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Someone asked me recently, if I were to expand an existing professional services business onto the internet, what marketing steps would I take first: set up a web site, a shopping cart, a newsletter, or a blog?
This is a very good question. Five years ago most Internet marketing specialists would have all responded in chorus, "A website, of course!" Then they would recommend their services to create an elaborate website with lots of bells and whistles.
I had an interesting email this week from a reader who asked me about website design fees. This is not my area of expertise. But this reader is a very smart guy. Why? Because he knows from my ezines, blogs and web site that I’ve been online for a few years and making a decent living from it.
He’s a rabbi who has many years experience counseling people. He now has made a wise decision to start offering coaching services to people, and wants to leverage the internet to find clients, sell ebooks and other programs.
The First Step – Ask Questions
He has many questions about what to do first, where to invest his marketing dollars, and how to get set up so everything works seamlessly and automatically.
While I don’t profess to have all the answers to his particular questions, I want to emphasize what’s important here. He is asking questions!
Many people just go with their gut or common sense. It goes something like this:
“I need a way to find people online. Ergo, I need a web site. Who can do a web site for me, that doesn’t cost too much? Oh, you can? Only $1000. Okay, that seems reasonable. Do it.”
It’s only later on down the road when they want to start an ezine, or a blog, or sell an ebook that they realize they need more than just a web site. That’s when the web designer kicks in with hourly fees.
I’ve never heard a programmer say they can’t do something. They always say they can easily set up autoresponders, gather email addresses, send out a newsletter, create a blog on your site, and even create a secure payment system for sales.  I’m sorry, but here’s the real news: programmers and web site designers can do all these tasks with your web site, but they will charge you for it, and it still won’t do everything automatically. And you will be tied to their hourly fees (and schedule) forever.
Back to the question asked of me at the beginning of this article.
While my partner and I recommend an all-in-one solution and setting up all the elements together if your budget permits, there are a couple of ways to get started.
Unless you have a database of prospects, you will not sell your services or products.  Therefore, we recommend getting started the right way by building your database — by offering an ezine or free content to attract people to your business.  And, you need a place on the Internet where people can find you and subscribe to your content.
The first two pieces then, especially if you’re just starting out and have a limited budget, are a blog and a shopping cart program with an autoresponder system.
Third Party Shopping Cart Systems
A third party shopping cart system is where you get an account hosted online by a company that specializes in providing automated database management, autoresponders, email broadcasting, online merchant credit card and payments, ad tracking, and affiliate programs.
When you start out, all you need to do is deliver your ezine and automated emails through autoresponders.  You can get a basic level shopping cart account. As your business grows and you develop products, you can upgrade to get more features on your shopping cart, such as affiliate program management and digital delivery.
There are many online email broadcasting services to manage your newsletter. But be aware that an all-in-one solution such as a shopping cart program will save you time and money in the long run.
We strongly recommend starting off with a shopping cart program that can manage your database and newsletters under one roof. It is better to have all your automated marketing functions with one service provider, than to separate your database and newsletter out to another external email service provider.
For detailed information and questions to ask about how to pick a shopping cart system, there are a series of articles you can review:
What’s next?
You have your shopping cart system, now what?  We’ll explore the issue of websites vs. blogs in our next article.

This Business article was written by Patsi Krakoff, Psy. D. on 2/2/2006

As the The Blog Squad, Patsi Krakoff and Denise Wakeman have teamed up to work with professionals to maximize their marketing strategies by implementing blogs, ezines and ecommerce tactics. They are co-authors of “”Build a Better Blog: The Ultimate Guide for Boosting Your Business with a Professional Blog””,”” Confessions of a Reluctant Blogger: >From Boring to Brilliant in 30 Days”” and “”Secrets of Successful Ezines: A Guide to Writing and Publishing an Ezine that Gets Results.”” Are you ready for a blog? Take The Blog Squad’s free assessment at