Monkeys, websites, and email lists

Here’s an Amarillo Business Journal column from 2001 in which I warn readers not to let a monkey drive them home, demonstrating again my over-reliance on monkeys as sure-fire comedic devices. I also tell them websites worth visiting must have content—which was a bold stance in 2001—and encourage them to flex their expertise.

Make sure your Web site is worth visiting

If you’re a regular reader of this column (thanks, mom!), you know that one of my mottos, other than “Never let a monkey drive you home,” is this: If you want people to visit your Web site, make sure there’s something there worth visiting.

The best way to ensure that your site has a purpose is by providing content. Actually, considering that a picture of you and your cat visiting the Grand Tetons could strictly be considered “content”, let me revise that. You need to provide valuable, practical content.

Here at the Amarillo Globe-News Online, we don’t have a content problem. Our need for content is satisfied by the fact that every day, people in Amarillo do things, legal or not, that other people want to know about. A reporter writes it, we put it online, and just like that, we have valuable content that draws people.

But do you, Mr./Mrs./Ms. Businessperson, have content that will keep people coming back? Does your site change regularly, or has it been the same since the first Clinton administration? Are you providing people with valuable info, or a big digital sales pitch?

If you’re in business, it’s likely that you know something. Maybe you know exactly which peppers make chile rellenos a divine experience. Maybe you know how to find the best mortgage rate. Maybe you know the right time to plant marigolds.

The point is, you’re an expert in your field. You can draw upon your knowledge to give your site’s visitors something of use. Perhaps you can benefit from this information sharing, as well.

So let’s say you know enough about your field that you could put together a weekly column of tips, advice, how-to’s or simple thoughts. Now, how do you get people to read it?

A great way is to start an e-mail list. Somewhere on your site, you can have a way for people to sign up to receive your pearls of wisdom in their inbox. Because visitors are choosing to place their name on your list, you will not run the risk of being labeled a “spammer.” It is also a good idea to assure people that their e-mail address will not be sold, traded, or used for any purpose other than your weekly mailings.

So someone comes to your site and sees a link that says “Click here to receive ‘Big Jim’s Weekly Rototiller Rantings’ via e-mail.” They click, they sign up. Each week (or whatever regular interval you choose), they receive your e-mail newsletter detailing the finer points of rototiller technology and methods.

So what goes in this weekly e-mailing? You can include a complete column, or you can put a sizeable introduction with a link to your site for the full story. This will drive traffic to your site, and once people are there, you can present them with more information.

You can also include brief marketing messages, such as sales, new products, and other items relating to your business. Another good idea is to solicit questions from readers that you can answer in the next e-mail.

If you do it right, an e-mail newsletter will benefit you by reminding people of your site, and reinforcing your image as an expert.

Since they requested your mailing, you’ll be talking to people who are likely to be receptive to your message. Before long, an e-mail list such as this will build up relationships with readers who may become lifelong customers. You’re giving away a little information with the chance for a big return.

Does all this sound good? Putting it together is easier than you might think. Next month, I will give you simple details on what software you need (hint: it’s free and you probably already have it) and what skills you need (hint: they’re free and you may already have them) to run a successful e-mail list.

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