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Another decision that must be made is if you are going to take credit cards on your web site. A starting point would be to ask your bank who they would recommend. Our web site designer has a company they work with or you can look on-line and find a number of companies. We looked on-line and asked our bank. Be aware that some banks do not support some of these credit card clearing house software programs. The company we use is Retriever and credit card processor (clearing house) is Authorize.Net. A couple of things you will learn as you investigate these companies are fees that are levied. With ours there was a one time application fee, fixed monthly charges of about $40.00, and a per transaction charge. I approached dealing with these companies like I do buying a car. I laid all my facts out for each of companies I was looking at and haggled with price, but remember you don't have that much leverage so be reasonable with what you are asking for as a reduction. Also, American Express has a higher fee then VISA/MC and with Discover Card you deal directly with Discover Card.
The last decision to get your web site on Internet is hosting. You can either host site yourself with a server, some software, a DSL line, and some technical know how for set up and maintenance. The other option is to have someone host your site for you, which means you rent space on someone's server and they promise to have your site up on Internet. They do maintenance on server, but probably not on web site. You can find hundreds of companies by searching on Internet that offers this service. Originally, we signed up with AT&T, but when our friend didn't come through with web site we dropped that service. That mistake cost us about $200.00. We looked at other companies on Internet, as well as, our web designer's service. We decided to go with our web designer, www.evolvedsites.com, services because their rates are competitive and their service is excellent.
Once all of above was completed, we went live with our web site. I would love to tell you that as soon as we flipped switch on our web site we were inundated with orders, but that would be a little bit of a stretch. We were just one of many web sites floating around in cyber space. Marketing is name of game, but if you're like us you have big plans and a little bankroll. My suggestion is to take it slow in beginning. One of first things you should do is submit your site to search engines. This service was included in our web site design. You should also resubmit your site every twelve weeks or so to make sure it is not dropped from search engines. You can either do this yourself or you can pay a company on Internet to do it for you. Doing it yourself is time consuming but I'm told search engine programs are more receptive to this then mass submissions from companies. We have done both. After that is done, it will take a couple of weeks for those submissions to take hold. Another option is to issue a press release. Search on-line using "press release" and many companies will come up. We used Majon International. I looked at samples of press releases out there and wrote my own, then submitted it to them and signed up for one of their release packages. Our results varied. We saw some increase in traffic on our web site. We received numerous e-mails and calls from Internet Shopping Malls, and Newspapers to advertise. We received a call from a home shopping network company, which was very interesting, but would have cost us $14,000.00 for a four minute test commercial. But best of all we received a call from The Northwest Herald newspaper that did an article on our business. It was half a page in size and when it came out on 4/18/02, we saw a tremendous increase in traffic on our web site. Another thing we have tried was to use a company called I-web-marketing, which guarantees traffic to your site. You select number of hits to your site for a prescribed dollar amount and submit your information with them. Our experience with this is that we are seeing an increase in site traffic, but not corresponding increase in sales. Our next avenue is to put advertisements in selected print publications.
Some of marketing avenues we haven't tried are reciprocal advertising, which means you put a link to another web site on your web site and they put your link on their web site. We have not tried banners or pop up windows because they are pay per click advertisements and could get really expensive. Not to mention pop up windows are incredibly irritating.
It has been a fun, sometimes strenuous learning experience launching our web site business. I hope some of our experiences can benefit you as you plan your own web site. Although www.12PACKGYM.com has only been up for a short time, we are encouraged by response and will continue with this journey. Remember to take things slow, have a plan, and surround yourself with positive, capable people.
John Bubula CFO 12 Pack Gym, Inc. email@example.com