By Daniel Prins

Deciding to market your firm on the Web is a challenge. Web marketing takes a balance of clear presentation and savvy promotion, and if done successfully, it can bring your firm new clients as well as repeat business.

But all too often, consultancies jump into marketing themselves on the Web with tunnel vision: They think that just because they have a site—no matter how simplistic or brochure-like—it can serve as their entire Internet marketing program.

These consultancies then enlist the help of a Web design firm—that knows little or nothing about marketing—to help them market their firm on the Web. The fact is that most Web site developers are primarily graphic designers, and they are seldom equipped to develop a cohesive Internet marketing campaign.

But your firm can avoid this tangle if you visualize your Internet marketing strategy not just in terms of your site alone, but as a more cohesive “Web universe” that incorporates several interrelated sites and promotional tactics. When executed properly, a Web universe can yield optimal results. To get the most out of your Internet real estate, follow these six steps to creating a Web universe.
This is the first of two articles about creating an Internet marketing strategy. Look for the next installment about marketing initiatives to promote your Web universe.
Six steps to creating a Web universe
For any Internet marketing program to be successful, you first need an effective Web site—and preferably one that’s e-commerce-equipped, quick to load, easy to navigate, and connected with a reliable traffic tracker. Once this main site is operational, you can follow these six steps to create your Web universe:

  1. Create topic-specific auxiliary pages.
  2. Host a Web ring for your customers.
  3. Develop an industry portal.
  4. Develop an online directory.
  5. Create an intranet.
  6. Offer an industry auction.

Step one: Create topic-specific auxiliary pages to help customers find you
Just like with a brick-and-mortar business, potential customers will pass you by if they can’t find you. “People who spend five hours per week on the Internet spend about 75 percent of their time searching for information,” said Bob Massa, founder of Magic-City—a search-engine placement firm based in McCloud, OK. “Somewhere between 85 to 90 percent of all Internet users rely on search engines to locate sites. Only 7 percent of these will look past the first three pages of search results.”

Even if you are on those first three search pages, however, it’s no guarantee that your site won’t get lost in the sea of other firms on the list. But by creating project-specific auxiliary pages on your site, a search engine can use those to pull your site out of the pile and present it to potential customers looking for project management, Web hosting, branding, application development—or whatever your specialty. “The most effective way to optimize search engine ranking for your Web site is to develop high-quality, topic-specific pages that lead Web surfers to your regular Web site and order page,” Massa added.

Step two: Host a Web ring for your customers
Create a template-based site preloaded with advertising for your services—and offer it free of charge to your customers. They can use the template as a base from which to construct their own site. Then, you can offer to host your customer’s sites on your server—like a Web ring.

Offering your customers a free Web site and hosting services is not only a bonus for them, it’s also a great way for you to substantially extend your Internet presence with minimal cost. You have simply created a number of new “billboards,” and your customers are plastering them up all over town.

Step three: Develop an industry portal
By creating an industry portal—or gateway site—you can frequently remind your customers of your services through advertising and links on your main page. While most general portals have adopted a Yahoo style of directory and search functions, niche portals like TechTarget’s offer industry-specific content. Typical services offered by portal sites include a directory of Web sites, a facility to search for other sites, news, weather information, e-mail, stock quotes, phone and map information, and sometimes a community forum. When linked with your main Web site, portals can produce a significant number of leads.

Step four: Develop an online industry directory
Using search engine technology, develop a list of 300-500 industry terms and descriptions and turn it into an alphabetical search engine. Insert a link to your main site on every page of this online “glossary,” and offer the glossary as a free service to other industry portals, franchiser sites, trade magazine Web sites, etc. The glossary will build name recognition for your firm, as well as drive traffic to your site.

Step five: Use your intranet to coordinate public relations efforts
Many companies use intranets—private, secure spaces on the Web where team members can access and share documents, calendars, and information. Sylvia Allen, president of Allen Consulting in Holmdel, NJ, explained how her firm uses its intranet in a new way: “We coordinate sponsorship support programs for communities and events. With my intranet—for the first time—I get everyone on the same page, and it puts me, as the moderator, completely in the driver’s seat.” (For a peek, visit Allen Consulting’s intranet site and enter as a guest.)

Your intranet can coordinate your group’s efforts quickly and easily—and can prove a powerful tool when used to pull together a public relations effort that will get your firm’s name out there.

Step six: Offer an industry auction
The success of eBay proves that people love an auction. With a little effort, you can create an auction area on your site so that your industry partners, vendors, and customers can buy and sell via your site. You can manage this activity online, and charging a fee for every completed transaction can provide ancillary profits. For an example, visit
Have you created an auxiliary site that has created traffic and new leads for your consulting firm? E-mail us a link and tell us your story or post your comments below.

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