get dozens of these notifications every day, and are likely to trash your mail if you don't grab their attention in the first few lines. Use AIDA and customize your write-up as much as possible, keeping in mind the paper's target audience.
This should start things moving. If it doesn't, don't take the easy route and buy a "marketing set" (a bulk mail program and a CD full of addresses). Spammers use these and quite often sell it to gullible marketers.
OK, I mentioned Spam, and I'll go a bit deeper on this one. At every stage of your marketing career, you are likely to be faced with a Hamletian question--"To Spam or not to Spam, that's the question.''
What's Spam? Spam is unsolicited e-mail, the on-line equivalent of the junk mail that keeps arriving in your postal mailbox. Sadly, it is much more damaging than postal mail--and can be the end of your career as a marketer.
Unsolicited e-mail? That is, mail I have not asked for? But that means my long, lost girlfriend cannot mail me out of the blue, asking me to marry her!!!
Oh, OK, let me clarify. Spam is unsolicited, unwanted e-mail, frequently sent in bulk quantities and advertising some commercial proposition. A major part of the Spam you probably get, and what this article deals with, is BUCE (Bulk Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail).
So, your girlfriend is welcome to mail you, asking you to marry her. What she cannot do is mail you (and hundreds of others who don't know her from Adam) advertising her Web site/product/get rich scheme.
Spam is illegal in several American states, including Washington and Virginia. In fact, you can be sued in small claims court by residents of these states who have received unsolicited mail from you. See http://www.suespammers.org for more.
Others will complain to your ISP and Web host, who will delete your Web site, disconnect your dial-up line, and delete any mailbox you might have mentioned in the Spam. They might even fine you anywhere from $20 to $2,000 for Spamming. To learn more, just visit your ISP's Web site and look for a page that says "Terms of Service" or "Acceptable Use Policy."
Of course, you might, by now, be putting on an injured expression and saying "I'm not a Spammer. I'm a legitimate marketer promoting a legitimate product." Put yourself in the shoes of whomever is receiving your mail and paying his ISP for the privilege of doing so.
By now, you must have gotten dozens of offers from "marketing companies" that offer to promote your site by sending bulk e-mail or try to sell you do-it-yourself promotion kits (a CD full of addresses and a bulk mailing program).
Don't ever respond to them, and complain to their ISPs if you can (see http://www.spamcop.net for a cool automated tool for reporting Spammers).
In particular, watch out for programs such as "Desktop Server,'' "Atomic Harvester,'' "Cybercreek Avalanche," and "Diffondi Cool," or anything similar, an ad for which arrives in a Spam/junk mail and claims instant, fantastic results.
It will all sound too good to be true--and generally is not true. A rather comprehensive list can be found at http://spamhaus.uxn.com .
Using these programs will get you a torrent of complaints, accusing you of Spamming and perhaps someone with more technical skills than ethics may hack into your Web site and redirect it to a smut site, or just crash it.
Don't send your ads "Postage Due"
Sending Spam is not like sending your ads by post. Let's see why Spam is evil. As my signature says, "Speech is not free when it's sent postage due"--a quote from the late Jim Nitchals, one of the first warriors in the fight against Spam.
When the postal carrier delivers your mail, you are quite often greeted with several ads sent by various companies (from the sleazy operators who send "Fill in this puzzle and get a camera" to megacorps such as Amway and Reader's Digest ). There is also the chain mail stuff , such as "Say 20 Hail Marys and send 20 copies of this letter to your friends.''
Fair enough, this direct marketing is just a mild annoyance, and besides, they are paying the postal department, not you. All you have to do is throw it into the trash, tearing it into little bits if you are sufficiently irritated.
Now, suppose you got all of this junk mail postage due and were forced to pay the postal carrier out of your own pocket for the privilege of receiving this junk? Or you got five-page ads on your office fax or telemarketers called you on your cell phone? Right--you wouldn't be all that amused.
Now that almost everyone has at least a hotmail account, the same problem has moved to e-mail but magnified several times. Junk e-mail (or Spam) is a huge problem throughout the Internet.
According to an informal survey of several major ISPs, most said that more than 30% of the e-mail reaching their users was Spam. Thus, they had to invest thousands of dollars in more powerful hardware and extra bandwidth and had to take on additional staff to deal with Spam complaints. All of these extra costs were ultimately passed on to the customers, none of whom had asked to receive the Spam in the first place.
Read more about how Spam costs everybody.
Suresh Ramasubramanian is President of the Indian chapter of CAUCE --an international organization of people dedicated to fighting Spam. He is Webmaster and list administrator of K-Circle, one of India's oldest trivia quiz societies.