Do you think that because you have launched your e-commerce Web site and diligently registered it with search engines that orders will automatically flood in? Think again. Web site success takes some PR effort. Here are eight tips to get you started:

Create a Dynamic Web Community
Start by creating a dynamic Web community for employees and customers. Far better than a static billboard, it can build visitor loyalty and translate into orders. Good ways to do this include offering a free, helpful opt-in e-mail newsletter, an FAQ (frequently asked questions) page (with answers and e-mail links for further information), and an on-site chat group.

It is also good to provide separate e-mail boxes for each department and to implement autoresponders that provide inquirers with instant replies. And be sure everybody answers all e-mail promptly and thoroughly! Together, these can create as much of a sense of community as a comfortable bookshop with plush chairs and good coffee. It can feel like a real neighborhood, foster interaction among enthusiastic boosters, and turn shoppers into buyers.

Publicize Your Site in the Offline World
Next, relentlessly publicize your site offline. Start by putting your URL and e-mail address on all business communications, including stationery, business cards, brochures, fliers, trade show booths, direct mail, billboards, vehicles, and advertisements.

Keep your URL in front of your target market by sending postcards to your mailing list that invite people to visit your site and that tout its customer-friendly features. Pass out the postcards in your place of business and in all places where you speak or network.

Another useful trick is to run a small display ad in trade and local newspapers. The ad should contain only your URL and a catchy phrase such as: "Want to know how to profit from your widgets? Surf over to"

Write Press Releases and Articles
Don't forget to send press releases announcing your site and briefly describing its contents to local and regional media, relevant trade and business publications, and national media where appropriate. Keep them short and double-spaced, avoid hype, and include a quote from you or a Web-knowledgeable employee on your site's features or user benefits.

Next, write an article for an appropriate magazine or trade journal on how your company decided to do business on the Web, or something similar. If you write well and avoid hype, they just might use it.

Sponsor an Event
Another good promotional trick is to have your Web site — not your company -- sponsor a significant local contest, promotion, or worthwhile philanthropic activity. It helps the community and generates positive press. Promote it vigorously.

Still Need More Ideas?
Got mail? If you have already followed my advice and sent postcards announcing your site to customers and potential customers, send out another set of Web cards announcing any changes and additions to your Web site. Similarly, why not offer coupons and/or hold an on-line sale like the major airlines do with their unsold seats, and send postcards to your prospects to announce it?

Got vehicles? They can promote too. Put a magnetic sign with your company's URL on all of your company and personal vehicles. License plate frames, too, are excellent promotional real estate, since people often look at them when they are stalled in traffic.

Got a brick-and-mortar storefront? Put your URL in large letters on the front windows and/or other prominent places, if practical. It is an easy way to promote your business around the clock, to customers and passersby alike.

In this election year, why not think like a political campaign manager? Because campaign managers have the tough task of making a candidate visible and desirable in a short time, they resort to flashy things like bumper stickers, yard signs, billboards, car signs, and direct mail. They even use human billboards, which consist of people standing on busy street corners and holding consecutive signs like the old Burma Shave roadside signs. It's a real attention getter! It can work for Web site promotion too. Your local advertising specialties vendor can help you select appropriate items.

While you are at it, don't forget to let the local media know when you plan something unique and picturesque like a human billboard campaign.

While these ideas barely scratch the promotional surface, they should help get you started on building an electronic legend for your business and inducing customers to come to you. Simply remember that your goal should be to reach your customers, induce them to come to your site, and get them to buy your products.

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