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Six pages is all an alarm dealer really needs to create a powerful Internet presence, as shown in this article we wrote for Canada's Security Products & Technology News magazine.

Suppose it is possible to do less paper work and still pocket an additional $9,000 each year. Or that a new method to market businesses, like those in the alarm industry, is so rewarding that the company that does it earned $15 million from happy customers last year. Or what if one could purchase supplies for 15 percent less than what they are buying now?

Changing the way you think about marketing your business is now readily available. The answer?

By putting the Internet to work for you.

According to Ferris Research, the net productivity savings per American office worker due to using e-mail is $9,000 annually. For only 25 cents apiece, Yesmail.com will send e-mail sales letters promoting your dealership to a selection of its 11-million member lists. Think for a moment: Do you have the e-mail addresses of all your customers and your new business prospects? Are you set up to e-mail promotions to get your share of those 11-million prospects? Do you buy supplies on the Internet? Do you frequent the new security Web portals that allow you to buy direct from manufacturers, often at good discounts, which can increase your profit margins?

If your answers to all these questions are "no," then read on to discover how the power of the Internet can expand your business, while reducing workload and costs.

The Virtual Selling Engine

Whether you already have a Web site, or are planning to build one, the chances are that as a marketing tool, it is going to be a failure. At least, that is what I see when I review alarm dealer sites.

Most people build their sites before devising a digital marketing program. Many look like a home movie, edited by an untalented cousin. A Web site is a selling engine, and the first step in making that engine work is to take it seriously.

A powerful selling site does not have to be big - it can have as few as six pages:

Home Page: a quick one-page rundown on who you are, your monitoring services, time in business and the area(s) you serve. Keep it short and give highlights on services like monitoring, residential, business installations, as well as the manufacturers you use as suppliers;

Customer Pages: your residential and commercial pages should be separate because they should lead new customers to the section they are most interested in. On the residential page, share your experience in residential installations, and be sure to list all the many options you offer, including fire, security, CCTV, monitoring, intercom, lighting, vacuum, etc. On the commercial page, focus on the experience and services you offer;

Contact Us: use one for residential and one for commercial. These pages should offer the new customer the ability to give you qualifying information, such as number of rooms, special interests such as CCTV or access control, number of doors, etc.;

What's New: keep this page current with information regarding new techniques and technology in installations and monitoring;

Security Tips: this is an optional page dedicated to suggestions on how to make the home or office more secure; and

e-Brochures: store your e-brochures on your site; and send them as colorful links with your e-mail promotions.

Promoting Your Site

Now that your Internet presence is up-and-running, it is time to promote it through traditional marketing materials. Place your Web address on business cards, letterhead and in newspaper and Yellow Pages ads. Most importantly, imprint it on the side of your trucks in large letters. A truck is a moving billboard, and when it is parked on the street, your Web address will be there to be seen by prospects in the same area.

There are many other ways to use the Web as e-mail advertising becomes one of the fastest growing promotional mediums. A study by eMarketer 2000 claims that $289 million US is currently spent on e-mail advertising, with forecasts predicting this figure to balloon to $1.9 billion by 2003.

Join the revolution. Send promotional e-mail to existing customers and new prospects. If customers grant permission to accept your e-mail by you promising news and special offers, your response rate will be higher. A study by IMT Strategies, Permission E-mail: the Future of Direct Marketing, claims that 35 percent of people respond to mail they have agreed to accept, versus only 10 percent to SPAM - the Internet equivalent of junk mail.

Another idea is to invite visitors from other sites through links. This serves as a new business funnel to yours. For instance, install and maintain an Internet-linked CCTV "spy cam" on a main street downtown, so people can check on traffic conditions; or install a camera pointed at the local high-school football field scoreboard, so fans can check out the score.

Be imaginative, but look for ties that combine your skills with community spirit. Free links with the local newspaper site or the chamber of commerce are then possible, which are both powerful magnets for new business.

Finally, take advantage of the Internet as one vast bargain basement and information resource. There are a number of Web sites that provide a means for buying supplies from manufacturers, as well as free forums that foster the trading of ideas with other security professionals.

But, through all this information technology, build your Web site as a marketing engine, and success will follow.

All you have to do is explore the myriad ways to channel new customers to your site, and act on the ones that appeal to you the most.
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