Dabbling in small-time theater for the past two months, I quickly learned that enthusiasm and a bit of talent won't get you noticed unless you've got a URL.
I grudgingly ventured into the world of "e-commerce," an intimidating and nebulous term that left me wondering how I could compete with the tech wizards out there working for Time Warner ( TWX) or Disney ( DIS). More importantly, I wondered if my bank account would survive the hit. Jennifer Shaheen, Score's go-to woman regarding all things technology, has demystified the World Wide Web for many entrepreneurs. After reading her ABC's of e-commerce, you won't have an excuse to be without a page to call home.
A Is for 'Audience and Allowance'Every day, Monika Werner, business director and co-owner of
To get to know your customers, use
Yahoo! Answers , which allows you to ask your potential cyber-space audience where they shop and how they search. For business to business advice, go to a social networking site like LinkedIn and talk to people in your industry who, Shaheen says, "will love giving their opinions for free." Each business's audience is unique and must be reached in different ways. For the 18- to 25-year-old set, consider a Myspace or Facebook page. For an older audience, try CitySearch or Yahoo! .
B Is for 'Building Web Presence'Werner initially hired a marketing company to increase her Web and press presence. She was disappointed with the results. "We got a bigger and better article in New York Magazine through a customer who had taken a class and loved it," she says. She now uses a two-pronged plan of attack in grabbing and keeping online attention. She uses Yahoo's pay-per-click service to generate hits and CitySearch to generate local interest. Don't immediately jump on MSN or Yahoo!, says Shaheen. Start with the more localized and locally focused CitySearch. They offer a flat pay-per-click rate for all listings while Google and Yahoo! place listings based on how much you pay. After a $5 setup fee, Werner pays Google 75 cents per page hit, which comes to about $33 dollars a day; $231 per week. On CitySearch, Werner pays $1 per click, not to exceed a $150 monthly budget. She also pays $10 per month for her profile, which is accessible even when her click limit is up.
"It's better to pay the flat rate which is more expensive but targeted," says Shaheen. Even with Google, target your search with specific terms like "NY, florist" instead of "florist."
e-commerce takes time and planning." I've just gotten my MySpace page up and am looking at different Web page layouts. In two months, I've gone from cyber luddite to Web networking wizard and am getting three times the attention. With so many resources, there's no excuse for no URL.