Everyone knows you need a website. But the web offers so much more to entrepreneurs who think bigger, who think of the entire web as a place to create a focused online presence. Here's how to use the whole web to market your business:
Content: Your prospects are going online in increasing numbers to search for answers, products, solutions, referrals and relationships--not just to find and buy products. The more relevant content you can produce to address the types of questions your prospective customers have, the better your chances are of building trust. Blogs are the best tools for easily creating this type of educational content for your site.
Interaction: Offer visitors ways to interact with your content. Many site visitors expect audio testimonials, welcome messages, video case studies and tools that allow them to rate content, add comments to it and vote on survey topics.
Collaboration: Web applications such as Basecamp make it easy for you to create online client project areas that can be branded and designed with the look and feel of your website. They also give you instant use of a suite of professional tools for very little investment. These tools allow you to store information, files and communications between you and your clients and also give you permission to use third-party suppliers, such as graphic designers or copywriters, for collaboration on projects.
Community: Bringing your customers and prospects together to meet and network is a great offline strategy, but the web offers some tools to help you do this online as well. Setting up social networking opportunities for your customers using free applications like Facebook and Ning or creating a network of blogs with software such as MovableType has become much easier to do. Inviting your customers to write articles and reviews for your site or create videos using your products and services can help build a community around your customers, ensuring they'll remain loyal and create word-of-mouth buzz for your company.
Reputation: Web directories such as Craigslist, Insider Pages and Judy's Book allow users of your products and services to rate the experience they had with your company. It's essential to seek these social search directories and find ways to encourage your most loyal customers to post reviews. Building strong, marketing-focused profiles on social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Ryze can add valuable information to the mix when people are searching online for your business.
Contribution: Writing and contributing educational articles to one of the many article databases, such as GoArticles, is a great way to spread your expertise and direct traffic to your website.
Syndication: Many new-media web-based tools like blogs allow you to create content and automatically submit it to news sites, article directories and even other parts of your website using RSS feeds. These can be a great way to spread and repurpose content or add news and calendar updates to your site right from your desktop. Learn more about these strategies and others by visiting sites such as del.icio.us , feedburner.com and wordpress.org .
So when you're brainstorming ways to get more from the internet, go well beyond the notion of a static website and build a much broader, more dynamic web presence--doing so will make integrating all your marketing efforts a lot easier.
John Jantsch is a veteran marketing coach, award-winning blogger and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide. Find out more at ducttapemarketing.com.