When it comes to marketing, dot coms face a considerable challenge. The sheer volume of websites vying for the consumer’s attention makes it hard to stand out from the crowd.
And it is not enough to rely on search engines, banner advertising and links to promote your site. Online businesses today have to actively market themselves to their target market using a cross-section of both off and online media.
But how do you do this when you are marketing on a shoestring? Few dot coms have the budget to run extensive television, radio or print media campaigns. One way to make your mark in the media is through public relations – more commonly known as PR. If you communicate the benefits of your website to the right journalists, you can achieve widespread coverage without having to pay huge advertising costs.
To be successful, however, you need to put some time and thought into your PR strategy. “Promoting a website is not just about sending a press release when you launch and telling people to visit your site,” warns Amal Alaoui, managing director of PR firm, Alaoui Booth PR. “PR is a serious marketing tool. You have to develop a strategy and work well in advance.”
Journalists are hearing about dozens of new websites every week and you have to work hard to stand out. Rather than just announcing your existence, Alaoui suggests that new dot coms should proactively offer journalists relevant feature ideas and good angles which act as a hook. “You need to inspire the journalists,” she says. “Use a creative approach to grab their attention and make sure it is both interesting and relevant to their publication.”
As well as inspiration, some journalists may require additional persuasion. “You may have to demonstrate your credibility since the dot com world is so volatile and so many websites disappear,” she says. “You also have to educate your audience about the particular benefits of your site. Some dot com enterprises are asking people to radically change their behaviour patterns and to convince them you will need to re-educate them.”
If you have got the confidence, you could transform yourself into media darling and promote yourself as a personality along the lines of Martha Lane-Fox of Lastminute.com. But beware, the fickle media can knock you down as quickly as they built you up, so it can be a risky strategy.