There is a lot of talk on the internet these days about big corporations constructing “portal” sites that build community and offer the internet user a gateway to the ‘net. All that’s true, and it may just leave you wondering how you can compete with such well-established companies and their ighly visited sites for your very own piece of virtual real estate.
How does a smaller company, organization, or even a home-based business compete? How can you build your own community around your company to increase profits and build your business?
Well, here’s the truth: Smaller, savvy internet marketers are succeeding on the internet. Small businesses, organizations, and even home-based businesses actually do have an advantage and are well-positioned to profit in this new internet medium. Larger companies are slow to adapt. Meanwhile, smaller marketers have adapted easily to this new frontier and will grow as a result of their high level of awareness, hard work and marketing skill.
How do they become successful? By providing valuable information. Information is irresistible. Information is what web surfers are looking for when they stumble onto commercial web sites.
If you position yourself and your company as one of the internet’s premiere information providers for your industry and niche, you will attract people who want to buy from your business.
One of the most effective tools for providing the information people are hungry for, and at the same time building community around your business, is with the internet’s most effective form of “push technology”: simply, email. What’s even more powerful than email alone is a moderated email discussion list of individuals, all linked together with a common interest, sharing their experiences, information and opinions.
Equipped with a discussion list, your company can become the source of information that people are looking for in your particular industry. A discussion list will also serve as a support community of like-minded colleagues. This is especially good for you, since people who are interested in your products or services will naturally gravitate to your site and/or list from links on the internet and word-of-mouth advertising.
In effect, you can build your business and beat the big corporations at the internet game by providing your market with the information they seek. A moderated email discussion list can be an internet marketer’s most powerful tool for building community and profits.
How? Here’s three examples below:
Ray Gabriel calls his email discussion list a “fantastic communications medium.” His list, the Association for International Business (AIB) list , “gives your company or organization credibility and a tremendous amount of word of mouth advertising.”
“Our AIB list has enabled us to reach many contacts for funding our nonprofit organization’s goals. It is also a very satisfying way to meet interesting people and help them find the information they need for their businesses.”
Nancy Roebke also successfully moderates an email discussion list that has paid big dividends. Nancy is well-known on the internet as a leading expert of how to use networking and relationship-building as ways to market and grow your business, and she moderates the Women Talk Business list , which is actually a place for both women and men to discuss and exchange information about business issues.
Moderating a discussion list does take a little time (about one to two hours a day), Nancy says, but it is an excellent networking and marketing tool.
“I generate a substantial amount of business with lists,” she says. “Being a moderator of a discussion list is like being a leader of a community of people. Making sure people are getting an education and also keeping the list on the right track is a big responsibility, but it’s well worth the effort.”
Then, of course, there is always the Multimedia Marketing Group (MMG), an online marketing agency. MMG’s president John Audette started an email discussion list called the I-Sales Discussion List in 1995 to support people interested in learning how to market their products or services on the internet.
John’s I-Sales Discussion List, accompanied by free information made available on the MMG web site, has drawn large amounts of very targeted traffic. It also has generated an impressive amount of word-of-mouth advertising, resulted in free publicity, and produced a wealth of links for MMG.
Says John, “A moderated discussion list is a community that is matched-up to your market, with you being in the middle. It builds credibility and is a good marketing tool for generating sales and business contacts.”
A list can also turn into a revenue source from advertising space you make available on the list, points out John, adding, “Just remember this rule when starting a moderated discussion list: First give, then take.”