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Can You make Someone Loyal to Your Website?          Print the current page
by Brian D. Chmielewski

Intuitively speaking, yes you can. With insight, ingenuity, and enough restraint, you can truly make someone loyal to your website. But only - and I do stress this - if the user has the potential for being loyal to begin with. While some believe that they possess an almighty gift to do so, we can never make someone act a certain way indefinitely or force them into loyalty if they do not choose that behavior themselves. As a website owner you must realize that forming a loyal website audience requires remaining committed to that objective as the doctrine for driving every element of your business. Oftentimes, you can become overburdened with meeting the goals of everyday business that you forget to make your website responsive to the very human beings that are sustaining it. For, what effect can driving traffic to your website have if there is no demand being served, expectations being met and benefits being present. You must make your website sticky. Fortunately, there are many surefire, low-cost/no-cost software programs that can help you in delivering additional value, thus improving your chances of capitalizing on loyalty at your website.

Loyalty or Laxity?
Give your visitors a little of both. The test of your loyalty to your visitors comes from your resolution to provide them absolute value - no strings attached. While this value you supply is unconditional, you should attempt to deliver something unparalleled and special, making it costly for them to leave you. For example, how many personalized portal start pages do you have? Excite, Yahoo and now others are banking on you only having one - theirs. By providing users with some ownership privileges for their start-up page, allowing increasingly more elaborate configuration of content and color scheme, they are executing brilliant loyalty campaigns. In fact, studies of consumer behavior report that the more interactive a consumer is permitted to become with a brand, the more comfortable and more loyal they will be to it. Implemented properly, these types of interactive marketing strategies work in tandem with point-of-purchase promotions to drive incentive sales. Did you ever take the Pepsi challenge? Hos many times have you sampled a promotional food item? For most, these types of brand building strategies can initiate a relationship, but it is what follows - providing the payoff, meeting/exceeding expectations, fulfilling the brand promise - that enacts customer loyalty. While it is clear that these traditional real-world marketing strategies can appeal to our more tactile senses, it is not yet apparent how effective the Web can be in this area. Perhaps that is why George Bell, Excite’s CEO, and others hope to make your online personality come alive in the offline world, making it portable by inserting it into pay-at-the-pump mechanisms and ATM machines.

The moral is to make your website as responsive as possible. While you may not have the affluence or the right audience for real-time stock quotes, custom weather updates and free email accounts, there are probably a few value-added devices that are appropriate for your website. Perhaps a electronic greeting card service, a Web poll or a free download of some spiffy new software that has benefited you. If you can strike co-branded arrangements with a third-party provider of a value-added service that is even better for your branding purposes. Do not add services to your website that do not offer some value to its visitors, unless of course, an advertisers is paying you to announce their message.

Here are links to a few popular website enhancement tools. While there a literally dozens of software programs available that will erect these services on your website, the suggested links below are all free programs that are very simple to add you’re your website. Each of the programs has unique specifications.

Intermediate Search is an internal search engine for your website.

Mailing List/Newsletter
Introducing Subscribe Me! A powerful program designed to allow the hands-free creation and maintenance of your web site mailing list(s). Use the built-in mailing form to send your updates and information to your mailing list instantly! Includes Password encryption, auto subscribe and unsubscribe, and is ported for both Unix and NT Servers!

HAMweather is a FREE weather software package that can be used to add custom weather capabilities to your web site. These added weather forecasting abilities will provide the user interactivity you need to keep your web visitors coming back. HAMweather can be installed on a Unix, Windows NT or a Windows 95/98 web server with minimal effort. HAMweather also adds the ability for ISP's to set up a single installation and have multiple clients create their own custom weather site.

Easy to install and customize virtual card script. Supports an unlimited number of card creation pages, midi music, card preview, background colors and images, text colors and more. Old cards are automatically purged.

Poll/Voting Script
Vote.pl is a small but fast perlscript, that saves the data of your votings and displays the results graphically. After the user has submitted the voting, vote.pl replaces the vote-form in your html-document with the results or displays an new page. In a separate html-file you can describe the style of the vote.pl-output.

Discussion Board
The Message Board script lets users who come to your site join in a discussion group by reading and posting messages. Users get a very friendly graphical interface with icons for navigation, posting etc. and is very simple to use. This board doesn't make a mess on your server by creating tons of directories and files each time a posting is made. Instead it just uses one text file for all the postings in a discussion group.

Free Chat is a completely free "chat room" system for the web, designed and written by New Breed Software. For your users to access your Free Chat chat room, they need not download any special software! Their current web browser is all that is needed!

Classified Ads
A small program that will allow your clients to enter adds into a classified section of your site. It is just like a guest book script but formatted to suit classified advertising.

Make calendars for months between Jan, 1970 and Dec, 2049. Uses a customizable template and stylesheet. Present all users with a readable calendar.

First Impressions
Don’t make the first time someone visits your website the last. First visits are the equivalent of seeing a person at a distance; unless visitors are given the opportunity to make an emotional connection with your website, they may pass right through it, remaining estranged. Although each of your visitors are operating with a mindset that is the result of personal experiences within the framework of their own lives there are basic rules for strengthening a connection.

1.  Ask what your visitors need and find a way to deliver it. - Be receptive.
2.   If you make a promise, deliver on it. - Be faithful.
3.   Go beyond visitors expectations and surpass the offers of your competition. - Be challenging.