In online marketing, you need to know the territory |

In online marketing, you need to know the territory

Bob Schumacher
Vail, CO, Colorado

“But, he doesn’t know the territory!”

That famous line from “The Music Man” is as valid for virtual marketing as it is for marketing on Main Street. The success or failure of a small business Web site depends on how well the owner or manager understands the framework of the “virtual territory” of the Internet.

Here is what “knowing the territory” means when it comes to constructing a business website that works (spurs someone to act):

– Your opening page needs to be crystal clear as to what your site is about and should also provide a good reason for someone to venture further into your virtual store. A “darn good reason” is all about language describing what is in it for me as a prospect to keep your site on my screen for more than five seconds. To that end, go light on glitz (pop-ups, banners, etc.).

– Effective business Web sites contain quick, simple navigation systems.

– Resist getting sucked into the “World of Links” (other Web sites) unless you have a valid reason. Linking can be beneficial but always be sure whomever you are linking to links back to you. Your site visitor hitting a link is akin to leaving your store for another store. They probably will not be back.

– If you are selling something (products or services), make it easy to buy by investing in a “shopping cart” system. If you are not selling something, think very hard about why you are investing in a Web site at all.

A “brochure” site is pretty much the same as a printed brochure. Think about the business meetings you have attended where you were simply handed a brochure. What did you do with it? Now guess what people do to most online brochures.

– Be sure your site loads rapidly . . . on a 13-inch monitor with a dial-up connection. You or your Web master might own a lighting-fast computer but understand that a large portion of computer users do not. Ask someone with a dial-up connection to access your site before you publish it. Slow load means no load. Speed counts.

– Look before you leap regarding a service provider (host) for your site. Every one of them will promise you the moon. Many do not deliver. Before you sign on the dotted line ($20-$50 month) with a Web site host, take the time to check out other sites the provider is hosting. Bring these sites on line at different times of the day and on different days of the week. Pay attention to how they load and what the sites look like.

– Examine the look and content of the top 10 sites in your area of expertise that come up on the first page of different search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) Delve into the tricks of the trade that will get your site on the first page. Clue: it will cost you some money.

Be careful here. Seeing does not equate to staying, buying or taking action of some kind. Many people see your newspaper ad but few if any will take any kind of action unless your offering incites them to do so.

It is vital you understand that when you create any kind of Web site you will still have to seek out your customers. They will not seek you out. Think of winking at someone in a dark room. You are the only one who knows you are winking.

If you think your local bricks and mortar marketplace is getting crowded, competition in cyberspace makes your Main Street location seem like it’s on a desert island!

Just like Harold Hill in River City, Iowa, you better know the territory if you expect to construct a business Web site that works.

If you do decide to enter the online battlefield, prepare and organize in advance. That means decide what you specifically intend to accomplish with your Web site and then set up a budget and a plan to make it happen.

Bob Schumacher is a Grand Junction-based small business marketing consultant and author. His Web site ” ” offers 74 complimentary articles full of tips and tactics to help entrepreneurs expand their business. E-mail Bob at

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