Tue, 10 May 2005

Selling on the Internet

I've been having a conversation with Robert Pirillo, who runs Roberts Honing & Gundrilling. He has, alas, fallen prey to a purveyor of junkware which searches for webpages containing the search terms, locates any email addresses on the page (or in the whois for the domain, or whatever), and sends advertising email. He doesn't view this as spamming, unfortunately. I fully suspect that most providers will, though, because it's unsolicited, it's bulk, and it's email.

So he thinks that this would get attention to his business, saying "Isn't that what's great about the Internet?" Well, yeah, but it's also what's horrible about it. There's at least 60,000 small businesses in the US, and what if ten of them sent you one email a day? 6,000 days later, you'd have gotten a steady stream of ten spams a day. But that's only 16 years.

No, the way to sell your business over the Internet is to give away information to your potential customers that shows that you know your business. Don't just list your services. Instead, explain how hydraulic cylinders work (or don't work), tell people how to evaluate the health of their hydraulic cylinders, and say how to fix them. Don't pay for someone to write a fancy website. Instead, give your readers a tutorial which contains pure information neutrally presented, and at the bottom says "Copyright 2005, Roberts Honing & Gundrilling". It doesn't matter if it has a few speling erorrs, or if the graphics look hokey. The important part is to make it clear that you know your shit better than anybody else. Your competition isn't going to steal your website (because you can sue them for actual damages, or triple damages if it's a registered copyright), and your customers will know exactly where to get reliable expert service.

Sign onto a mailing list of people who are likely to have the problems your company solves. When they have questions, answer them. They'll see that you're an expert, and when they want a job done right, they'll know to come to you.

That is what's great about the Internet. Not the ability to force yourself on unwilling listeners, but to participate in a conversation with potential customers.

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