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Friends of Axxess Newsletter - By Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs

Boosting ROI: Internet Marketing on a Shoestring
Rosalind Resnick Photo

This article was contributed by Michael Weinstein, a veteran entrepreneur and Internet marketer. For more information about how he can help you drive more traffic to your web site and increase your online revenue, contact him at or visit his site at

So now that you have a web site, how do you get people to find it? More importantly, how can you drive people to your site when you're on a budget?

Search engine marketing, email marketing, affiliate marketing and banner advertising all require long-term investment and planning. While we're all aware of the necessity to optimize our sites for the search engines, establish in-bound links, manage cost-per- click campaigns, send out press releases, acquire email addresses and join affiliate programs, these strategies, even when executed properly, can still take time to produce tangible results.

However, in my experience as an Internet marketer, I've discovered several cost-effective strategies that can help drive traffic to your site today.

Case in point: While working with a startup company that sells cosmetic products online, I took the liberty of mailing a letter along with some samples to a local doctor who is also a syndicated newspaper columnist in the hopes of helping the company gain exposure and possibly even an endorsement.

In my letter, I introduced the company while suggesting that the enclosed products might be a great help to readers who wanted to remove unwanted facial and body hair and prevent the hair from growing back. Of course, I made sure to mention where his readers could purchase the company's products for only $7.98 apiece should the doctor decide to mention them in his column.

Sure enough, a reader wrote to the doctor two weeks later asking him for his thoughts on popular hair removal products. In his response, the good doctor was kind enough to mention the company's web site and the products that I had sent him.

Within only a few days, rang up over $250,000 in new business and, months later, the orders are still rolling in. As a result of the strategy's success, the company now has plenty of money to implement longer term and more sustainable online marketing strategies while continuing to develop its online presence.

Here are some other tips to help you drive free and low-cost traffic to your web site:

* Make sure you have plenty of relevant and "keyword dense" content on your web site

* Start your own blog and publish it in popular blog search engines like Technorati

* Post comments on other blogs regularly (without becoming a blog spammer!)

* Contact popular bloggers and ask them to mention your web site on their own blogs

* Contribute articles to article directories

* Participate in forums (online discussions)

While free traffic is great, it's also essential to conduct paid online marketing campaigns to take your company's efforts to the next level.

For example:

* SEO: Use link building to improve your organic (natural) search engine rankings. Although this can take months and cost as much as $10,000 a month to effectively improve your search engine rankings, most online consumers shop on web sites listed on the first page of Google or Yahoo. Your company needs to be there.

* Email Marketing: Build opt-in email lists and send out offers and/or newsletters on a regular basis. While email marketing services typically charge around $400 per month to send up to 100,000 monthly emails and can exceed $2,000 per month to target 1 million addresses, email marketing still continues to be one of the most cost-effective forms of online marketing there is.

* Affiliate Marketing: If you're looking for a way to test new products or services, consider joining an affiliate network where thousands of online resellers will gladly market your products on their own sites in return for a small commission. While some of the more popular affiliate networks like Commission Junction, Performics and Linkshare do charge significant upfront fees to join, there are also affiliate networks that require only a nominal setup charge such as AffiliateTraction and ShareAsale.

Remember: The key to any successful marketing campaign is to test, measure and test again. There's no better time to get started than now!

Quick Links...


Last week, I stopped by the Hilton to walk the ad:tech show and take the pulse of the Internet marketing business.

While the rest of the economy may be feeling pain, you wouldn't have known it from the party-like-it's-1999 atmosphere on the show floor. Hands down, it was the biggest and most crowded ad:tech I've seen since the dot com bubble burst in 2001. In fact, the aisles were so crowded that even getting close to the booths wasn't easy.

But that wasn't the only difference I saw at this year's ad:tech. Back in 2004 when the Internet marketing business was just beginning to recover from the crash, most of the exhibitors were touting search engine marketing -- search engine optimization, in particular. Media was a dirty word back then, and the ad networks and publishers that sold media had been banished to obscurity, if they were still in business at all.

At this year's New York ad:tech, the ad networks were back in a big way. While Google had by far the biggest booth (and a fat press kit promoting its forays into repping print and broadcast media), pay-for- performance networks like AzoogleAds, Commission Junction, CPA Empire, Hydra, Ingenio and ValueClick were strutting their stuff, too. GPS-enabled mobile advertising networks popped up their heads as well.

The show's biggest news came from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg who announced Facebook Ads, an ad system for companies to deliver targeted ads in a social context that encourages Facebook users to share marketing messages with friends. "Pushing your message out to people is no longer good enough," Zuckerberg said. It's the referral from someone you trust that's the key.

Twelve major advertisers have said they planned to test the Facebook system, including Blockbuster, CBS, Chase, The Coca-Cola Co., Saturn, Sony Pictures, The New York Times Co. and Verizon.

But this doesn't mean that the Internet marketing business is out of the woods just yet. Facebook and other social networks face a backlash from what many users may view as an invasion of privacy. And AzoogleAds, a leading affiliate network, got a black eye last week when the company agreed to pay $1 million to Florida's new CyberFraud Task Force following an investigation of the firm's online offers for mobile ringtones. According to an article on ClickZ, Florida's attorney general alleged that consumers had been victimized by deceptive online marketing practices that induced them to sign up for paid services without their clear consent. AzoogleAds has not admitted wrongdoing and referred to the $1 million payment as "voluntary."

As a result, lead-gen companies like Azoogle will have to change their tune from headline grabbers like "Free ringtones" to something a little tamer like "Free ringtones with paid monthly subscription of $9.99 per month," ClickZ reported. The real cost of the offer must also appear next to specific registration form fields. As the Federal Trade Commission pursues its own investigation into the Internet's lead-generation business, the heat is on for the industry to clean up its act.

And that's not a bad thing. Quite the opposite -- what's good for online consumers is ultimately what's better for online marketers and publishers. And a clean slate is exactly what the Internet marketing industry needs as it matures into a mainstream advertising tool.

Until next time!


Axxess Business Plans

At Axxess Business Consulting, we believe that every great company starts with a great business plan. Whether you're just starting a business and you're looking for seed capital or your business is already up and running and you want a roadmap for the future, you're going to need a detailed, comprehensive business plan to help you get where you want to go. We know what it takes to start a successful company, and we can give you the market intelligence and financial savvy you need to develop a business plan that can turn your idea into reality. And, once your plan is finished, we can help you identify investors and negotiate the terms of your deal.

Because we're not just consultants. We're experienced entrepreneurs who've been there and done it before - from starting a company to growing it to selling it or taking it public. Led by our CEO Rosalind Resnick, co-founder and former CEO of NetCreations, Inc., we'll work with you one-on-one to develop a customized business plan tailored to your company's individual needs. Each business plan contains an executive summary of your business and its goals, a description of your company's products and services, a detailed overview of your company's target market, a competitive analysis and three years' projections of sales, profits and cash flow.

Since opening our doors in 2002, we've worked with over 500 startups, small businesses and emerging growth companies in industries ranging from retail and restaurants to technology/Internet, real estate, fashion, manufacturing and wholesale distribution. Our business plans have won praise - and funding - from leading banks and investors. We've also received favorable mentions in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, Entrepreneur, Crain's New York Business and other leading business publications nationwide. Though we're based in New York City, we've worked with clients across the country and around the world.

The Axxess Advantage

Lots of consulting firms promise great business plans at affordable prices.

At Axxess Business Consulting, we deliver investor- ready plans that you can use to raise money now.

Here's what you get when you work with Axxess:

One-on-one consulting and strategic advice from seasoned entrepreneurs who've been there and done it (not MBAs fresh out of B-school)

A professionally written and researched executive summary, product description, market overview and competitive analysis

A customized three- to five-year financial projection created exclusively for your business (includes sales, cost of goods, profits, cash flow and startup costs)

A flexible financial model built from the "bottom up" with formulas that can be changed on the fly to run "what if" scenarios for you and your investors

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