My Way: Strategies for Courting Consumers Online

My Way: Strategies for Courting Consumers Online

August 28, 2007 11:03 a.m.

The methods small companies discover to attract
customers on the Web — and get them to buy — are bound to be as
individual as the companies themselves. Here’s a look at how four small
companies are wooing online clients and shoppers.

Facebook Application

Who: Seattle start-up iLike Inc. is a
music-sharing site that allows users to track what their friends are
listening to. It makes money through advertising and partners with

What: The company launched an application on Facebook that allows users to share music on a service powered by iLike in May.

Results: The service is among the top five
applications on Facebook, measured by the number of users. Five million
of iLike’s 9 million registered users came to the service from
Facebook, says Ali Partovi, iLike’s chief executive officer. Its
Facebook users tend to return to the service more frequently.

[ Partovi of iLike]
Ali Partovi

How: "We had been aware that Facebook didn’t
have a music component, unlike [rival site] MySpace," he says. "We had
been calling them for ages asking if there was a way to integrate"
iLike with Facebook’s site. Earlier this year, iLike learned the site
would allow outside vendors to build applications within Facebook. In
three-and-a-half weeks, five engineers worked nearly around the clock
to build the application.

Cost: In addition to the engineers’ time, iLike
spent $500,000 in new server equipment to accommodate the surge in
traffic following the launch. There was no charge for adding the
application to Facebook.

Drawback: With more than half of iLike users
coming in through Facebook, the company could run into trouble if the
social-networking site’s popularity wanes.

Video Demo

Who: Turning Technologies LLC, a 120-employee
company in Youngstown, Ohio, makes a device that allows users to take
live polls of an audience and instantly fold the results into a
PowerPoint presentation.

What: Melissa, the company’s new online spokeswoman, greets visitors to
and talks them through the product’s ins and outs. "In the first
minute, Melissa gets you using the product, gives a sense of
participation," says Tony DeAscentis, Turning Technologies’ vice
president of marketing. "When customers saw the product, they would
feel it was something different." He wanted the same reaction online.

Results: The number of sales leads through the Web site is up 80% over a year ago, largely attributed to the new demo.

How: Mr. DeAscentis hired a Web-development company to build a new Web site.

Cost: The tab for planning the new site was $34,000, Mr. DeAscentis says, declining to comment on the total price.

Drawback: The company wasn’t able to integrate other sales tools into the new site initially.


Who: Superior Nut Company Inc., a specialty nut company with 100 employees in Cambridge, Mass.

What: Its
uses RatePoint Inc.’s customer-review system. "When they read those
reviews… it helps to convert more visitors into shoppers," says Hicham
Chraibi, the manager of the online store. It also uses the Better
Business Bureau’s online approval system, as well Hacker Safe’s
online-safety certification. Customers also can review the site through
Yahoo Inc. and Shopzilla Inc.

How: Mr. Chraibi was driving home from work when he heard about RatePoint on the news. "I signed up the same day," he says.

Results: More than 10% of unique visitors to the site place an order, compared to 2% or 3% three years ago.

Cost: "A few thousand a year" on feedback
products, says Mr. Chraibi. According to the Better Business Bureau Web
site, its seal fetches close to $900 for a company of Superior’s size.

Drawback: Some of the review sites are hard to
navigate, so customers may leave little feedback. While they can be
pricey, he says, they’re "definitely worth it."

YouTube Series

Who: Inc., a 10-employee
company in Yucaipa, Calif., offers a listing of contractors by region,
as well as articles and event information for the concrete industry.

[Jim Peterson]
Jim Peterson

What: A weekly news-style show about construction projects launched through video-sharing service, dubbed ConcreteNetwork TV. Customers also send in their own video clips.

How: When founder and president Jim Peterson
looked into adding more content to the site, he learned he could post
YouTube videos. He hired a Web-marketing company to help polish the
clips and make them search-engine friendly by adding titles, among
other things.

Results: Since launching in January, more than
5% of the site’s traffic comes from YouTube. In four or five years, Mr.
Peterson predicts, every article on his site will have a video, which
he expects eventually to help drive search-engine traffic. "As a small
business," he says, "you can really extend your business by being out
there on the front end."

Cost: The site pays its Web-marketing company
more than $20,000 a year. It also pays $500 per video for help from a
local production company. Posting videos to YouTube is free.

Drawback: Many small companies can’t afford the
help of a production company to make each video look professional. Mr.
Peterson found his through a local college.


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