Great! You've got your new Web site up and running, and whether you're selling collectibles or business consulting services, it is now that the big job begins—promoting yourself. Now, you've probably done all the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) work with keywords (if not, go back a step and return here later), set up a Twitter account and Facebook page, sent out as many non-spam e-mails as possible and done a few of those "Internet newswire" press releases. So you're set, right?
Well, perhaps, but it's not likely. It takes a lot more work to get people to your Web site than it does to build one. Maybe 15 years ago you could settle for the foregoing activities and actually get some traffic out of it, but no longer. The World Wide Web is fairly drowning in sites, and regardless of how unique you think yours is, there are doubtless about a dozen just like it, from Argentina to Zimbabwe. What on Earth can you possibly do if you've already covered the semi-mystical, near-magical high-technology bases in your business rollout plan?
Back to real basics
The answer to that is simple, and also allows for a good lesson in what "begging the question" really means. In recent years this once-potent and very particular phrase was not just an Ivy League synonym for "asking a tough question." It means that the question itself presents as fact the very thing that it is supposed to establish. In this case, the question suggests that the "semi-mystical, near-magical high-technology" measures that you took to register and promote your site are the most effective ones possible. As the song says, "It ain't necessarily so."
There are many low-tech, low- and no-cost ways for you to promote your Web site. Depending on your business model, you can restrict and define your efforts in any number of ways to get the most bang for the least bucks. You don't need a global communications plan if you are starting a drop-off center for eBay auctions, a local business by definition. Therefore, local and focused efforts are often more beneficial than technological overkill.
Simple, straightforward, sensible
Think back to pre-Internet days, if you're old enough, and recall the many bulletin boards that decorated community centers, libraries, laundromats, city parks, public squares, college quads, downtown parks and other locations. Most are still there. These are perfect places to advertise your enterprise with flyers, but simply because they are local venues doesn't mean you can scrawl a message on a 3x5 index card. People today expect competent layouts with legible headlines and decent images. Get help on your flyers if you need it.
Local newspaper delivery people will often make a deal to enclose your flyers with their delivered papers, too. Not only that, but you can simply go from store to store along all the main commercial routes in your city or region, asking to place your flyer in the windows or set your business card tray on the counter. You may get 10 "no's" for every "yes," but one well-placed flyer or business card can bring you a customer or client who will pay for the entire effort. While you are hitting the pavement, of course, don't miss any opportunity to talk up your business with passers-by, business owners or anyone else. You just never know who might need just what you offer.
Advertising means paying, but it can work
The old publicity hacks had a few disparaging sayings about advertising, the most gracious of which is something like, "Don't pay for advertising until you're done with the free stuff." After you have distributed a few thousand (yes, thousand) flyers and business cards, pasted your message on all the local bulletin boards and affixed your printed pitch to the inside of strip-mall donut shop windows everywhere, you can consider shelling out a (very) few bucks for some "advertising with legs."
Daily newspapers most certainly do not have legs, as they go from timely to dated in a day, ending up as kindling or birdcage carpet. The weekly community newspapers are a much better bargain, and have a little shelf life which will spread your cost out over a few days, a week or longer. Don't forget that pet stores, hair salons, day spas and all sorts of other local businesses have their own newsletters, too, both printed and Web-hosted. Sometimes you can barter for ad space, offer a discount to the business's customers or otherwise ingratiate yourself with the distributor to get a listing.
Use every available avenue
Last but not least, you can take a lesson from the seminar hotshots of the world, establish yourself as an expert in your field and the offer free seminars that are, in fact, marketing opportunities. If you ally yourself with the local library or a businessman's group, you can often get free mentions in print, on the radio and even in the "public service" announcements of local TV stations.
If you put your thinking hat on, you can probably think of any number of other ways to promote your new Web site in the tried-and-true, old-fashioned ways. Naturally, you will want to use all the free PR services, send e-mails and snail mail, "talk up" your site to everyone in sight, distribute your promo materials widely and generally "sing a one-note song" about what you are doing. Yes, it is quite challenging, but the only way to separate yourself from the growing pack is to work smarter and harder than your competition—and the time to start, of course, is yesterday.