Community Websites Mean Big Business for You
Lets face it. Marketing is a challenge. You wouldn’t be reading this article if promoting your business online was just an easy walk in the park under a warm afternoon sun. The reality of it is that marketing could be called a walk in the park, but the sky is filled with nasty looking storm clouds. While there are millions of “marketing methods,” only a few work. Of those few, one of the least known is the concept of seeking customers where they congregate. And customers congregate at Community Websites.
What are Community Websites?
Now, if you have been marketing online very long, one of the things you have most likely heard a lot about is Targeted Marketing, right? You must target to your desired audience on Search Engines and Directories, you must have a targeted banner campaign, etc. What you may not have heard, however, is that an elite group of “small” websites have already taken care of all the hard work of attracting and building a base of targeted customers. They are “community websites”.
Sometimes called “niche sites” or “fan sites,” community websites are small gathering places for people who have a passion for a specific topic and they are often maintained by a webmaster who has an obsession with that topic. From webmaster resources at AskTheRabbit.com to music rumors at BritneySpears.org, these sites exist to serve a niche (highly targeted) market. And these niche markets exist to buy your products or services.
How can Community Websites benefit you?
Imagine that you live in Los Angeles and you want to go to New York. You could build your own road from the east coast of North America to the west coast. Or you could optionally use one of the roads that have already been built; made, I might add, by experts. Now imagine that you run an eBusiness and want to attract customers. You could work very hard to bring together a targeted visitor base and market to those visitors. Or you could optionally use a visitor base that has already been developed; created, I might add, by community experts.
Community Websites won’t get you out of the hard work of attracting customers, but they do present you with a readership of interested surfers to market to. These sites may look simple on the outside, but with dependable updates, excellent content, and active visitor interaction, you can be assured of hip, excited, and passionate customers waiting to click on your advertisement.
How do you determine which Community Websites to market through?
There are millions of Community Websites online and more are launched each day. Yahoo, LookSmart, the Open Directory Project, and many others have made an exhaustive effort to index the bigger and more popular of these websites. Your goal must be to find the select few websites that fit nicely with your products. To do this, I suggest you create an,action file like the one below. For this example I have used Two-Way Radios as my product.
Multi-Channel Two-Way Radios with a 2-Mile Range.
$50 a pair
Possible Community Markets–
Customers I hope to Target–
-Recreationists that need to communicate
-Parents looking for something to do with their kids
-Laborers in need of short-range communication
Look at this action file closely. Almost everything I need to market Two-Way radios on Community Websites is contained above. I lay out the details on what I am selling, what it costs, to what kind of market I wish appeal, and what kind of customer I plan to target. You can make your own action files as general or specific as you like, but remember to keep things simple so you can start moving quickly.
Once you have a list of Community Markets you want to appeal to, you must spend some time surfing the ‘net. Look at major Internet directories to begin with, but keep an eye open for Link Pages and Web Rings to find more websites related to a subject. Create a list of five or six websites for each of the Markets you listed.
How do you approach Community Websites with Marketing ideas?
Community Websites Mean Big Business for You.
Continuing with my example above, I select “fishing” as the first market on the list and I quickly put together a short sales e-mail to send to my list of Fishing Websites. I want to make the webmaster feel that I am a fan of his website (which I am if I plan on marketing with him) and I also want to sell him on the whole marketing idea. Here is an example e-mail:
I visited your website and was excited by its excellent coverage of fishing and the fishing industry. I made up my mind right then to approach you about helping to market a product which I sell and which I feel would be useful to the anglers who visit your website. The product is a set of Two-Way Radios for the discounted price of $50. Having tossed my line in the water a few times, I know that anglers like to go to the river or lake in groups, but they will quickly spread out once the fishing starts. The problem is that, when in need of another night crawler or a new hook, each fisherman must leave his fishing spot and search for his companions. He wastes valuable fishing time that could have been saved if the fisherman had a set of Two-Way Radios and, therefore, better communication. With these Two-Way Radios you can easily discuss fishing conditions, meetings places, lunch times, or anything else that comes to mind.
If you would be at all interested in discussing a possible advertising and marketing arrangement between yourself and me, then please e-mail me at…”
Once my e-mails have been sent out, I sit back and wait for the interested parties to respond. Before I begin any marketing partnership, I carefully look at the traffic, newsletter subscriptions, and general respect that a website carries. My goal would be to market my Two-Way Radios through one or two Community Websites in each of my chosen markets.
Here are a few good ways to nurture a relationship with a Community Website:
1. Offer a contest. Webmasters are always on the lookout for ways to boost their visitor return frequency and a contest, where you provide the item to be given away and they provide the promotion, is a cheap way to start working with a Community Site. Webmasters love this type of thing because they can often get exposure on similar websites as those webmasters notify their visitors that something is being given away.
2. Try to get constant presence. Instead of just adding your banner to their advertising rotation, try to negotiate a deal where a small affiliate ad is included on all the Community Website’s pages. This placement will lead to brand recognition for your company and prompt users to come back later and make a purchase even if they are not interested at the moment.
3. Listen to the webmaster. Make the webmaster aware that you are willing to try different things. Come up with your own ideas for marketing and ask for suggestions from him. Act quickly if there ever is a problem or issue that needs to be resolved.
So what’s the conclusion?
Enlisting the help of Community Websites is a very important aspect of online Marketing. These websites have attracted the same audience you are interested in, but they have done it with free news, reviews, photos, and message boards where you have done it with sales pitches. The visitors to these Community Websites are open and receptive and, as long as you can get the webmaster on your side, willing to try almost anything.
Ryan Thompson is the owner and editor of the Advertisement Express E-zine, a daily free newsletter that specializes in free web site and e-zine promotion.
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