In the world of online marketing, being on time is too late. It’s no longer enough to simply ride the wave of the latest marketing trend, you must anticipate the wave and be ready when it hits. In an environment where banner ads are becoming increasingly ineffective, Pay Per Click is becoming increasingly expensive, and natural search is becoming increasingly competitive, companies need new and creative ways to reach their target audience without breaking the budget. Below I will share 3 out of the box ideas that websites can use to inexpensively reach their potential customers or help convert existing traffic to their websites.

1) Create a Street Team: While the term “viral marketing” is all the rage these days, it seems like few companies actually know how to do it. Of course, viral marketing (friends telling friends) occurs naturally among your customers. However, the challenge is stimulating your customers to more proactively tell their friends and family about your products or services. One way to do this is to create a voluntary Street Team or some other membership club. Bands have used street teams for years as an easy avenue for allowing their fans to spread the word about their music. With my current company, we created a street team that provides free branded content such as screensavers, wallpapers, flyers, email templates, banners, and more. In addition, we provide an incentive for our street team members to spread the word about our products by offering them a 10% referral credit for anyone they send to the site that makes a purchase. Not all street teams need to be this complex, however it is advantageous to at least provide some good free content or some motivation to spread the word.

2) Create a Gift Finder Service: Gift finders are becoming increasingly popular, especially during holiday seasons. Too often we assume that customers come to a website knowing exactly what they are looking for. Quite often, especially during the Christmas season, customers are looking for suggestions on what gifts to give. One advantage that brick and mortar stores have over online stores is the ability for a knowledgeable sales clerk to suggest gift items matching the customer’s requirements. The goal of a gift finder should be to simulate this process as much as possible. For example, the gift finder can ask the shopper the sex of the person they are shopping for, the person’s age range, the price range of the gift, and more. The more detailed the gift finder’s search options are, the more likely they are to find that perfect gift.

3) Email Customers Who Abandon Their Shopping Carts: One easy way to increase conversion rates is to checkup on those people who never complete the checkout process. My current company sends a friendly email to these customers telling them that we are currently trying to improve our checkout process, and apologizes if anything was confusing. In addition, we give them a coupon code as an additional incentive for bringing them back. Overall, customers greatly appreciate the emails, and it has proven to identify some otherwise unknown problems in the checkout process. In addition, the coupon code serves to bring in additional orders that we would not otherwise have received.

In the end, the innovators will be the winners. Because most companies are not implementing strategies such as these, there remains a huge opportunity for those who do. As your website evolves, the improvements will create value in the customer’s mind, which will bring them back to you again and again.

Justin Palmer is the founder of Palmer Web Marketing, an online marketing firm specializing in website conversion strategies. He is also the Website Administrator and Marketing director for C28 Christian Gift Store [] and Not of This World Clothing. C28’s fast growing website offers faith based apparel, accessories, and an online Christian necklaces store.

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