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Get the Internet Working for you

by Ulli Diemer




The stampede to get on the World Wide Web is still under way. But computer publications increasingly report a smaller but significant rush to get off the Web, as companies discover expected revenues and promotional benefits aren't materializing.

The disappointed ones tend to be those who plunged in with inadequate planning and excessive expectations.

It is possible to develop an effective presence on the Web at a reasonable cost. But you have to follow some common-sense rules.

Ask yourself:

* What are your goals? Is your primary objective to promote awareness of your company or organization? Are you seeking to broaden support for your cause? Are you planning to use your site to sell products or services?

* Have you clearly thought through your aims and objectives? Have you established a budget? A timeline?

* Whom do you want to reach? Members? Potential members? Customers? Potential customers? Supporters of your cause? People who share an interest in a particular subject?

* How do you want people to use your site? To access information about the issues you're involved in? To find out more about your products? To place orders? To interact online with others who share their interests?

* Will your site offer features to make users want to come back time after time?

Once you've answered these questions to your satisfaction, you need to develop a marketing strategy.

All too often, one hears of organizations pouring time and money into developing a World Wide Web site, then sitting back waiting for the world to find them.

It won't happen.

Thousands of new Internet sites start up every day, joining the millions already in existence. How will the people you want to reach find out about your Web site?

Even if they happen to learn of its existence, what will motivate them to check out your site rather than countless other equally interesting sites they could choose from?

When it comes to World Wide Web sites, nothing could be further from the truth than the Field of Dreams fantasy "Build it and they will come". If you build it without a coherent and targeted marketing strategy, no one will come.

In developing your strategy, keep the following points in mind:

* Your WWW site is one more tool in your communications/public relations tool-chest. It can supplement your existing ways of getting your message out, but it can't replace them.

* The World Wide Web is not a broadcast medium. Your content doesn't go out on the airwaves. It sits on your site, unseen, until you find ways to attract and lead users to it.

* Your WWW site produces costs (time, money) as well as benefits. These have to be weighed against the costs and benefits of other ways of communicating your message to your customers, constituency, or the public. Don't starve your tried and proven communications methods to build a gold-plated WWW site.

* Don't put all your eggs in the Internet basket. Seventy-five percent of Canadians don't use the Internet. Fewer than half of the 25% who do use it are frequent users.

* A WWW site works best when it is integrated into a co-ordinated communications strategy. Your other communications efforts should publicize and support your WWW site, and your site should publicize and support your other efforts.

* Make sure your World Wide Web URL (address) is mentioned prominently on your letterhead, in your sales literature, in your Sources listing, in all your communications.

* Make sure your WWW site home page gives your mailing address, phone number, E-mail address, and fax number. Mention it in your print and broadcast advertisements.

* Take advantage of the fact that experienced WWW users rely on online directories, subject guides, indexes, and specialized search tools to find what they're looking for. Massive "search engines" typically return thousands of "hits", most of them irrelevant, for each search. It's more valuable to be listed with the specialized sites which place their emphasis on selecting the best sources of information and on providing annotation and sophisticated indexing.

* Make sure the key online sites reaching your intended audience are aware of you and have indexed you appropriately. If your site is about birds, ask the Birding in Canada site to establish a link to you. If you want to reach journalists, make sure you are listed with Sources, since Sources Select Online is the primary site for Canadian journalists.

* Saying "We have a Web site" is comparable to saying "We have a phone". Your phone won't ring unless you have an effective strategy for attracting calls. Your World Wide Web site won't work for you either without an effective strategy to make it part of your overall communications and public relations strategy.


Ulli Diemer co-ordinates the content of the Sources Select Online Web site ( www.sources.com).

Contact information for Ulli Diemer:
Phone: 416-964-7799.
E-mail:
www.diemer.ca


See also:

How Sources magnifies your Internet visibility

Getting the most out of Sources Select Online

Five Common World Wide Web Site Failings
Is Your Web Site Media Friendly?
The Sources Select Online Story
You, Sources, and Getting the Most Out of the Internet