How can I target a Web site to a low-tech audience?
QUESTION: I would like to start a Web site where hairstylists display pictures of their work for the public to view prior to an appointment. I would run the Web site as a magazine with articles, giveaways and freebies. How can I attract stylists to participate in this concept?
ANSWER: We like your idea, though your domain name seems more oriented to something stylists, not the public, might recognize. So unless you've already started serious marketing, consider using a name that's more apt to get instant recognition from the public; you'll have a better chance of being remembered and gaining valuable word-of-mouth for your Web site. We checked and were surprised to find that, with the exception of hairdos.com, many names in this genre are available, like newhairdos.com or hairdosforyou.com. An advantage of putting up a site in a low-tech field is you're more apt to find good domain names that are still available.
Here are several ways to reach stylists in your area:
* Exhibit at an industry trade show. This is a cost-effective way to reach your market. You can have a booth or advertise in the program; you can also offer a giveaway or present a workshop to make your Web site more visible.
* Use direct-mail advertising. A mailing-list broker can help you identify local hairstylists.
* Visit shops in person. Many cities have concentrations of shops-you might go from shop to shop with a notebook computer and show your site to shop owners and stylists.
As getting initial stylists is key, we suggest targeting some popular and respected stylists for inclusion on your site, offering your service to them free if necessary. Their presence makes it easier for you to both attract other stylists and stimulate traffic.
The ideas you have for the content are ones that can work and, by updating the site with new articles and pictures, you may bring hairstyle-trend trackers back for more. But how will you get the public there the first time? Getting enough visitor volume to provide stylists with increased business is necessary to retain your subscribing stylists. For this, you may need to advertise, which can be expensive. You should concentrate on quickly becoming top-of-mind as the hairstyle Web site of Southern California, because competitors are apt to follow. You may want to get investor funding so you have the capital to roll out an ad campaign quickly and strongly.
Small-business experts Paul and Sarah Edwards' latest book is Home-Based Business for Dummies (IDG Books Worldwide), co-authored with Peter Economy.