If, indeed, the Internet is a great information highway with traffic, data, digital goods and services, and communications whizzing back and forth at the speed of light, it would be worth the effort for every business owner to create as many links to that highway as possible.
Think of these links as little roads that feed a tiny portion of this traffic back and forth between your small business and the super highway.
Every business connects itself (or should) to the highway traffic. Some do a great job of it and others don’t.
Each owner determines for his business, both the number roads leading in and out and the ease with which those roads are found by passers-by that have an interest in this side trip.
If your business isn’t getting the share of side traffic that you want, maybe you need to build a few more connecting roads.
Here are the usual links (roads) that profitable businesses set up to allow as much traffic as possible to be directed toward their front door:
1. Web site. Most small businesses know that a company web site is essential nowadays.
If you operate a solo Internet business, you really shouldn’t try to get by without one.
2. Newsletter. Sometimes called an ezine, the newsletter is an important link because it provides both relevant information about your business to the customer as well as continual contact that keeps your business in front of the customer.
At least, that’s the idea behind a regularly scheduled newsletter.
Obviously, if you only do a “hit and miss” job with the newsletter, rather than regular updates, you will lose some of the benefits of that important continuous contact.
Some people claim that newsletters have lost their appeal – that they don’t work as well as they used to. So maybe you call your communications by some other name. What it important is that you keep in contact with your audience and provide them will continued value within the niche.
3. Press releases. This can be both an important traffic generator as well as a pipeline for company information to the outside world.
We go into press releases in other posts at this site, but understand that this strategy is greatly neglected yet can be a powerful link to your prospective customer pool if done correctly and judiciously.
4. RSS feeds. These have become mainstream and are accepted all the time. It is a way to “push” your content to your online audience and prospects.
They are wonderful distribution channels for your company because they deliver news directly and immediately to those who want it.
Many companies are setting up feeds for employee and management blogs as well, but there are other ways of sending company communications out from headquarters.
5. Reciprocal links. Other web sites and businesses that are your partners or have an interest in your business can set up a road between the two businesses to shuttle traffic back and forth.
Typically you would set up links between non-competing partners so as not to lose customers to another business.
6. Media including social media. You can alert traffic on the super highway about your business by doing radio, TV, newspaper, magazine and social media stories and promotions.
Sometimes you’ll have to pay for the media to visit but you don’t always have to – other times they will stop by without charge if you have something to say that they want to hear. Get in the practice of releasing and distributing great content from your business and you will build a loyal following in the media.
7. Freebies. Often a business will create free information which will be of interest to targeted customers and gently lead them to the products and services of the business.
Give away a free report in exchange for a prospect’s name and email address. Provide “white papers” or “how to” guides on processes and “best practices” in your niche. Each piece of content that you distribute can be a traffic magnet leading to your web site and business.
8. PPC Advertising. You can pay to have search engines send you targeted traffic. You get to identify the keywords and phrases that you choose in order to focus for marketing on the search terms that are relevant to your business.
Choose the right key words and have something to offer visitors at your site. Experiment and watch your most successful competitors to see what keywords they are using. Target your marketing messages to align with the terms that your perfect customers would search on.
Regardless of how you market or advertise, you should always seek to capture prospect information for later follow-up.
9. Co-registration. You can pay to have targeted customer email addresses and names sent to your business offerings; but it will be up to you to turn these leads into customers.
Some will say the targeting of “co-reg” is not strong enough since the leads are not specifically looking for your business.
In addition, you may get a percentage of spam complaints from folks who registered but didn’t do it with your business in mind. You will have to experiment and see if this form of business promotion works for you.
10. Direct Mail. Letters, postcards, pamphlets, and catalogs all help to catch the attention of targeted customers and direct them to your business. The whole discipline of “direct mail” is a study by itself! But the usual marketing principles apply: test, track results, and only scale up your campaigns after you have proven them to be profitable.
Sometimes it is more difficult to capture a street address than a name and email.
11. Affiliates. These volunteers will beat the bush to flush out customers for your business. They will work for you because you offer them a percentage of each sale they get for your business.
Good affiliates can be a valuable source of product sales. Just think of it – you don’t have to pay for traffic unless that traffic first makes a purchase from you – a great business selling model!
12. Display Ads. Banners and other visual ads can be purchased and they act much like billboards along the highway directing interested travelers to the right exits.
These are a few of the typical ways a small business builds roads to the information super highway.
How many of them are you using in your business?
I would challenge you to do some serious thinking about creative ways that your business can build its own roads. Lots of streams of traffic are usually better than one or two. Don’t put all your eggs in a single basket.
To your online business success!