In an era when "knowing thy customer" is seen as the path to riches, it's hard to resist collecting the vast stores of customer data that tumble into your lap when you create a Web site. Know where a visitor has been before-what sites he or she has visited earlier in the same Inter-net session, for instance-and an alert marketer can use that insight into the surfer's interests to tweak the site's offerings so they more closely match what the surfer wants.
For dotcom entrepreneurs, that means don't screw up, and you'll gain visitors' trust. And once they trust you, they will buy from you.
Turned on by pink, retro bowling shirts? How about bowling jackets and T-shirts? In 1998, Tucson, Arizona, entrepreneur Gary Forrester, 47, thought there were enough bowling fanatics out there to make a success of Bowling Connection, where almost everything a bowler craves is on sale. So far, he's been proved right.
Entrepreneur: How do you promote the site?
Gary Forrester: There's a helpful site called Selfpromotion.com that makes it easy to list your site with all the search engines. We also promoted Bowling Connection by passing out fliers at bowling tournaments.
Another way we promote on an ongoing basis is by putting items up for auction on eBay. It's not only another source of income, it also drives people right to your Web site to order more of your products. And it's only 25 cents to list each item. This has probably been the most cost-effective advertising I've ever seen.
It's amazing, the opportunities that still exist on the Web. Ask Maria Bailey, 36. A onetime marketing executive with AutoNation USA, she launched BlueSuitMom.com in Pompano Beach, Florida, on Mother's Day 2000 with the aim of meeting the needs of executive working moms. Her take on the Net was that there were sites geared for working moms in general but none aimed specifically at executives who also happen to be moms. So she decided to build one. BlueSuitMom.com offers opportunities for networking, news geared for executive moms and tips on topics such as time management.
Entrepreneur: How do you promote the business?
Maria Bailey: We promote our business mainly by creating strategic partnerships. For instance, we have a partnership with Stork Avenue, the largest retailer of birth announcements. They were willing to put our logo on 15 million catalogs in exchange for driving traffic to their site. We also rely on the strong word-of-mouth network moms and businesswomen create, and networking within women's professional organizations, human resources departments and parenting organizations. In addition, we sponsor events such as parenting conferences, and distribute our content to other Web sites to build brand recognition. We've been very lucky in creating great press.
What unique advantages do you have vis-à-vis other Web sites?
We felt the best advantage we could have was to be the first to market-and we were. Being the first site aimed at executive working mothers has allowed us to create all the great press we've received.
What's been your biggest surprise in building this business and your biggest disappointment?
The biggest surprise has been how quickly the site and idea have grown. The response we've gotten from other Internet companies, offline retailers, marketers and associations has been overwhelming. We can't keep up with the people who want to do business with us.
The biggest disappointment, or the biggest surprise I didn't anticipate, was I never thought raising money would take so much time out of each day. It's a constant "chicken or the egg" game when you're juggling raising money, hiring good talent and getting the product to market.