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Flexible self-marketing, going cheap

Tracy Cooper-Posey

If youíve already got an email account, then youíve probably got access to a marketing tool that works for you 24 hours a day, all around the world. Your own web page. And the best news? Itís free.

Who needs a marketing tool?

Anyone. Just because you work for someone else doesnít mean that you wouldnít benefit from marketing yourself. Your resume is a marketing tool. A home page can be used as a well presented resume, one that comes invisibly attached to your business card by virtue of including your web address on the card. It allows those people to whom you give your card to get past the "tell me who you are" stage in a very classy way.

Having a home page that details your skills and experience may open up opportunities for you when someone zooms in on strengths of yours that under normal circumstances you would never think to tell them about.

Do you have a skill or a profession that you can specifically market? Say, for instance, you work as a typist during the day, but you have a budding home business cultivating and selling fresh herbs to restaurants and commercial kitchens. A home page is ideal for showcasing your business or cottage industry.

And of course, the professional who is self-employed or running their own business will find a web page an excellent addition to their portfolio of marketing tools.

So as you can see, virtually everyone can benefit from marketing themselves.

Where do you start?

Youíll need to have an email account with an Internet service provider (ISP) who gives members home page facilities. Most SLIP account providers do, sometimes with size limitations. If youíre not already on the Internet, find an ISP who does give you this benefit, preferably as part of your monthly account fees. If your ISP doesnít provide website facilities, there are other sites, such as Geocities, that provide free web services.

1. Focus

Marc Cukier, web page designer and owner of Dream Ribbon Productions (http://www.dreamribbon.com) in Toronto, emphasizes; "Focus. Have only one purpose for your page, or the message youíre trying to get across to the web audience will be lost, or confused. Focus can also be purpose... a clearly defined purpose. Ask yourself ĎWhat do I want to accomplish with my website and what do I want my website to accomplish?í"

He adds: "Think of a website as a brochure or business card - another piece of your marketing pie. If your business cards or brochures are clear, so too should your website."

Itís no good trying to make it a social open-letter page for your friends and a marketing tool for yourself. Remember youíre not restricted to a single page, however. Depending on how much space your ISP allows you, you can have a web page for each role in your life -- one for friends and family, with pictures of your kids at their birthday parties, and your favorites links; one as a resume for your daytime occupation as tax consultant extraordinaire, and a third which profiles the budding writing career that youíre burning midnight oil to build up.

2. Development

Consider writing the coding for your home page yourself. Unless you have hard commercial aims that require complex Java scripting (an advanced web coding) with lots of animated and tailored graphics, customer forms and special feedback requirements, you donít need an expensive web page consultant. HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language, used for web pages) is extremely easy to learn, and there are hundreds of websites devoted to teaching you the basics. You really donít need to learn very much to produce wonderfully laid out pages. As proof, check out my own home page: http://edmonton.shaw.wave.ca/~mposey/tracycp/tracy1.html. I wrote it after reading a couple of websites and downloading a shareware HTML editor, which was simple but did the job. You donít even need an HTML editor. You can write the script in a word processor and save the document as text only.

To get you started, try these sites:

  • Netscapeís Creating Net Sites (http://home.netscape.com/home/how-to-create-web-services.html). Comprehensive, with further links.
  • HTML Guides (http://www.scescape.net/web.html)
  • HTML Guides Quick Reference (http://www.cc.ukans.edu/info/HTML_quick.html). Useful for problem solving once youíve got going.
  • If you genuinely donít have time to develop your own site, or if you find the whole HTML scripting business just a little too overwhelming, donít despair. You still donít have to hire a $60+/hour consultant. Ask an Internet-savvy friend or contact to write the page for you -- for a mutually-advantageous arrangement, of course. Networking is one of the beauties of the Net. You may find someone in Australia who can write the page that needs (say) information or favors that only you can provide, or for a small fee -- much smaller than a commercial consultant would demand. Ask around.

3. Development -- Part II

  • A small word of warning. All the neat animated graphics, the wonderful borders and backgrounds, tools, buttons, bars, and much more that you can download from the web to use in your home page are seductive.
  • Also, the more graphics you have, the slower your home page will be to download onto a readerís server. If itís too big they may halt the download, and forget it.
  • Remember KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Donít forget the aim of your page, what it is you want to achieve with it. Overloading the page with every cool device you find will make the page look fussy, disorganized and confusing, and your message will again be lost.
  • Another advantage to writing the page yourself is that you can update the page, tinker, refine it, and change it whenever you want, or whenever the focus of your page changes. It also easier to add another independent page if youíre developing another area of your life.

Tips and tricks

  • Surf the web, and take note of the pages that appeal to you visually. What elements and ideas can you borrow or adapt?
  • View the source code (check under the "View" menu item on your web browser for the option) for tips on how to write the coding for your page.
  • Get an HTML editor -- shareware does the job just fine, but you can pay for one if youíd rather. Most of the how-to sites will give you links for downloadable shareware editors.

Web pages are flexible marketing tools that work for you when youíre not there. Although they will never be effective as your only form of marketing, in the global village where more and more people are working, playing, socializing, and buying online, they are a powerful tool it pays to consider using.

Copyright Tracy Cooper-Posey © 1997
Published in Connecting Women


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