Last week I popped into SAM’S CLUB Canada to see what they had in the way of bulk cat litter (don’t ask). For those of you who may not be familiar with SAM’S CLUB, it’s Wal-Mart‘s version of warehouse retailer Costco. The cat litter reconnaissance mission was a bust, however I did notice something intriguing as I headed for the exit. There, by the Customer Service desk, was a three-panel brochure with the headline “SAM’S CLUB Announces… Business Web Sites.”
Intrigued, and somewhat fearfully, I grabbed one of the brochures. Sure enough, SAM’S CLUB has teamed up with Vista.com to offer its members a “professional web site at no cost for the first year.” According to the brochure, “it’s fast and easy… you create and manage your own site. Easy-to-edit templates and tools will get you started with no software to buy, and no special computer skills necessary.”
I can’t help but be impressed by what a good deal this must seem like to a business owner – who doesn’t know any better. A free “up to 56 page” Website with all sorts of bells and whistles, designed (I use the term very loosely, based on the examples I saw in Vista’s portfolio) and hosted for an entire year, with no extra fees charged to maintain it. Sure, your Website is clunky, generic, and template-driven, and looks like every other clunky, generic, and template-driven Website out there, but at least you’ve finally staked your claim in cyberspace.
Then it hits me. It doesn’t matter whether a business owner spends a million dollars on their new Website or “activates” their SAM’S CLUB “complimentary business web site.” Both Websites have one important thing in common: regardless of how much money was (or wasn’t) spent building them, these sites have no traffic on the day they launch.
So go ahead, pour millions of dollars into building your Website, or get yourself a free Wal-Mart Website. Either way, if you want to get traffic, you’re going to need a Website marketing plan. Which means you’re going to need the help of an online marketing professional. And that’s something that you can’t get for free, even at Wal-Mart.