Promoting your ebusiness will involve a combination of techniques, some traditional, some new and some yet to be invented!
Traditional forms of marketing are still very applicable to ebusinesses - for instance local radio, newspapers etc. may be ideal for a local garage offering online service booking. It will often be easier to target a specific market sector or community with traditional promotional material to make them aware of your web site/services. The target customers may not be Internet users or have any reason to expect an online service from you. A newpaper advertisment or delivered flyer can be very effective in these cases.
Established businesses that are expanding into an ebusiness should use their existing trading relationships to full advantage. Add your site address to letter heads, compliment slips, business cards, invoices etc. If possible include it with product packaging.
Business to Business sites can be more difficult to promote because purchasing departments tend not to use the Internet to locate suppliers. A switch to Internet procurement is often a strategic decision. B2B services should be promoted to existing customers as a priority and then to potential customers using traditional techniques that reach senior managers - to create awareness ahead of policy changes. The techniques of service promotion through site links on business stationery etc apply here too.
B2C ebusinesses can operate on a scale not addressed by conventional media channels - imagine the cost of a global TV advert even if it where possible! ebusiness marketing has to use different techniques to reach the users who count, possible among millions on the Internet. The key technique used to bring visitors into a site is the Internet Search Engine.
Search Engines enable Internet users to search by word and/or phrase and obtain a list of "hits" or relevant site links. You site might then be just a click away!
There are many Search Engines available today and they all provide a free service - both indexing and retrieval. To have your ebusiness locatable by Search Engine you must first register the site address. Once registered the Search Engine will scan and index your pages every few weeks or so. It may take a few weeks before it is first scanned!
Internet Search engines enable visitors to find your site so it might seem reasonable to register in as many as possible. However unless it is done properly it might not benefit your business at all! The most important thing to understand is what is a potential customer actually looking for when they use a search engine?
Understanding your customer requirement and how they might express that requirement is the key to effective search engine use.
When a potential customer uses a Search Engine what search terms might they use to look for a product or service your ebusiness could provide? The terms a prospect uses are the terms you need to register - otherwise your service will appear very low in the list of hits - if it is there at all!
Try some applied research, use one or two search engines to try and find similar products to your own. Experiment with names/descriptions, use different people to try the search and develop a list of preferred terms.
You can get your keywords into Search Engine indexes through two main mechanisms, firstly via the HTML "TITLE" tag. Most Search engines will index the title words of a page so you should name your pages accordingly - relevant to the users requirements. Some "shop front" creation packages will place each catalog product in its own page and title accordingly - so individual products can be located through search engines!
The second mechanism is to create effective META tags in your pages. META tags are invisible to the page viewer but are read and their content indexed by most Search Engines. The most important META tag is "keywords" which defines a list of relevant keywords for the page.
Internet Search Engines use keywords to locate not just sites, but pages within sites. Make sure to incorporate relevant key words into useful pages - for instance product description pages. This will improve the quality of search results for users and increase the number of site hits.
The initial promotion of an ebusiness will usually include Search Engine registration. If effective this will attract visitors to the site and enable some level of business. However the level of business will tend to level off as the business meets ad hoc demand.
The ongoing promotion of an ebusiness uses completely different techniques! Whereas Search Engines are visitor initiated, the post Search Engine stage of promotion is ebusiness initiated.
The basic technique is to leverage every web site visit for additional promotion. At a simple level this might involve offering an "Add to Favourites" button on the page - providing visitors with easy bookmarking.
If user transactions are involved then any email traffic should carry a simple, unobtrusive site link, with an appropriate hook - "free product trial here"
More advanced techniques involve offering services that encourage visitors to register and use them, free services such as software support, Knowledge bases, Bulletin Boards, Contributed Software etc. Such services should obviously be related to the ebusiness. These services will enable implementation of simple registration procedures, capturing email addresses, visitor preferences etc. and they will encourage repeat visits and additional visits from word of mouth recommendation.
The ideal service is one where something of value is offered for free, and ideally can be offered to other people - for instance "send someone a free sample". This technique enables a free present from one visitor to another person. Both emails are collected and the email to the recipient inviting them to collect their free sample brings them back into the site.
These techniques and others are termed "viral marketing" because the ebusiness site details are carried from visitor to multiple visitors and once initiated the process can snowball rapidly. These techniques are still being developed and even invented - you might be able to think of a completely new technique yourself!
For more information search for "Viral Marketing" on one of the major Search engines.
Last but by no means least - aim to establish as many links as you can between your site and related sites related sites (sites where your product/service is complementary rather than competitive).
Links betwee sites enable visitors to navigate between related sites easily, increasing your traffic and prospect numbers. It will help if you carry a useful links are on your site so that you can set up reciprocal links.