Picture the greeter in WalMart stores, the one that gives youa warm welcome, offers you a cart and a flyer announcing specialsfor the day. Suppose this person was directed to turn asideevery tenth per…

Picture the greeter in WalMart stores, the one that gives youa warm welcome, offers you a cart and a flyer announcing specialsfor the day. Suppose this person was directed to turn asideevery tenth person who enters the store, saying, “Sorry, we don’twant your business today.” Then asks them to leave.

If this were repeated throughout all stores, WalMart’s bottomline would drop. One might guess by 10%, the number of peoplebeing turned away. But the drop would be considerably more, forcosts of salaries, inventory, general overhead and such wouldremain constant at least in the short term. Thus the drop mightexceed 20%

No successful business is likely to try this “new” technique,for it obviously would lead quickly to bankruptcy. Why then doso many webmasters apply similar methods with such determination?

A Partial Answer

Anyone who has ever created anything, be it a bookcase, anovel, or a website, knows how difficult it is to be objectiveabout the results of efforts largely driven by our emotions. Since we created it, we even embrace flaws we recognize. For todo otherwise might mean discarding the result and beginning anew.

To succeed, a writer must discover what people want to readand a pleasing way to present their content. That is, they finda way to satisfy the needs of their customers. Else successeludes them. The same is so of home builders, musicians, andshopkeepers of all kinds. It is also true of webmasters.

The Lack Of A Reality Check

If you open a brick & mortar business, up front costs must be expended. And the on going monthly expense begins immediately. Profits must soon cover, else you go broke. Each day you total your gross, subtract a percentage for overhead, and quickly determine how much you can tuck into your pocket.

Except that start up costs are minimal, the above appliesequally to an online business. However, many choose to ignorethese realities. They can afford to do so for a considerableperiod of time, because the overhead on a website amounts topocket money. Since they do not have to pay the rent or for newinventory, they can avoid facing the reality of impending failurealmost indefinitely.

Solid Guidelines Are Absent

One of the problems all webmasters face is the lack ofuniform guidelines. In opening an offline business, you haveample resources available that point the way to success. Whilemany also apply to an online business, specifics about the Webare lacking.

Many come to the Web determined to do their own thing at anycost. Go for it, if that’s your wish. But to succeed, reversethe emphasis. Do what your visitors want in the way they want it done.

First Comes A Flawless Site

If your website is not closing sales or achieving itspurpose, as in generating leads, then fix it. Else pack it in. This is the reality of offline marketing lacking on the Web. Offline, shutting down will soon be forced upon a failingbusiness. Online, valuable time and dollars are wasted insustaining a site that does not get the job done. Since we are not being hounded by bill collectors, we continue with some vague hope things will somehow magically turn around.

If you don’t know what needs doing to put your site on track, get some help. Look for forums or newsgroups into siteperformance. Swap your time in evaluating the sites of others,for their’s in examining yours.

If you can afford it, hire a professional. Learn what he or she knows that will help. Then go find another. No oneindividual has the whole of this game in hand.

Learn The Rules

If you’ve been online for a time, you already know somerules. You may need to learn more. Use Verdana or Ariel on awhite background, for either is much easier to read on a monitorthan Times Roman. Limit main or bounding table widths to 600pixels. Narrow cells/columns as required so that line lengthsare a maximum of 65 characters. These are simple things. Whilemany continue to debate them, it is wasted effort.

While breaking these rules may not turn away ten percent ofyour visitors as our hypothetical WalMart greeter did, why riskit? Why do anything that annoys a visitor, thus encouraging himor her to leave? While it’s true you can not please everyone, italso makes sense to minimize site characteristics that may annoy.

About Branding

Of the continuing debates about doing business on the Web,the one I ignore completely is the notion of branding.

“…, the quicker picker upper.” This is branding. Chances are you connect this immediately to Bounty paper towels. You may even remember one of the actresses featured in the TV commercials.

If I were standing before a shelf of paper towels, all thingsbeing equal, I’d probably reach for Bounty. But when I think ofthe megabucks expended in boosting this name, it’s difficult tobelieve the manufacturer has recovered costs. There’s not muchprofit margin in paper towels.

Forget It

On the Web, branding is often associated with splash or entrypagesFree Reprint Articles, those artsy slow-loading presentations within which youmust find a link to the main site.

This won’t work for a small business. You have no chance ofobtaining brand name recognition without a major corporatepresence and an awesome dollar commitment. So forget branding. And forget those splash pages.

Are You Turning Away N% Of Your Visitors?

The validity of many rules can be difficult to demonstrate. This is a no-brainer. Check the hits on your splash page andcompare the count to that of the page it links to.

Now tell me you are confident you can succeed in businessturning away over ten percent of your potential customers. WalMart couldn’t make it happen. And neither can you.

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Bob McElwain
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