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Jim Herring by Jim Herring

I have a product that was over three years in the making. Test subjects showed a tremendous percentage of positive results and FDA approval was complete. My product was finally professionally produced and packaged and ready to go. I had joined the ranks of those stubborn, struggling success stories that never gave up ... or had I? No, I didn’t give up, but I was far from being a success story.

My marketing efforts were going to be limited to the Internet. After all, there are millions of people buying through the internet and I was going to become rich! It was a sure bet because I had a great product that is in demand and I couldn’t miss. I even bought software and learned how to design my own website. I joined a few free banner exchange programs and posted information about my site and product at various Internet locations. Finally, there it was, my site was complete and my product was ready. I stood back with pride. I had now joined the ranks of webmasters and internet entrepreneurs. My mother was proud. Then reality struck. I built it but no one came.

I had a counter on my site to monitor the number of visitors but the only traffic it counted was mine. I couldn’t give up now, I had invested too much time and money. I subscribed to a couple of free newsletters such as InternetDay. I read and studied everything about Internet marketing that I could get my hands on. I have to say at this point that anyone new to Internet marketing that does not take advantage of all the free marketing advice from experienced professional, are missing a good bet. The Internet is a new frontier and many of the conventional/traditional marketing strategies do not work here.

I used the advice to write my Meta tags and text content. I started registering my site with as many search engines as I could find. At the same time I continued to study and utilize the free advice. There were several issues directed at improving search engine results. I made changes to Meta Tags and content. I resubmitted and made more changes and resubmitted again. After two and a half months I was elated to find my site listed on the first page in the first position with Alta Vista and LookSmart. I was going to be rich again. My mother was proud again. This time, "I built it and a few did come." But they weren’t buying.

By this time I started printing out the issues/newsletters and cataloging them in a note book with a quick reference system. There were several issues that addressed site presentation. How does the content read? Is your content interesting? Does it keep the reader’s attention? Do the images take a long time to load? Is there a lot of clutter that loses the reader? Are you getting your message across in the first few sentences? Etc.

I was doing all of the above wrong. I over used frames, had too many images, the information was lost in the clutter, the message was not clear in the first paragraph or two, my banner ads weren’t demanding a response and my site took forever to load. But I liked it. It was a great looking site. I dared anyone to call my baby ugly. It had all kinds of whistles and bells. I was a heck of a site designer. The reality was that I was finally getting hits but no one was buying. The hits were being counted even if the visitors gave up and left before the page loaded.

I tucked my pride into my back pocket and used all the free advice as prescribed. "Let’s see if these people really know what they’re talking about." I put on blinders and applied the advice, word for word ... colored by the numbers. I got rid of and changed a lot of stuff. I even went from several images to only two and eventually none.

In the meantime, and still using the advice, I continued to reregister my site with the many changes. Traffic started trickling in from a few revamped banner ads and Alta Vista and LookSmart. Still no one was buying. It had been almost two months since posting my website. What was wrong? Why weren’t they buying. The various tracking methods showed that many people were leaving my site from the order page. I didn’t understand this. After all, to get there they had to physically click a button labeled, "Order Page!" I had to assume they went there to order.

Finally I received a check in the mail for a bottle of my product. Over the next two weeks I received three more orders, checks in the mail. By this time, and because I did as instructed with Meta tags and content, I was now listed on the first page in the first position with Excite, Netscape, Alta Vista, AOL Netfind and LookSmart. Banner ads were also bringing me potential customers. Traffic was steadily picking up ... but still, no one was buying. I became very frustrated. I knew I was doing something wrong but what? I went back to the free advice.

I opened the notebook to a page on the importance of having a merchant account on your site. The article said that people on the Internet were impulse buyers. If you do not have a merchant account on your site you can expect to lose as much as 80% of your sales.

I intended to have a merchant account from the beginning but I kept putting it off. I had already spent so much time learning, reading, relearning, applying, rereading, reapplying and learning more. I was becoming burned out. It had to be more than just a merchant account. Maybe I misunderstood everything and my site had no "curb appeal." And I was certainly not ready to fill out all the forms that surely come with trying to get a merchant account and what about my credit? It’s not squeaky clean. I had no choice. Something was wrong and this was the last thing it could be. If I do this and it doesn’t work, I’m going back to driving cabs. (not really)

As if, "it’s meant to be," a banner ad on my own site was for Charge.Com, a merchant account provider. At that time I was getting an average of 18 to 22 hits per day and it was steadily rising. I thought, "this better work." I even thought of closing up shop and maybe seeing if it were possible to sell my search engine positions to a competitor. Whether you can do that or not didn’t matter. I was tired. I applied for the merchant account. It was easy.

Within two weeks I had my merchant account up and running. I was able to take all major credit card payments. My site was now ready. I did all that the free advice recommended. My site was slick, neat, not cluttered, loads quick, message gets across in the first paragraph, etc. And now I had a merchant account. This was it. All this free advice was either going to work or it was all bull!

I had a family emergency and was out of town for almost a week. When I got back it was late, I was tired, I went to bed. The next morning, and because of all the disappointments, I didn’t expect much so before checking my email I put a pot of coffee on and headed for the shower. Finally sitting at my computer, I simultaneously signed onto the Internet while looking through the local newspaper and drinking coffee. The site loaded and I clicked on "communicator" then clicked, "get messages." I went back to a story I was reading.

I got up for more coffee. As I sat back down I glanced at the screen to see if I had any messages. I almost choked on my coffee. There were 7 messages that read, "order.cfg form." I clicked the first one and low and behold, it was an order for two bottles of my product. I went down the list and they all were orders. Some for two and three bottles. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

In the first two and a half months I had a total of four sales. Four people took the time to fill out a check, address an envelope and take it to the mailbox. After adding the merchant account in the next 30 days I had 57 sales. That’s right, in the first 75 days after posting my site I had four sales. In the next 30 days after my merchant account was operational and using the advice to clean up my site, I had 57 sales.

Since then traffic and sales have steadily increased. Reorders and word of mouth or referral sales are starting to come in. I continue to read and catalogue the free newsletters and make recommended adjustments to my site in an effort to improve sales and I am also continuing to list my site with the search engines. I’ve added an "800" number for people who prefer to order over the phone, which I recommend you do. I have made many sales by phone that I wouldn’t have had without the 800 number. Although my order page is encrypted and safe, people who order by phone always comment they don’t feel comfortable giving their credit card information out over the Internet.

But beware. If you post an 800 number people envision a staff of 24 hour a day order takers. You better be prepared to take orders at all hours of the day and night 7 days a week. If you operate out of your home as I do, make sure you know where the remote is to turn the TV or stereo down. Make sure you have hand signals that tells friends and family when to be quiet and make sure you have your glasses and a pen and pad handy. Fortunately, you don’t have to get dressed.

Internet marketing has become a glorious thing. The orders keep coming in and my son (in college) comes by each day after school to mail out the orders for the day. I almost feel guilty as my business account balance climbs and my biggest decision of the day is what to fix or barbecue for dinner. I’ve met with a few companies who came to the United States to discuss marketing my product in Australia, Singapore and two days ago I met with a group from China.

Please don’t take this as bragging. Naturally I’m elated that all my hard work and efforts are starting to pay off. What I’m doing is trying to make a point. Six months ago I had no clue what a URL was or how to get people to find my site or even what a search engine was. Heck, I thought a search engine was a modern day scout. My point; all that I have accomplished to date has been the result of free advice and information from marketing professionals via free newsletters like this one. My mother is proud of me again!

Here’s the bottom line. I owe what success I have so far to the people who have submitted and shared free advice on how to become successful with Internet marketing with anyone willing to take it. My hats off to you all. And my kids thank you for us being able to get a "real" Christmas tree this season and a few more presents under it than would have been. I pledge to give in return!

Article by Jim Herring, owner of GemKen Enterprises. Jim's product is an FDA approved, patent pending shampoo for thinning hair, "Pelocell". His sales have skyrocketed and Jim says he owes his Internet Marketing success to the many marketing professionals who are willing to share their knowledge via free newsletters like InternetDay.

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