Marketing saves the world...

I believe all the world's problems can be solved with good marketing. I really do. Making peace. Feeding the hungry. Curing illness. Cleaning up the environment. (Even winning elections.)

But for some reason, marketing seems to be a mystery to most people (even some professionals). Despite what MBA's might tell you, marketing's not a science—it's empathy. It basically boils down to "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you."

The real key is simple: Your customers want to know "What's in it for me?" Tell them. If you don't do that, no amount of fireworks and freebies matter.

So what do you say? I'm assuming you're a person (either that or you're a very smart pet who can read—for example, my chinchilla reads my screen all the time, in between biting my keyboard, and flirting with my computer's mouse. /;lki876trfdxz—my chinchilla just typed that. It means something quite profound in his own language.)

OK, since you're a person, you know what interests and motivates you. You know that before you buy something you always think (though not always consciously), "What's in it for me?"

And that, my friends, is the secret of marketing. Big surprise. I know it sounds too simple, but that's exactly why people overlook it. So how do you do this on your site? Here's what your home page needs to tell visitors:

  1. HERE'S WHAT WE DO. Make it brief—think of a short "TV Guide" blurb--50 words or less. Do this first so people can see if what you offer is what they want. I go to sites all the time that have business-plan-like "mission statements." But they don't just come right out and say what they do, in plain language. You have do that.
  2. HERE'S WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU. Don't fall into vague "marketing-speak" that sounds good but says nothing. Be clear, specific and honest. You can combine both 1 and 2 into a single sentence, like this one for the FuseLetter:
    "You've got a web site—or you're thinking about building one. That's great. Now's the time to build a better web site—one that makes the web work for you. The FuseLetter shows you how."
  3. HERE'S WHY YOU SHOULD CHOOSE US. If you don't tell people why they should choose you instead of someone else—how are they supposed to know? If you can't think of reasons why you're better, then you're doing something wrong.
  4. BE POSITIVE! Fear has always been a great motivator, so in the past marketers did a lot of stuff to make you feel bad about yourself. And while this kind of negativity may still work in TV advertising, it doesn't work on the web because it's too easy to go someplace else to avoid your negativity. So tell people how you're going to help them.
  5. GENERATE WORD OF MOUTH. There is no better form of marketing. If someone you know and trust tells you that something is good, you're far more likely to believe it than if you read an ad. So make it easy for your customers to tell their friends—and reward them for it. To find out two ways to add this to your site, read the "tips" section further down.
  6. USE TESTIMONIALS. Tell people what your happy customers have said about you. This is powerful because it's an extension of "word of mouth." On the http://www.FuseLetter.com home page I use both animated and bulleted reader quotes.
  7. BE PERSONABLE. The web is about people. Even if your business sells to other businesses, businesses are just a bunch of people. So talk like a person, person to person. Otherwise you come across as "institutional" and who wants to be institutionalized?

    Many people are afraid to make their sites anything but dull. They mistakenly equate "dull" with "businesslike." But the truth is that dull sites just bore people. Don't be afraid to be different. If you're just the same as everyone else—what's the point?

OK, now you know the secrets. You really can do it. So get more people to your site. Sell whatever it is you have to sell. Then explain to people why world peace really is in their best interest.

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Get Your Message Out—
Create A Mailing List

One of the best ways to get your message out is via e-mail. It goes directly to people, so they don't have to come to you. Hey, you're reading this, aren't you?

The first rule of e-mail is simple—don't send e-mail unless people ask. If you do it's called SPAM and I seem to remember Dante wrote about a special level of hell reserved for spammers.

How do you get people to ask? Put a clear signup form on your site where people can join your mailing list. If you have a domain name, you can add a simple mailto: link on your site so people can send you e-mail. But use an address such as news@yourdomain.com, then have your email program filter all these names into a separate folder, so it's easier to extract the addresses and mail to them later. If you use a service, they'll give you HTML code for a sign-up form.

What do you put in your newsletter? My advice is to make it

  1. Useful
  2. Personal
  3. Pleasant

If it's for existing customers, give them information they'll find useful. Maybe you're having a sale, or you've added new features or services. Your customers want to know about this. And give them useful information and links about the field you're in because then you're providing extra service.

If it's for potential customers, make it a soft sell. Give them useful information and links about the field you're in. Then they'll want to read it. Don't beat people over the head with information about your products. Then it just seems like an ad and the "what's in it for me" factor is low. Better to have a short story about how one of your customers is more successful because of your help.

In both cases, avoid corporate communications stuff. No press releases. No "John Johnson Jr. is now Sr. Vice President of our Vice President's Support Group. No "We just did a big deal with Big Deal Inc. and we're pretty sure it's going to mean we can now afford that trip to Bermuda!" No one but you really cares about the corporate stuff. Reserve that info for your web site's press release and investor relations areas.

OK—then how do you handle the mailing?

If You Have A Small List, I recommend you simply use your own email program. AOL is not good for this, because if you send a message to multiple people, they all get all the addresses. This is very bad, because you lose your list, and your members lose their privacy.

If you have AOL, consider using a web-based e-mail system that has a BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) feature. I use and recommend http://www.onebox.com .

Always put your list addresses in the BCC (blind carbon copy) field. If you don't, people will start to unsubscribe, and other people can send e-mail to your list, which isn't the point. If your e-mail program doesn't handle many recipients well, try Calypso, from http://www.calypsoemail.com/ . It's a great e-mail program with a built in bulk-mail feature.

Bigger Lists: When you start to get more than a few hundred names it can be difficult to manage them. You manually have to unsubscribe people, you run the risk of sending duplicates, and it starts to take a lot of time.

Also, the more names you have, the longer it can take to send them—and some ISP's won't let you send BCC's to more than 50 people at a time—to help try to prevent spam.

When your list gets impractical in your normal e-mail program, try a list service, such as http://www.egroups.com (soon to be Yahoo Groups), http://www.topica.com or http://www.listbot.com . These services let you build, manage and host a list, for free. You can add links to your site so people can join easily, and then use these services to communicate with your visitors and customers.

These services handle subscribes and unsubscribes automatically, and don't allow duplicate addresses. They even keep an archive of your previous messages.

They can handle very large lists—and when someone is signed up, you can (and should) choose for them to confirm—that way there's no chance of spam. These services can create public lists that people can search—so if they're searching for a topic that you write about, it's another way for people to find you. They also archive your messages online, so you don't have to.

In trade for managing your list for free, these services attach a small ad to your email. They won't use your list for anything other than your list, though, so your list is safe, but you normally can't choose what ads appear. If your list has over 500 members, then they will even start to pay you part of the ad revenue.

ListBot also has a premium paid service which removes the ads—a good option when you want your e-mail to look more professional—and not have ads from companies you didn't choose.

If you use NetObjects Fusion, consider the Coolmaps Sendletter service which can be closely integrated into NetObjects Fusion. See: http://club.coolmaps.com/services_sendletter_index.cfm

Big Lists: If you have a large list, and want to send it out without ads from a service, consider a paid service. I use http://www.lyris.com/products/listmanager/outsourcing / - it has a minimum monthly fee, and a reasonable fee per message. The advantage of a service like Lyris is that it's designed for large lists. It manages them completely, ensures that people confirm to eliminate spam, prevents duplicates, lets people subscribe and unsubscribe, and is also able to send out tens of thousands of messages in only a few minutes. I've been very happy with Lyris and can personally recommend it.

If you have a "smaller" big list, http://sparklist.com/ is another commercial list provider. They use Lyris software (which I know is good) and their monthly minimum is less. I haven't used their service myself, however, so I can't recommend them personally. That said, I receive a number of e-mail lists from people who do use them and they seem fine.

Before you sign up for any service, make sure you can retrieve your list at any time. That allows you to view it-and move it to another service if necessary. I believe all these services do this (I know Lyris does), but check with them in advance.

Finally—don't expect to put a sign up box on your site and have 100,000 subscribers in a week, month, or even year. It's better to have 500 really focused subscribers than 5,000 general ones.

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AOL-Friendly E-Mail Links

Speaking of e-mail: The AOL mail reader is, unfortunately, different from most others. In most e-mail programs, simply typing a URL with the "http://" in front of it creates a live link that the recipient can click on.

In AOL, you have to create full HTML links, like this:

<a href=http://www.FuseLetter.com> FuseLetter</a>

(make sure to put a space after the URL and before the text, otherwise non-AOL mail readers won't handle it correctly!)

Why don't I use that kind of link in the FuseLetter? Because only about 5% of FuseLetter readers use AOL, and everyone else finds those links annoying.

Of course, you might think that AOL people leave the FuseLetter because the links aren't live. But I specifically ask people to take a moment to tell me why they've unsubscribed (and most people do). So far, no one's mentioned links as a factor. But if your visitors/customers mostly use AOL, then give them HTML-like links that will work better for them.

One more tip—some e-mail programs will turn a simple www link like www.FuseLetter.com into a live link. Others require an http:// in front of it, like http://www.FuseLetter.com - I always add the "http" because it's short but ensures more people get live links.

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Simple Person To Person Marketing Idea

I bought a pair of slippers through the web, and when they arrived, the package included several black-and-white posters for the company, a fun line-art design showing famous people through history who wore sandals. A hand written note said, "Please help us promote our website by posting this artwork on campus or office billboards, thanks, Sandals and Such." The package also included a small sticker that could be used on a car bumper, or locker. Since I had a good experience with them, and figure I'm doing other people a favor by recommending them, I'll post them, and http://www.sandalsandsuch.com will get true word of mouth from a happy customer. That's simple, and smart marketing.

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Great Looking Tables In Netobjects Fusion

How to create great looking tables in NetObjects Fusion... Follow these step by step instructions for a couple of tweaks that make sophisticated looking tables. http://www.redleaf.co.uk/training/online.cfm

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Tell A Friend

Want to find a simple system that lets your visitors e-mail their friends with the link. It's at http://referme.deadlock.com/ . It's free, though a premium version is available for a yearly fee.

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Allaire Cold Fusion Programming

If you want a custom "tell-a-friend" system that rewards your visitors and customers for telling their friends (the way that the http://friends.efuse.com system gives you fonts and graphics for getting friends to sign up), then e-mail the smart guy who built the FuseLetter Tell-a-Friend system, Jack Dalaa at cfinfo@dalaa.com . Jack can build any Allaire Cold Fusion-based system, from a web site to an intranet. If you need to have your website built on top of a live, real-time database, Jack's your man.

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Do good for free with just a click

NOW is the time to visit these sites, and click to donate for free.

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One Final Word

See how "word of mouth" works. Tell a friend about the FuseLetter at http://friends.eFuse.com - it takes like 20 seconds and you can get free fonts and graphics. One should never miss an opportunity to plug, plug, plug :)

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