Being in business means staying on your toes. It means being flexible and quickly adapting to changes in the marketplace. This is especially true for small-business owners – people like you and me who don’t have the resources to compete one-on-one with major corporations.
The good news for us is that the Internet levels the playing field, putting us nose to nose with the big guys. As a small Internet publisher I’ve spent my time focusing on ways to attract new customers that don’t require a lot of capital. Today, I’m going to share one of the most effective – and least expensive.
You already know how important it is to capture the e-mail addresses of your customers and prospective customers. (That point has been made many times in ETR.) Once you have their e-mail addresses (and their permission to contact them), you can continue to send them promotional e-mails at virtually no cost in order to convince them to buy.
Many shrewd marketers use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to collect new e-mail addresses. They make an attractive offer in their ad – often for some sort of free information. And when people who are interested in that information click on the ad, they’re directed to a Web page that (1) asks for their e-mail address so the free report, e-book, etc. can be delivered, and (2) asks for permission to send them additional information/offers.
Although I certainly use PPC advertising myself, I have found another way to acquire names that can be even more economical. I call it the S.I.A. (Special Interest Advertising) Method.
Let’s say you offer a product or service that caters to a special interest – such as water skiing or knitting or gardening. You can usually find a number of websites that attract many visitors who have an interest in that subject. And the owners of those high-traffic, special-interest websites often sell advertising on their sites to other Internet marketers.
For example, when I decided to sell my screenplay marketing manual via the Internet, I looked for a website that appealed to aspiring screenwriters. And I found one that reported recent script sales. The site provided free information on what producer bought which script, who sold it, what agency represented the writer, and even the reported sales price. This site got a lot of traffic, and I knew it was attracting tons of MY potential customers. So I checked out their advertising options.
The cost for a small display ad on the site was $150 a month – well within my budget. So I placed an ad for my manual. I ended up selling two manuals at $79 each, which means I broke even. Not very exciting.
The next time I advertised on that site, I was smarter. Instead of offering the manual itself for sale, I offered a free report on a related subject that people could download once they submitted their e-mail address.
This time, I hit pay dirt. Almost 200 people signed up for the free information – and I had almost 200 e-mail addresses of potential customers for my manual. At $150 for my ad, that means it cost me less than $1 per e-mail address. (And anyone who’s been doing pay-per-click will tell you that $1 is a pretty good price for a bona fide name.)
My next step was to start sending e-mails to those people that pitched the manual. Within 60 days, I’d made seven sales. Within three short months, I’d made a nice profit – and I still had the e-mail addresses of 200 potential customers for other screenwriting-related products I might develop. All from placing an inexpensive ad on a targeted website and sending a few promotional e-mails.
Now my immediate profit on this particular deal wasn’t huge. However, you can see that if you have a series of products that would appeal to the same special-interest group, you can set yourself up to have a nice steady stream of moolah trickling in. And if you can find 50 sites for your ad that get a lot of traffic from your target market, you could be making some serious money.
Advertising on special-interest websites and offering free information to capture names is a strategy I strongly recommend. You can put it to work by following these simple steps:
1. Scour the Internet to find websites that (a) cater to your potential customers and (b) accept advertising. You can find them by using keyword searches in major search engines like Google.
2. Contact the website’s marketing department and check out their advertising rates. They should be based on the amount of traffic the site attracts. The best way to know if the rates are reasonable is to “comparison shop” at a number of sites.
3. Put together some free information that your prospective customers might want. PDF text files are easy to create. Audio files are also effective, and there are many inexpensive programs that allow you to create these files yourself.
One free gift I currently give new subscribers to one of my natural health websites is a PDF manual on how to avoid knee problems. Since knee problems often afflict middle-aged and senior adults – the prime market for my natural health products – this report helps bring in super-targeted names. I am also about to launch a marketing campaign for entrepreneurs that will give new subscribers a link to a free 10-minute audio program that delivers five keys to success when starting a small business.
4. Create your e-mail address capture page. You have a lot more space here than you’ll have with your ad. So this gives you the opportunity to really go into detail to make your prospect see the benefits of the free information you’ll be giving away in exchange for their e-mail address. Once you’ve got the copy down, any Web programmer with basic skills can easily upload it to your website.
5. Create a small ad that you’ll place on the special-interest websites. I like to include a small attention-getting image in my ads – but check with each website’s marketing department, as they don’t all allow you to do it.
It’s best to use an image that shows the main benefit of the information you’re giving away or the product you’re selling. For a muscle-building program, for example, you might advertise with a banner ad showing before and after photos of someone who used the program. If you can’t think of a way to portray the benefit with a small picture, at least use an image that has some relevance. For instance, when marketing my screenplay marketing manual with a banner ad, I used an image of a movie projector.
If it’s not possible to use an image to grab attention, you’ll have to do it with a strong headline. The headline is always the most important part of an ad – and even more important when it doesn’t get any help from an illustration. The most effective headlines either describe the benefit or say something outrageous that piques a website visitor’s curiosity. An example of a benefit headline would be something like “Lose 10 pounds in 15 days.” An outrageous headline might be something like “Every doctor you’ve spoken to is dead wrong!”
6. Be prepared to send the information/product you promised as soon as people sign up to receive it. But don’t stop there. Be prepared, too, to keep sending them additional information they might find interesting, as well as promotions for the products/services you’re selling.
It’s critical to establish a relationship with your potential customers as soon as possible. One way I do this with new subscribers to my natural health e-zine is by sending them a special report with up-to-the-minute information – maybe something about a just-released study on how to relieve pain naturally.
7. Track your results. If your first ad is profitable, find additional special-interest websites where you can expand the program. If it’s not profitable, tweak the ad and try again with a different website.[Ed. Note: Growing your e-mail list is a classic direct-marketing technique that can help you pull in bigger profits. Learn more about how to attract boatloads of customers from two marketing masters.
Starting a business doesn’t have to deplete your bank account. Expert entrepreneur Paul Lawrence is the publisher of a new program for entrepreneurs who don’t have a lot of extra money to spare. Check out the details of Cheapskate Internet Fortunes: 8 Ways to Start a Million Dollar Internet Business for $99 or Less right here.]