Pump Up that Web Appeal.

Author:FELLHOELTER, BRENDA
 
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Building a Web site is just the first step to Internet success. After that, you must market your site and practice good customer service to succeed online.

The first step in marketing your site begins before you ever build one. Have you followed the time-honored principles for any marketing campaign? Do you know what your product or service is? Do you know who your target audience is? Do you have a business plan? If you can answer "yes" to all of these questions, the next step is planning, planning and more planning.

Your Web site begins as a blank white computer screen -- just like the blank page you start with when writing a brochure or newsletter to promote your business. Your Web site is just one more extension of your marketing. It is just one piece of your total package. Before publishing your Web site, be sure you know to whom you are marketing and the purpose of your site. Are you trying to educate, inform, sell or entertain? Who is your target audience? Pay close attention to your text and write your content well. Web site content must be simple, accurate and short (KISS -- Keep It Short and Simple). Leave plenty of white space, and make sure your graphics are attractive, fast-loading and professional looking.

Jenean Matthews of www.vitaherbs.net cautions Web entrepreneurs to avoid three common missteps, which Matthews calls the "Flea Market Site," where everything is offered on the same page - all clutter and confusion; the "Immediate Sales Site," in which the visitor is hit with a sales pitch as soon as the site comes up; and the "Beat Mound the Bush Site," where visitors may find what they want, but have to search for the contact information, the purchase price, the order information, etc.

Customer Service Counts

The most successful businesses today are combining their brick-and-mortar store with their online store. Many large e-commerce Web sites are biting the dust for two reasons: one, people like to have an easy way to return unsatisfactory products; and two, people like to deal with people, not machines. Many of the larger Web sites forgot to incorporate relationship commerce, or r-commerce, into their business plans.

Without good customer service, online stores will not succeed any better than brick-and-mortar stores with poor customer service. Companies that want a Web site must be comfortable using, and reading, their e-mail. If their Web site visitors don't get a prompt and helpful reply to their inquiry or order, the...

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