Internet Bicycle Business
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There are many ways you can make money on the Internet with bicycles. Here are some thoughts which come to my mind:
* Start a rare parts business. You would build a series of web pages picturing unusual tire pumps, tools, derailleurs, spokes in weird lengths, hard to get tires, and so on. People could purchase these through online ordering, by phoning you, or sending checks and money orders. You would then ship the parts out by Federal Express or UPS.
* Make a complete virtual online bike store. Of course you couldn't offer service, but you could offer everything else. You can carry a complete line of parts and accessories. You could actually carry new bicycles, too, but special arrangements would have to be made. You see, a new bike should be supported with some service. A new bike is a compromise between reasonable weight, price and performance. If bikes were as strong and as durable as cars, they would also weigh as much as cars. So, someone has to be there for the customer to take care of aligning wheels, adjusting bearings, and explaining the intracacies of use of the new bicycle. Either you could explain to the customer what is involved, and let them pay for it or do it themselves, or you might be able to support them in bringing the bikes to their local shops when warranty service is needed. I see this as having the customers send you copies of the receipts for service, and you'd reimburse them. Probably the best answer to this situation, is to specialize in selling expert bikes to expert riders. Then you'll have a clientele which does not need professional help in maintaining their new bikes. Furthermore, you could put together a web-hosted presentation about taking care of their new bikes. And, you could point them to http://members.aol.com/biketune where they'll find complete details for tuning up and repairing their bikes.
* Sell bicycle-related information. For instance, I sell this book you are now reading on the web.
* Sell antique bikes and parts on the web. You would post .GIF or .JPG pictures of the bikes you have available, along with specifications and prices. Then, when someone sees a bike they've gotta have, you've got a sale.
Knowing the ins and outs of web-hosted business is essential. First detail: Know that most web-hosted businesses do not do much business. The primary reason is that people don't know the web site is there. You've got to do everything in your power to bring people to your pages. Unlike "Field of Dreams," 'build it, and the people will come' does not work here. But, you can fix that. Here are the ways I know of to build up your web business:
* List with all the search engines. This won't bring a lot of business, but it is easy and free. Check out http://www.submit-it.com as a good place to start.
* list with Link Exchange http://www.linkexchange.com a free coop service. If you agree to put a few lines of HTML code on one or more of your web pages which allows for showing a Link Exchange member banner, then your banner will appear on other Link Exchange members' pages. Specifically, for each two times people click on your page, you get a free listing at some other random web page. Anyone who does not represent hard-core pornography or other such undesirable material may list with Link Exchange. The banner which appears on your page may be from any of these members each time someone clicks on your page. You have three categories of control over which sites your banners appear, and the same three categories of which kind of banners will appear on your pages. They are: 1.) Children-oriented 2.) General 3.) May be mildly R-rated. Link Exchange banners are 400 x 40 pixels in .GIF format only, and must be under 7k bytes in size.
* Link exchange also has what they call a "Friends of Link Exchange" program. It boils down to sending donations to Link Exchange of $50 or more. For every $50 you send, you get 4,000 banner postings at random locations. You can schedule them to all appear in a specific amount of time, such as during the next week.
* You can purchase advertising links at other popular web sites. For instance, I'd be glad to talk about accepting a banner advertisement at http://bikewebsite.com- which will see a lot of bicyclist traffic! In general, purchasing advertising on the web doesn't work nearly as well as the activities in this list which are free.
* Invite anyone who visits your web page to make links to it from their pages, and to tell their friends about it.
* Jump into newsgroups and forums on any big services you subscribe to such as America Online related to your subject matter. Don't just blatantly sell your product, because you will be flamed - sent hate mail or insulted in the forum. The way to do this is to provide genuine content. For instance, if someone asks a question that you can answer, answer it. At the end of your post, mention your web site address, and perhaps one line about what is to be found there.
* You can sometimes get comfortably into newsgroups by asking questions also. For instance: "Hi, I just started a new web page about antique bicycles. Would some of you readers here be willing to look it over, and let me know if you find any typographical errors?"
One of my favorites is, "Is there anything at http://bikewebsite.com the web site about fixing bicycles, that you'd like to see there which isn't?" Of course, this sort of thing should be legitimate. I really want to know what people want me to add. If you don't care, don't ask. It's too shallow, and the readers will sense that unless you are a very clever writer.
* Establish yourself as an expert. By watching certain newsgroups everyday, and answering questions when you know the answers, your name will start to become known. You can do the same off-line, perhaps writing a column for newspapers, or freelancing articles for magazines. Magazine writers often don't get paid what they are worth, but you will certainly make up for it by making sure your web site is mentioned in your articles!
* Do something eccentric - enough to be newsworthy. If it is strange enough, people will talk about what you did, and the visitors will come! Be careful about going overboard. Don't hurt anyone's feelings or your own reputation.
* Using the search engines, find all web pages related to your field. Write to the people who maintain the pages, briefly explaining your web page and why the would want to link from their pages to yours.
* Write a press release. More and more, the press is talking about activities at web sites. If you do something of interest, it is to their advantage to write about it.
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