If you want to stop traffic in cyberspace, you've got to put your best face forward. And this means creating not only a distinctive Web site, but also an eye-catching way to lure visitors there. That's where a banner exchange program can come in handy. Like those big "Shop here, buy this" ads you can't miss at the top of many Web sites, you, too, can create an affordable virtual ad campaign with the help of companies like Flycast and Microsoft's bCentral Banner Network.
Both companies allow small businesses to build exposure by placing free ads on their networks in exchange for accepting member ads on their own site. For example, for every two ads you display on your site, your own ad gets shown on another site if you're part of the bCentral Banner Network . You can also choose site categories to reach a targeted audience and enlist the expertise of online designers to help create your ad.
According to Skye Ketonen, group marketing manager at Microsoft bCentral, there are currently more than 400,000 Web sites trading on the network, from big corporations to dotcoms to a homebased wildflower seed business that recently attributed 10 percent of its sales to the bCentral network. bCentral also offers ad space for as little as $100 on hot sites like Yahoo! and Excite.
The Flycast Network reaches 25 million viewers per month. In addition to its free banner service, you can choose from several fixed-price ad campaign and customer tracking options. Through a companion program, Flycast eDispatch, you can also e-mail targeted customers.
Julia Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer who specializes in business and marketing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.