November 22, 1999
The Web may be worldwide, but marketing it locally can draw important customers
Let's face it: with all the well-funded companies promoting and selling jewelry on the Internet, independent jewelers who start Web sites these days shouldn't expect to compete globally. Unless you partner with a company such as eJewelry, which will supplement your inventory with an on-line catalog of several hundred products, your store's regular inventory on-line probably won't be enough to compete against on-line retail giants with lots of merchandise and money for marketing.
Instead, use your Web site to reach local customers, say marketing experts. Promote the site as a resource for existing customers and get involved in your town's Web communities to promote to potential customers. Here are some things you can do to promote effectively:
- Advertise your URL. Once you secure a Web site address that works for your company, don't waste it. Print it on business cards and letterhead, include it in newspaper and Yellow Pages ads and read it in radio spots. Run a promotion exclusively through your Web site to encourage people to visit.
- Don't snooze on news. Update the Web site frequently to give customers a reason to come back. Include "Events" and "New Products" sections so people can stay on top of hot new things in your store.
- Find local shopping communities. Your city or region probably has at least one Web site dedicated to the business and shopping communities there. These sites may be operated by the Chamber of Commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureaus or local governments and are great for advertising to tourists and businesspeople looking for information before visiting your area. Go to Yahoo! and type your city and state in the search engine. When the results come up, visit categories such as "Business & Shopping" and "Local Guides" to see what kinds of sites exist. Submit your URL to all the directories you find. If you're in a metropolitan area, you'll find even more opportunities available. Nationally operated directories with local focuses, such as MSN CitySearch, are used as entertainment guides as well as shopping directories by visitors and locals alike.
- Trade links. Dedicate a page of your site to information about your city or region. Include links to information about local parks, attractions, history and events. Ask operators of these sites to trade links with you.
- Promote using on-line press. Local newspapers and magazines are all establishing Web sites, and Web-only publications are popping up all over the country. Depending on the size and age of the publication, you may be able to buy banner ads for less than you'd spend on print. Advertise your Web site in the banner ad and arrange for it to link to your site.
- Go back to Yahoo! While you're there, register your site in Yahoo!'s acclaimed directory. Once again, type your city and state, and click on "Business & Shopping." If there's already a "Jewelry" category in the shopping section, click on it and find the logo at the bottom of the page that says "Suggest Site." Fill out the form as instructed. If there isn't a "Jewelry" category, recommend in the form that Yahoo! create a new category to fit your store. Inclusion in Yahoo! is some of the best free advertising you'll find on-line.
- E-mail is direct mail. Most importantly, collect the e-mail addresses of every customer who visits your store, and include an area on your site for people to submit their information and join your mailing list. Send newsletters regularly about changing features on your Web site, and link directly to the pages you talk about.
- by Stacey King