Going Off

Finding Your Market

For the most part, industry experts agree, there is no cut-and-dried way to promote Web sites. You must handle each client on a case-by-case basis. Find out what a site's business objectives are and who they're trying to target, then create a customized plan that meets those objectives. "You always have to be looking at the big picture," suggests Miranda Tan, the 27-year-old president and founder of ExcitePR LLC in New York City.

With one client, for instance, an online essay evaluation service called myEssay.com, Tan and partner Ed Tsai wanted to create a powerful presence for the site in the New York City area while also dispelling the commonly held belief that these kinds of services condone cheating. Through careful research, Tan and Tsai discovered an untapped target market, high school students who didn't quite know what it took to get into top-notch colleges. A grassroots campaign by the partners proved worthwhile, resulting in myEssay.com-hosted writing tutorials at local schools, coupled with four-year plans for college-bound students. "Traffic to myEssay.com increased substantially," notes Tan. "Moreover, the company was able to distinguish itself as both the innovator and the most reputable online essay evaluator service."

Tan cautions, however, that what works today won't necessarily work tomorrow. Even professionals well-versed in offline promotions and marketing tactics must be able to change with the times or cut their losses. This principle seems to have gotten lost among the current crop of offline promotion firms: Dotcoms are looking for cutting-edge ideas, but many are finding that traditional public relations firms can't deliver.

For Tan and Tsai, however, their ability to keep up with the pace of the Internet has helped their business grow exponentially, and this year, they expect sales to hit the million mark. "Because things change so much," notes Tsai, "you constantly have to reinvent the best way of doing things."

It seems that technology can either be your friend or your enemy in this industry, as dotcoms will continue to demand increasingly tech-savvy promotions for their sites. Wise entrepreneurs will take advantage of the technology that's available when creating advertising campaigns for their clients. "At the same time," notes Tan, "these challenges also mean that emerging firms have a huge advantage over lumbering PR dinosaurs who are tied to their old ways."

Vanessa DeRuyter is a freelance writer in Huntington Beach, California, who feels a little offline promotion could do wonders for her writing career.

Contact Sources

ExcitePR, mtan@excitepr.com, www.excitepr.com

McDonough & Associates, (917) 679-8773, pattymcdonough@mindspring.com.

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This article was originally published in the October 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Going Off.

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