A large part of my consulting practice is developing and implementing marketing plans for e-commerce and organizations that depend on their Web sites to either sell products or promote their services. The company leaders have visions of leveraging the Web to be a major rainmaker.
These companies want anyone in the market for what they offer to think of them. At the same time, they want to know how to drive traffic to their Web sites, especially if they are on a meager budget. As a person who owns, operates and has partnerships with many online ventures, I wrestle with that problem daily.
Here are 10 relatively low-cost ways to develop traffic and drive new customers to your Web site.
: A former client, who provides broadcast email and fax services for corporations, runs ads on
). They used Google Adwords. A person types in "broadcast email," and there are small ads on the side of the page of search results. When you click on the ad, it takes you to another site, and the owner of that site pays as little as a nickel or as much as several dollars. My client told me they get hundreds of leads each day. Go to Google and click on "advertising." You can also do this through
, which is owned by
: Editors receive press releases every day about new Web sites. The approach to take is sending a letter of two or three paragraphs to the business editor letting him know what makes your Web site unique, and why his readers would be interested in learning more about the site. Paste a screenshot of the site into the letter. If the picture shows a unique product, like an MP3 pen that has an FM radio, or the service is unique, such as learning a language via telephone, it may grab the attention of the media.
: You need to have a plan to generate media attention. It is wise to make a list of local, regional and national newspapers, magazines, online publications and radio and television stations. Once you have sent the releases, call the editors within three to five working days to make sure they received the information and to see whether they have any questions. If there isn't an immediate response, periodically send them brief updates on how your site is doing.
: Relationships with other sites are also crucial. You want to develop links to other Web sites to drive traffic to your site. Offer site owners a commission of 5% to 15% on sales as an incentive. The amount of commission you offer will be dependent on the gross profit margins of your products.
has developed such a successful link program that there are more than 100,000 sites selling books for Amazon, and each owner receives 10% to 15% commissions depending on the volume of business sent to Amazon.
: Depending on the quality of the product, buying classified advertisements in large daily and national magazines is a cost-effective idea. A client with a children's clothing site is running classified ads in magazines targeted to mothers of children ages two through 10. Classifieds are also good in local newspapers if you are selling a service like magic shows for children or computer repair services. A magician can show photos and videos of his act and a handyman can list all of the various services he offers and a price list for those services.
: Not everyone will understand your business. One way to educate them is to develop a newsletter that provides insight into your industry. First, send it out to everyone on your email list in your computer. Then offer it free to individuals who visit your site. My client can develop a weekly advice column for parents and interview authorities on raising children. She can email this newsletter once a week.
: You want to generate buzz for your site. One way to do this is to donate your services or product at a charity auction. Charity auctions publicize their events and list what is being offered at the events to prospective attendees. Usually, charities mail to a minimum of a few thousand people to attract a strong audience to their event.
: Some media outlets are willing to provide free advertising for a percentage of the sales of a product, if they believe it has high sales potential. One large regional newspaper, for example, provided free advertising to a Web site selling antiques.
: Another way to generate buzz is to offer individuals who are looking for second sources of income the ability to promote your Web site for a percentage of each sale. This is similar to companies allowing you to link to their sites, except this audience may not have a Web site. However, they would be glad to hand out brochures and talk about your product or service. The information these individuals would need to sell for you could be posted on your site and they could download your presentation materials as they need them.
: Many newspapers will allow you to stuff flyers, otherwise known as inserts, into their papers. If you have a site that serves regional customers, this is a good way to go because inserts are highly successful. I love looking at inserts.
Don't despair. If you don't have bags of money to spend promoting your site, just be creative.
Kramer is the author of five business books on topics related to venture capital, management and consulting. He is a faculty member at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and the veteran of over 20 startups and four turnarounds.