A colleague recently said to me, "No one has found the winning formula for successful online direct marketing yet". I disagree. A number of companies know exactly what works and are making small fortunes with it. The primary concept to remember is: online marketing still works best when you email or contact people who already know and trust you.
The key word is "trust". To build and maintain trust certainly consider every email or e-newsletter you send. One wrong choice and trust that may have taken months or even years to build, can be destroyed in seconds.
Therefore, successful online marketers build their "house file" or "e-list" (a list of prospects' names and their e-mail addresses) using the process outlined below, and then sell to those people via email and website marketing:
- Establish your online marketing "Base of Operations" campaign. How: build a website that positions you or your organization as an expert, guru, or leader in your field or industry. Remember the InternetTIPS.com mantra: "Yes We Can".
- Create your website core pages. Your website should at least include:
- A home page.
- An "About the Company" page.
- A page that contains brief descriptions of your products and services. Each introductory product or service description can link to a longer document that expands on each individual item.
- An opt-in web form that provides at least one key benefit for subscribing. You could offer a free report, or show archives of previous email newsletters, or simply provide access to a greater amount of content within your website as a "Thank you for subscribing". Provide an easy, automatic way for visitors to unsubscribe themselves. Why: to be nice and to demonstrate that you have considered your subscriber's time is at least as valuable as your own. Do this and in practice, you'll most likely find that few people unsubscribe: when subscribers know that they can unsubscribe themselves at any time, the resulting effect seems to minimize unsubscriptions.
- A Terms of business or Terms of Service page. Why: again, to protect you online and to demonstrate that you have considered the topics involved.
- Know the true value of content. The web loves website content that offers value. Original content is valued even more. Search engines today can identify who is the originator — and even "mark down" those who may copy. Blogs or articles offer one of the best ways to create unique value online. A perfect reason why you should also have an "Articles Page" or articles section, where you post articles your company has published on your industry or area of specialty, and where visitors can read and download these articles for free. For example: a home improvement contractor could provide a series of tips for small "do-it-yourself" home improvement projects. You can write articles on almost any topic. What's more, many pre-written articles that you can often use "as is", or which you can further edit or enhance, are available either for low-cost or even free in some cases.
- Make special premium content available for exchange. Consider: write a short special report or white paper that addresses an important problem your product or service has, and make this available to people who visit your site. Allow subscribers to download your premium report or white paper for free providing they register and give you their e-mail address, plus any other information you want to collect. Do remember: usually, the more information you ask for, the lower your subscription numbers most likely become. As a minimum, ask for a first name and email address.
- Consider also offering a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly online newsletter, or "ezine". People who visit your site can subscribe free if they register and give you their email address. You may want to give the visitor the option of checking a box that reads: "I give you and other companies you select permission to send me e-mail about products, services, news, and offers that may be of interest to me."
- Appreciate what time and attention are. Time is the most precious asset we have. Getting someone's attention on the web for more than a few seconds is harder today than it has ever been. Attention likes originality, benefits, answers to problems and new solutions. Every second that you keep someone's attention on your website content, is another opportunity to sell, persuade or engage with your reader or viewer. The more useful content information you make available on your site, the better — and the more attention you can achieve. More people can become attracted to your site and spend more time exploring what you have to say. If you provide worthy value in a way that is timely, compelling or engaging, your visitors are also more likely to tell others about your site. That's why you should also include a Tell-a-friend form as well.
- Apply the simple 3-Step communications model:
- Provide outstanding reasons for people to come to your website.
- Then urge your visitors to sign up for either your free report or free email newsletter or e-zine. Wrap everything you do with uncommon politeness, consideration.
- Only a proportion will choose to opt in to receive your email newsletter. For those that do enlist, you now have a special responsibility of care and consideration. Why: for now, your visitors have given you their precious email address with permission to contact. Do not underestimate the gift your opt-in users have donated. Your opt-in users can choose to unsubscribe at any time. Stay in touch using e-mail as often as you like at no extra cost, though weekly, bi-weekly communications often provides the best return on your time and effort investment. Share valuable hints, tips, techniques, information, news, timely reminders. Include material that is really worth attention. Always market responsibly.
- Build your house e-list. The bulk of your online leads, sales, and profits usually come from repeat email marketing to your "house list" of prospects. Therefore, always keep in mind your key goal: to build a large "e-list" of qualified prospects as quickly and inexpensively as you can.
- Branch out: consider other ways to connect to visitors. There are a number of online marketing options designed to drive new visitors to your web site, including: free publicity; e-mail marketing; banner advertising; co-registrations; affiliate marketing; search engine optimization; direct mail; and e-zine advertising.