But are you afraid to market and promote online because of these horror stories? Don't be. In fact, according to Webmergers.com, which compiles statistics on shutdown and merger-and-acquisition activity, the worst of the carnage appears to be over.
So now it's time to forge ahead and do one of the best things you can do for your company—promote yourself, your business and your ideas online. Authors Peter Kent and Tara Calishain have written a fabulous book to help get you started.
Poor Richard's Internet Marketing and Promotions (Top Floor Publishing, 1999) offers, admittedly, "geek-free commonsense advice on getting the word out in cyberspace." But the geek-free moniker is not to warn you that the book isn't written intelligently. Far from it, in fact. It just means that, instead of the eye-swimming, sleep-inducing technical jargon you might expect from your average techie geek-a-zoid type (who automatically assumes you understand the language of HTML—in-depth, no less), you get an invaluable source of practical marketing advice, put together in such amazing, readable detail you might consider this book scripture.
MAKING A CONSCIOUS DECISION
What makes this book different from other self-help Internet books is that Kent and Calishain are not just writers. They actually market and promote real products and services (to great success) on the Internet. They haven't crashed and burned yet—and don't expect to either.
Their success lies in this credo: a Web site is not a billboard on the Information Superhighway (a popular term of comparison), but something that sits in darkness, waiting for people to visit. Unlike a billboard, which is seen by anyone who glances up as they drive or walk by, a Web site is only seen if the viewer chooses to see it. A conscious decision must be made. This book is about making that decision happen.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The book is divided into five sections: Preparation, Web Site Registrations, Getting the Word Out, E-Mail PR and Outside the Internet. Each section is then divided into chapters, and each chapter is set up in outline form in the Table of Contents—an extremely helpful way to skim and select the information you require should you be short on time or in need of pinpointing a specific topic. For instance, Chapter Three (in the first section) offers "Setting Up a Shopping Cart," and within that section, you can pinpoint these topics:
• Install Software on Your Hosting Company's Server
• Use a Hosting Company with Shopping Cart Software Available
• Use a Shopping Cart Service
• Picking a Shopping Cart
• A Quick Word about Transaction Processing
• Finding Shopping Cart Systems
See what I mean? Finding your info is a breeze. Plus, you will find interesting side notes, set apart in a simple, eye-catching format—and an added bonus, a detailed 20-page index in the back of the book.
Where the book really hits its stride, however (as if it hadn't already), is in Part III: Getting the Word Out. There you will find information on everything from advertising your site to grass roots marketing and tracking results and responding.
Admittedly, the authors say they may have provided too many marketing and promotions techniques, but therein lies the beauty of Poor Richard's Internet Marketing and Promotions. By offering more than you need, you can pick and choose what's best for your company, make an educated decision and then implement it. Your first decision? Simple. Read this book.
Kathleen Stoehr is president of Chemistry Creative, based in Minneapolis, MN. She has more than six years' experience covering window treatments and interior fashions as the former editor-in-chief of Window Fashions magazine. Stoehr can be contacted for comments, queries and trend information at email@example.com. SEVEN STEPS TO WEB SITE READINESS
While authors Peter Kent and Tara Calishain say the big picture of "why" and "what" is very important, a company must focus on the details to make its Web site look professional. Here are some important steps to follow before you start cranking out promotions.
• Spell check it! OK, that's a given, but nothing cuts your credibility more than a bunch of typos.
• Proofread it! Correct faulty word choices and grammar errors—make sure it's written in a language acceptable to your target audience.
• Get someone else to proofread it! Find someone who has never seen your site before and get them to proofread it. Ideally, this person should be an editor; someone who understands the rules of language and can help point out confusing or difficult to understand areas.
• Check your links! With the natural high-speed rate of the Internet, more and more links become inaccurate over time. Check them regularly, not just to make sure they go through, but also to ascertain they still contain viable information.
• Add an About This Site page. Somewhere on your site you need to mention—at least briefly—what your site is all about. If you're a corporate site, you also might want to have a section for press releases as well.
• Make sure your site is compatible with most browsers. There are lots of different browsers out there and a lot of different screen sizes, too. Check your site from a variety of computers, both PC and Mac, so you can see, for instance, how fast your screen loads, whether your fonts work, etc.
Poor Richard's Internet Marketing and Promotions How to Promote Yourself, Your Business, Your Ideas Online By Peter Kent and Tara Calishain 432 pages, b/w illustrations, Top Floor Publishing, 1999