Most businessesand for the purpose of this discussion, your Web site is considered a businessgenerate a tremendous amount of material, most of it on paper, directed to other businesses and to the general public. These various bits of printed material, whether they are business cards, stationery, press releases, brochures, catalogs, or advertisements, represent an opportunity to get your URL in front of someone. In addition, you can mention your URL in online letters, lectures, interviews, and presentations, building a visitor base from the ground up. Don't miss any opportunity to get your URL out to the public.
One only has to glance at a newspaper or a magazine to see the rapid proliferation of URLs in advertisements. Whether or not you choose to go the paid advertising route, you can promote your URL in printed matter right at hand. Your URL should be as prominent as your phone number on business stationery and business cards. Marketing material such as press releases, brochures, and catalogs should include your URL near your address and phone number.
Make sure that your site caters to the readers of any of these media whom you wish to draw in. For example, if you include your URL in a brochure, at the very least include information relating to the brochure on your site. Better yet, give the brochure customer a little something extra at your Web site. For example, Lands' End, the clothing catalog, has a special Internet store at their site http://www.landsend.com that features specials and closeouts for the Web customer.
Sigs, the automatic signatures you can set up with many e-mail programs, can be a great source of promotion for your URL, especially if you design your sig in a way to stand out from the crowd and reflect well on your site. Sigs have been part of the online world since the early days of e-mail, so there isn't a design that hasn't been tried nor a quote that hasn't been included at one time or another.
Make sure your sig is clear and includes plenty of white space, and that it makes your best pitch to attract people to your site. Keep it short; any more than eight lines will stretch most readers' patience to the breaking point. Be wary of complex graphics (for example, reproducing the Mona Lisa using slashes and asterisks). To promote your site, consider mentioning prominent awards or including a line from a positive review. You'll definitely want to let people know what they can expect from the site and to highlight the site's unusual allure that will spur them to visit.
Don't try to do too much with a sig. To preserve precious space, consider leaving out your e-mail address (the receiver should already have it in the header of your message). You may want to design a number of sigs and use them for different occasions, including a default sig to highlight your site and standby sigs to promote other aspects of your business. Use the standby for communications that don't involve your site, such as messages to competitors. Figure 7-1 shows a sig with just about everything wrong.
Figure 7-1 An extremely busy sig.
Figure 7-2 shows a distillation of the same material, in a compact, easy-to-read form.
Figure 7-2 Same sig, different sentiment.
Not a day goes by when you won't have an opportunity to get your URL into the mind of a potential site visitor. If you give a talk or lecture, consider putting your URL on slides, overheads, or handouts. If you are interviewed for print, television, or radio, be sure to mention your URL at least once. Lucy Mohl, the brains behind film.com, gave a short interview to a radio station in Australia that had a Web site. Noting her URL, they put a link from their site to hers; now she gets 300 visits a month just from that one site. That's not enough to make a site viable in and of itself, but, when added to the other opportunities presented in this book, it can be significant.
Don't overlook the possibility of including your URLs in some inexpensive advertising. In the documentary film industry (in which I work during my spare time), it is customary to send postcards announcing when a documentary will be broadcast. The shiny side of the postcard usually carries a photograph from the doc, and salient information is printed in the message section on the card's reverse side. Postcards like these can be used as an inexpensive vehicle for advertising Web sites as well. They can be targeted to a select audience and don't need to contain much copy, since your site will furnish the content.