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Game Plan for Online Success
Targeted Websites Boost Sales, Profile, Client Contact


Marilyn Sholin



My first website was built almost 10 years ago. For its time, it was innovative and informative. Over the years, I learned that doing business online isnít magical. It takes marketing, planning, and work.

I experienced the normal growing pains of attempting online sales with complicated, pricey software. It did nothing but delay my sales and allow my clients to send every friend and relative to the site to view and possibly take screen shots of their favorite portraits.

After a great deal of evaluation, I decided that online sales were not for meóor my clients. Actually, by not purchasing anything online, my clients decided it for me.

Today, I market my work on the Internet with a game plan. Instead of one all-inclusive website, we have multiple websites to draw different customers, each one with its own personality and content. Here is an overview:

1. At www.marilynsholin.com, portrait clients can learn more about having their portrait created. All the information they need is presented in a simple format with the home page having a little visual pizzazz with a quick Flash opening. There are galleries, information on clothing, hair and makeup for portraits, and just enough biography and personal information to keep my clients involved.

We donít process any online sales on the client portraits website. Once they place their orders, I post a passworded PDF file on a secured link. The PDF has only the images the client has purchased and is only posted for a limited time. The link address is emailed to the client, who may pass it around to friends and family. In this system, the order is already placed and there is no delay in the sale process.

2. Our first information and tutorial site for professional photographers and artists, www.msholinprosales.com, was also our first site where sales could be processed through Paypal.com and credit cards. It is a secured site, which is necessary for any online sales. Shirley Lund (www.lundandlund.com) has built all our websites and taught me how to manage the back end, so I can update and change text and photos myself. When it comes to building and securing a site with some bells and whistles, use a professional Web designer.

3. Our newest and most complex site, www.marilynsholinfineart.com, is a full shopping site where my photo paintings are sold as posters, prints, and gift items. This site is also where we plan to host all art for stock sales and commercial purposes.

4. marilyn.blogsome.com, our blog, is where I interject personal moments, successes, restaurant reviews, comments, and stories of our travels, in a personal and friendly tone. The blog is probably the most fun to work on, to put content on. It surprises me how many people visit over and over.

5. Lastly, thereís www.digitalpaintingforum.com, which I started as a forum about digital painting because I thought it would be a great place to have all the information in one place. Little did I know that in one year it would generate 2,000 members and 20,000 posts. It is still hosted on my website. New content is added often to keep it interesting and up to date.

All these sites combine to create an online personality that gives my name credibility and shows a sound basis for business and my commitment to the industry and my clients.

Each site has its own newsletter, which we manage with Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com). Their fees are reasonable and we can send out a message, a newsletter, a postcard or a reminder in a few minutes using templates and letting them do the bulk mailing. We get fantastic details on who clicks on what link.

When we send out a mailing about family portraits to our clients with some links to our family portrait information online, I get a list of the email addresses that clicked on that link. It even shows what time they clicked and how many times they clicked on the link.

With this information, I develop a new-mailing list only of the clients who showed interest in family portraits. A new email is sent to them with an offer for portraits they canít resist.

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