Over 50 million people have access to the Internet - and yet it is still in its infancy.
Every month sees millions of newcomers and thousands of businesses setting up online.
Combine this huge, expanding audience with the fact that marketing and advertising can be done on the Internet at a fraction of the costs of traditional methods . . . and you have a situation where the potential for online success is unlimited.
Here is a 7-step guide to ensure that you will cash in on this growing boom.
1. DECIDE WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO SELL
The online business opportunities that you will come across can be neatly divided into two areas: (1) Products (2) Services.
1.1. Selling Products
When you sell a product you can either carry out the whole operation of handling orders, stocking and shipping the goods, processing the payments
simply market for a company that will handle all the administration for you. Your job is merely to get the orders to the company and then receive commission.
What product sells well on the Internet ?
The item that has been hailed as the number one business product of the future is . . . INFORMATION.
Examples of highly successful information products are the 'how-to' and self-improvement books. If you are knowledgeable about a particular subject you could consider writing and developing your own product and delivering it via Email.
1.2. Selling Services
One advantage of selling a service is that you can often generate a 'residual' commission - a monthly income all the while that the customer continues to use the service.
What service is suitable for online selling ?
As the Internet boom continues the most obvious candidate is any service which assists companies in using the Internet. A prime example is a web hosting service: a web host will provide the space to put up a web site, the tools to manage it and technical advice.
2. HOW TO ADVERTISE
2.1. The 2-STEP Approach
The usual method of advertising is to have short Classified Ads which leave the reader in a state of enticement, so that he then asks for the full detailed information in your sales letter, ideally sent by autoresponder. The purpose of the ad is not to try to sell the product - it is simply to get interested people to respond.
As your ad may be competing with dozens of others in the same publication you must aim for a winning headline to make it stand out. Use key words which attract readers such as . . . Free, How, You , Money, Secret.
2.2. Using a Signature File
A Signature File is a section of text that you place at the end of your articles or Email messages. It should contain contact details and a brief summary of what your company offers.
3. WHERE TO ADVERTISE
3.1. Where to place Classified Ads
==> Online Services Classifieds
The major online services such as AOL, Compuserve, Delphi, Genie, Prodigy, MSN have sections for placing classified ads.
==> Ezines (newsletters)
Ezines are Email magazines which you can subscribe to - usually for free. Most Ezines offer low cost advertising and are also an excellent source of marketing tips.
==> WWW (World wide web)
You can set up your ads at web sites for free or at low cost.
3.2. Using Signatures in Discussion Groups
A discussion group is a group of people with a common interest in a specific topic. If you participate in discussion groups with useful contributions or helpful articles you can add your signature files at the end of your posting. Here are examples of discussion group areas.
==> Mailing Lists
There are thousands of mailing lists available on every conceivable topic.
You become a member of a mailing list by sending a simple 'subscribe' Email message to the list. You can post a message to the list and it will be distributed automatically to all the subscribers.
Newsgroups (also known as Usenet) are similar to mailing lists except that you need to access the newsgroup with a newsreader online (whereas mailing list posts are sent to your Email box).
==> Online Services Forums
Similar to newsgroups, usually better controlled and organised.
3.3. Other places for free ads
Some newsgroups allow ads. Examples are misc.entrepreneur, alt.internet.commerce, alt.make.money.fast.
==> Online services Forums
There are forums where ads are acceptable: try looking for forums which have sections with titles such as 'Opportunities', 'Marketing', 'Business'.
3.4. Direct Mail
Direct mail is the sending by Email of your advert or sales letter to a list of people who are looking for the product or service that you are offering. Such a list can be purchased from a mailing list broker.
4. PUT YOUR WORK ON AUTO-PILOT
Here are some software tools which can automate your work and reduce time and money spent online.
An autoresponder spends 24 hours a day responding to enquirers with information such as sales letters, price lists, catalogs, order forms.
If you have ever had to reply manually to 100 responses to an ad you will realise the importance of an autoresponder to any business setting up on the Internet.
4.2. Free Agent (for Newsgroups)
Free Agent is a powerful and easy-to-use newsgroup reader. It allows you to browse newsgroups both online and offline.
4.3. Navigator (for Compuserve Users)
CompuServe Navigator (CSNAV) allows you to set up in advance a script to navigate the Compuserve Forums, sending and retrieving messages, downloading from or uploading to the libraries.
4.4. Waytogo (for AOL users)
If you want to post ads on AOL classifieds then, instead of manually navigating the various menus and options, you can automate the task with a program called "Way To Go".
5. SET UP YOUR OWN WEB SITE
Once you have developed a portfolio of (ideally) related items you will want to bring all the information about them together on your own web site. The website will provide you with a 24 hour international presence and a means for people anywhere in the world to obtain free reports about your products or services instantly, especially when complemented with autoresponders.
5.1. Design considerations
* Make your site easy to navigate
* Don't clutter up your pages with information
* Ensure that there are no long delays in loading web pages (the chief cause of this is the use of large graphics)
Make a good first impression with your front page, make it interesting and let it show clearly what the rest of the site contains. You may only have ten seconds or so to keep your visitor's attention.
Offer free information and useful articles. Ensure that the content of the site continually changes, consider a weekly column of hints and tips.
6. HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR WEB SITE
6.1. Register with search engines
When people are scanning the Internet for a specific product or service they use 'Search Engines' to feed in a 'keyword' to specify what they are looking for. You can submit your site to these search engines specifying the key words that make up the site, so that your site can then appear in such searches. There are over 20 major search engines, some popular ones being:
Alta Vista, Excite, Infoseek, Lycos, Yahoo
Now that you have a web site you can include it in your signature and therefore publicise it
* whenever you send an Email
* when you contribute to discussion groups
* when you contribute a posting to an Ezine
You can advertise offline by including your web address on your company stationery, business cards, letterheads, envelopes etc.
7. BECOME AN EXPERT
==> Learn how to find information
Master the use of search engines.
==> Learn from the work of others
Study other ads, other web sites, other signature files.
==>Study online marketing methods
Visit newsgroups and forums, and subscribe to mailing lists. You will find excellent marketing tips from Ezines - just see the reprint below.
This article is an extract from the Free publication
7 Steps to Online Success
which contains full details of all the sources of information mentioned above, such as web site addresses, lists of ezines, mailing lists and newsgroups, software tools and services and also includes relevant business opportunities and many more valuable ideas.
Don't miss Harvey's FREE book
Guru Magic: the Internet marketing book with a UNIQUE twist
And there's more great articles, ideas and tips at the SuperTips website http://www.supertips.com
You are welcome to reprint this article as long as you include the credits at the end.