Serving the small business community    

In this Issue:
     A Letter from the Editor
     Internet Marketing Strategy
     The Misconception
     7 Ways to Market
     Closing Thoughts

A Letter From the Editor
Welcome to the first issue of Internet Initiatives, the online marketing newsletter for Greater Grand Rapids area small business owners and managers. Internet Initiatives was created to address the relevant issues about online marketing as it relates to the small business community.

In this issue, you will learn how to begin formulating an Internet marketing strategy, how to avoid the pitfalls of the “Field of Dreams” theory, and the 6 most popular ways to promote your website.

I hope this newsletter serves to enlighten and delight as you find new ways to grow your company in the age of the Internet.

Best Wishes!
Dawn White, Editor

Internet Marketing Strategy - “Building an Online Presence”
Why do you think your company should be online? The answer to this question is vital to formulation of an effective Internet Marketing Strategy. As an owner or manager seeking to expand your company, what are your goals?

     To enhance customer service?
     To be available 24 hours/day?
     To sell products and services?
     To gain more customers?
     To expand globally?
     To target locally?
     To prepare for the future?
     To increase competitiveness?
     To enable special offers?
     To collect information?

The Misconception: - “If you build it, they will come”
Many small business owners are driven to the Internet by the “Field of Dreams” theory. Followers mistakenly believe that once the website has been developed and is up and running, customers will beat a path to the company’s door to purchase products and services. Many are surprised to find that the new website does not promote itself. To avoid disappointment, consider seven ways to promote your website in relation to your answer about why your company should be online.

7 Ways to Market - “Promoting your Product”
Now that we understand that the field of dreams concept does not work, where do we go from here? Let’s begin with the seven most popular ways to promote your website:
     Banner Advertising
     E-mail Advertising
     Newsletter Advertising
     Affiliate Programs/Links
     Search Engines
     Word of Mouth

Banner Advertising
Many web development companies promote banner advertisement as the primary means for driving traffic to your company website. While banner advertisement is a widely accepted form of Internet promotion, it should by no means be your primary marketing tool. You may be surprised to know that only ½ to 1% of the traffic on any given page actually clicks through to your website using the advertisement banner.

E-Mail Advertising
An e-mail advertising campaign can be both inexpensive and effective. Just be certain that, before you begin, you understand the difference between e-mail advertising and “spam”. Spam is the mass-distribution of unsolicited advertisement through e-mail. Not only is the use of Spam reviled by the online community, it is also arguably illegal. Under the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, it's technically illegal to send someone unsolicited advertising over any common carrier telephone, or telephone data device (such as a fax machine). A computer hooked up to the Internet through a dial-up modem can serve as such a device. Many states have passed spam laws, and additional federal spam laws are currently pending. Furthermore, your Internet service provider (ISP) or web-hosting provider probably has policies forbidding spam, which, if ignored, may result in cancellation of your account.

What is the difference between a valid e-mail advertising campaign and spam? The key is in the word “unsolicited”. An effective e-mail advertising campaign involves finding a way to get your potential customers to “sign up” to receive your company advertisements.

Newsletter Advertising
One of the best ways to get consumers to solicit your e-mail is by identifying your customer’s desires and providing valuable information that they want and need. An online pet store advertiser, for instance, could develop an informative e-mail newsletter (ezine) that features ‘pet tips’ for her patrons. A car repair business owner could create a ‘vehicle maintenance tips’ ezine for his customers. When developing your newsletter, keep in mind the types of e-mail advertising and ezines that you will read vs. the type you delete before reading. If your company has the time and means to write informative newsletters, it can be a wonderful method for acquiring and maintaining loyal customers.

Affiliate Programs/Links
In 1996, was a baby compared to its behemoth rival, Barnes and Noble. Yet today, Amazon competes head to head with B&N in the online world. What made Amazon almost synonymous with the word “books”? The answer is “Affiliate Program”. Amazon secured a network of links to its website by creating a database that would track sales in an effort to pay affiliates a percentage of each sale. Affiliate programs are now used by many businesses to increase website traffic. It is reasonable to believe that the more links that lead to your website, the more traffic your website will receive.

Search Engines
Search engine positioning is, at best, extremely difficult, no matter what that piece of spam said that you received in your e-mail box. Research shows that people searching for a particular product (example: baby gifts) will not look past the first 30 results. The fact of the matter is that, in most cases, your chances of receiving a top listing under the key word of your choice is far less than even 1%. Think about it. If you type in “baby gifts” and the search engine returns 300,000 web pages about baby gifts, what are your chances of being in the top 30 positions? The answer: 30/300,000 = .0001 (.01%). In other words, 99.99% of baby gift websites would not receive a top 30 listing. Of course, you can increase your chances by paying a marketing company to position your website, but it can cost thousands of dollars - and, there are few guarantees. The good news is that there is an alternative. Some new search engines, such as and, utilize a pay-per-click format, which allows companies to choose their own positioning - in many cases for a matter of pennies per click. The more you pay-per-click, the higher your position. If you have the time and means to work on search engine positioning, success can be rewarding. Research shows that search engines are the primary means people use to find new websites (45.8% of the time).

Directories like are a good source for establishing links to your company website. Online directories are similar to your household phone book in that companies are listed alphabetically or categorically, and are useful for a targeted group of people., for example, provides a list of companies doing business in the Greater Grand Rapids area. Listings in online directories are, many times, free for companies that fit the directory criteria for being listed. In addition, many phone book companies offer a free listing of your web address (URL) in the Internet section of your local phone book. Be certain to check with both Ameritech and McLeod to see if your company is listed.

Word of Mouth
If search engines are the number one way that people find new websites, what is number two? You may be surprised to know that it is word of mouth. One of the biggest mistakes a business owner or manager makes regarding promotion of his/her website is neglecting to tell current loyal customers. Once you create your website, print the new URL (example: ) on EVERYTHING - Newsletters, brochures, business cards, etc… Type the URL after your signature in each e-mail you send out. Word of mouth advertising is, arguably, the single most important utility for marketing your new website.

Closing Thoughts
Online marketing strategies among companies vary greatly depending on individual goals. If your goal is to expand globally, for instance, search engine positioning is critical. If you desire to target locally, directories and word of mouth are more important. Similarly, marketing strategies differ according to whether or not you desire to sell products and services online.

The Internet is changing the way in which we conduct our business - and it is here to stay! Companies that establish a presence online now will be well equipped to handle the future. If your company is not currently online, you can be certain that your competition is! Once you determine why your company is online or should be online, you should begin to formulate a marketing strategy based upon your answer. Need help? Give us a call!

Contact Greater Online Marketing to set up your
Free Initial Consultation!
(616) 534-4647