There is a virtual mountain of information out there in cyberspace on how to build Web sites, how to manage shopping carts, what software to use, how to analyze your traffic and nearly every other sub-topic imaginable. One message that does not seem to have come through as loud and clear is the fact that building, tweaking, measuring and maintaining your site is not going to get you visitors. Simply filling out page meta-tags and peppering your content with keywords will not do it either. The simple fact is that a commercial Web site, which is what you have even if you are just trying to sell your self-published book or self-produced CD, is like any other business since the dawn of time. To succeed, you need to promote it.

One of the downsides to the lure and glitter of high technology is that people start thinking in terms of push-button solutions. There really is no way to promote your site except by spending time doing so, and not every communication channel you use will be Internet-connected. You cannot expect that Google tools, search engine listings and a Flash introduction page are going to substitute for the same kind of old-fashioned work that built Sears, Apple or Starbucks. You will have to devote time, money, resources and sleepless nights if you want to break out of the pack and enjoy some success in a crowded e-marketplace.

Old ways still work

Although you can certainly use your computer for many of the promotional tasks required, your first moves are decidedly low-tech and old-fashioned. The reason they are still around, of course, is because they work. No, you do not send out press releases in envelopes much anymore, but you still need to write them. However, do not get lazy and think that dropping a PR piece or two into the automated newswire sites will get your message out where it is needed. If you want the local paper to feature your new online yogurt delivery service (well, why not?), you need to pick up a phone and get hold of the copy editor or other staffer there.

You need to come down from cyberspace to Planet Earth in any number of other ways, too. You should be handing out business cards and/or flyers about your site wherever you go. Yes, it can embarrass the wife and kids that you are singing a one-note song all the time but, frankly, this is what it takes to succeed. You should be out and about at least as much as you are hunkered down over your PC (or Mac, of course), going to trade shows, morning sales lead meetings the diner, Toastmaster sessions and various conferences. You have to put your feet on the pavement, and the pound it a whole lot. There is simply no other way.

Old and new together

Of course, there are some handy high-tech tools, too, but they are best used in combination with old-fashioned marketing smarts. A YouTube account is great, and you can post how-to clips, homemade commercials and other video accounts of your product or service. Just sticking it up there will not do, though. You should combine this effort with, say, the previously mentioned flyers or PR approach, and get the word out as broadly as possible that you have something great going on at YouTube. It never hurts to use the free offer, prize or referral fee promotion to motivate people to tune in. This becomes yet another thing you can promote in various channels.

Speaking of various channels, do you know that public broadcasting stations have to make airtime available for community use? While you won’t get far trying to get your local PBS station to screen an infomercial, you can certainly start a local show (you know, for your yogurt delivery service) that focuses on yogurts from around the world, ways to serve it, great dessert treats and other yogurt-y information. Do not look askance at local college radio, either, especially if you have a product or service, like yogurt, that is well-liked by that college demographic.

Bottom line

Get on a radio show or two, check out the local TV options, contact the newspapers. This is just part of Marketing 101 in the brick-and-mortar business world, and there is no reason that you should condescend to methods that have been proven to work for decades and centuries. You cannot expect simply to create a site and have people find you. We are much too far down the virtual road for that. Right now, it is all about working harder and smarter than your competitors, and it begins with (as should be no surprise) the basics. Back to basics you go, and break a leg!

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