You have an online business, youve developed a nice site and you have a great product or service.
Where are your customers? And even if you start to see some traffic to your site, why dont they seem to be buying what youre offering?
Its true that the online economy has been in a bit of a trough since Blood April 2000.
Youve heard about the rosy forecasts that the long slide in the online selling business seems to be coming to a halt.
So how come youre still jumping through hoops just to get some decent traffic and a couple of sales each month? Have you missed something? Do you need more traffic?
These are the questions James Maduk, author of 52 Secrets My Mom Never Told Me About Internet Marketing and host of Small Business Heroes Radio, knows youre asking as a small online business owner.
Maduk knows some secrets about Internet marketing and the real reasons behind online selling. He agreed to share a few of his tips with us.
Q: The biggest issue online is making money. There are a lot of fallacies and get rich quick schemes out there. A lot of people have been burned. Whats going on with Internet Marketing right now?
Maduk: I think you are right. I started working online in 1995 and have been a professional speaker and sales trainer since 1992.
I read a book called Virtual Selling by Tom Siebel and I thought that title would be a great domain name.
I got it, thinking Siebel would contact me to register it for his book or his company, but I never got call for it. So I had to figure out what I would do with the Website.
It was embarrassing because I had never actually sold anything online until last year.
As a sales trainer, I was supposed to know how to sell. So I learned the slow, hard way how not to do things to make money online.
Now I focus on showing small business people how they can be in a position to get paid for what they know and what they already do by using their Website.
Q: There are a lot people doing the wrong things when it comes to trying to earn money and making an Internet presence pay for itself. What are your thoughts on that?
Maduk: I wrote the book 52 Secrets My Mom Never Told Me About Internet Marketing, where I looked at 52 real key secrets that are things people are doing wrong.
Ill give you an example. One of the first things I noticed was that, as a small business owner, I have a Website with a really cool name like Virtual Selling and I thought Id have lots of traffic.
In fact, I had no traffic at all. I soon learned that there were steps and a process to follow to make sure you could do three things.
The first secret is youve got to be able to attract the right kind of customer. Notice I didnt say drive traffic.
The second thing is you have to be in a position where you can do something that most people dont know.
This is the problem I run into with most small businesses. When they put up a Website, their purpose is to do a dump of all their great information so a visitor can take a look at it and know what theyre about.
In fact, what I found was the real purpose of the site for the small business owner is actually not to sell anything online but to buy something.
What I mean by that is you have to have a couple of different sites. You have to have something called a collection site. I found that the businesses that were earning money had multiple Websites.
One of the things I learned about qualifying customers and traffic to my main site – www.jamesmaduk.com – is to purchase peoples e-mail addresses.
I bribe them by giving them a whole bunch of information in return for their e-mail address.
So the big secret for small businesses revolves around building the right traffic. Small business owner cant do what they hear Big Business doing.
Q: Traffic for traffics sake isnt really that valuable. Back in the dotcom heyday, sites were going after as much traffic as they could get, and it just cost them money because it wasnt the right kind of traffic.
Does a company need to look a who theyre attracting?
Maduk: Yes. I look at it as disqualifying traffic. Youre in a position where you can capture the e-mail address of someone visiting your site. What youre really doing is earning the right to have a longer-term relationship with that person.
When people search for information on the Web, Im pretty sure theyre not looking for your small business. They are looking for an existing service, brand or product that they already know.
If your small business is not branded, there are questions you will need to answer. I think the three questions everyone has is:
1. What does all this mean to me? Youve got to be pretty clear on the front page of your collection site what this all means to your visitor.
2. What does this Website want me to do?
3. Do I trust the small business owner? That is where most of the small businesses fall down. They havent built the level of trust with a visitor who has just run into them from a search engine are referred by a link.
Those three questions generally cant be answered by a small business who just puts up a big Website with a whole bunch of information on it.
Its a bit of a long-term process and it starts by you capturing or purchasing the e-mail address of that visitor.
If theyre willing to give it to you, it means youve got information that they find valuable and theyre willing to pay for it with their e-mail address.
Q: Youre building trust?
Maduk: Absolutely. You get the chance now with e-mail to bring more value to that person and really build a conversation with them.
Its not about building a sticky Website or building community on your Website.
Its about how you can build trust over the long term with this person that you dont know.
Thats really what this main collection site is about – building trust. Not about selling.
Q: What are some free tools that entrepreneurs can incorporate into an online business so they can attract people?
Maduk: Ill tell you one of the biggest things Ive learned in a while. When the Internet first started, if you offered a newsletter, that was almost a guarantee of someone signing up. That was kind of the de facto way of capturing an e-mail address.
I have to tell you – I probably get 300-400 e-mails today from newsletters I have subscribed to over the past four years. I dont subscribe to too many anymore! While they are one way, I dont think newsletters are the best way to really give something of value.
I use of bunch of different strategies. One of them is I have an Internet radio station. In exchange for e-mail address, I give people a link to the radio station.
Im also a big fan of event selling. Its very easy for a small business to do consistent regular events to really provide valuable information to their target audience that they want to help.
By doing a regular event on a consistent basis, you not only capture the e-mail address but you educate your potential customers.
For instance, I do an Internet radio conference once a week. Its a half hour presentation through streaming audio and I do that with free tools.
Another tool I use is a Mimio White Board (www.mimio.com) online and do a Webcast every Monday morning for 7-10 minutes using the White Board and audio.
Basically I take one of the 52 Secret from my book and we talk about it.
I also build up an archive of information that is valuable and people will pay for it.
It also lets my visitors know that hey, this person and company are for real. Theyre here on a consistent basis and bringing a lot of value.
That gets back to building trust, what should a person do at your site and what all of this means to them – the three important questions our site traffic wants us to answer.
This article is Part 1 of 2. Next Friday, well look at some more of James Maduks 52 Secrets My Mom Never Told Me About Internet Marketing.
The full audio interview with James Maduk can be heard at www.webtalkguys.com.
Dana Greenlee is co-host, producer and engineer of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Seattle-based radio and Webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.