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By: Robert Middleton

Robert Middleton, of Action Plan Marketing in Palo Alto, Calif., has helped hundreds of professional service businesses attract new clients and get paid what they're worth.

His website is a resource for marketing professional services. Visit it at Action Plan Marketing.

As the web gets more and more popular, business owners are starting to look more seriously at how the web can benefit their businesses. If you have a web site or if you're thinking of getting one, I want to remind you that web site success depends more on applying solid marketing principles than on using a lot of bells and whistles. You might notice that the most successful web sites (Amazon, Ebay, etc.) are very simple, very clear and very functional. 

Here's a few things to remember in working to improve your web site or in planning a new site - plus I want to share two great new web tools that can enhance your site and web marketing considerably.

1. Stay away from the bells and whistles. Slow downloading graphics, javascript, flash animations, quicktime movies, sound and frames all might look cool to you but they usually make it harder for your visitor to get what they want from your site. All of these "enhancements" slow things down. By the way, good solid design is not a bell or whistle. If your site looks as exciting as a word processing document, you won't attract much interest. 

2. Put lots of valuable information about your services on the web site. Lots of depth keeps people coming back. Seems obvious, but there are millions of sites with bare-bones info. Include info on why people should work with you, background info on your business, resources such as a bookstore or links, articles about your field of expertise, and a contact page to tell how you begin to work with clients.

3. Pay special attention to the organization, navigation and interactivity of your site. Make sure you point people to the pages you'd like them to read first. Make the flow through your site intuitive and easy so they can find the information they're looking for. If you get people confused you'll turn them off.

4. Put "calls to action" on every page. Tell them what to do next, where to go next, how to respond if they want to know more, etc. Don't leave them in a lurch with pages that simply lead to a dead end or have them thinking "what do I do now?"

5. Keep your site up to date. Even if you're not a computer whiz, it pays to learn a simple stand-alone web design program (such as Claris HomePage or Microsoft FrontPage) and learn how to update your site. Put new things on your Home Page (the first page of your site), add articles, update programs. A site that looks stale is a big turn-off.

6. Put response forms on your page to encourage people to interact with you. Until recently I wasn't sure this was a great idea because you had to create very complicated "CGI scripts" to make them work. Now you have a new option. There's a great free service called Response-O-Matic that makes the form process virtually automatic. Go to http://www.response-o-matic.com and it will explain exactly what to do to put forms on your page that will return the results to your email.

This excited me so much that I put a Marketing Flash sign-up form on almost every page of my site. My sign-ups more than doubled overnight!

7. Have the ability to accept credit cards on your site. Now this can be a tough one too. Don't you need a merchant account and a whole bunch of e-commerce technical expertise to make this work? Not any more. A great new service called Tix-to-Go lets you set up credit card payment forms on their site that you link to from your site. People can sign up for events and even purchase services and products by credit card. There's a small service charge, but it's better than a $2,4000 lease on a credit card set-up! Simply click on http://www.tixtogo.com/about/ttgmain.csm?TTGAffRef=224 (yes, I know it's long!) and you can check it out.

8. Finally, if you're looking for great web site and marketing ideas, there are two incredible sites that have tons of valuable information. They are Netrageous Results at: http://www.netrageousresults.com and Wilson Internet Services at: http://www.wilsonweb.com I suggest you check out both of these sites and bookmark them for future reference while you work on improving or building a site.

© Copyright 2000, Robert Middleton

Other Articles by Robert Middleton

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.

 

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