Health - The Quit Smoking Company
Submitted by: Fred H. Kelley
Web Site Address: http://www.quitsmoking.com
As the operator of the InternetSuccessStories.com web site, I had to include my own SuccessStory.
The Quit Smoking Company began as an simple idea back in 1995: Assemble many different products to help people quit smoking, and make them available in one place.
I didn't really know much about the Internet at that time. I was just beginning to understand the web, I had just opened my account with MindSpring, but didn't even know how to create web pages. But I knew two things: I wanted to help people quit smoking, and I knew the Internet was going to catch on.
So, in September of 1995 I registered the domain name http://www.quit-smoking.com. At that time, both quit-smoking.com and quitsmoking.com were available. I didn't really know for sure which name to select, but I thought that quit-smoking.com was easier to read. For the next year and a half I simply "sat" on the domain name, not really knowing what to do with it or how to do it. But I knew in the back of my mind that this was a valuable name and that I would eventually find success with quit-smoking.com.
In 1996, I created a web site for my employer at that time, William C. Head, an attorney who handles the controversial law of drunk driving defense. (You can read a SuccessStory about his million-dollar web site.) Thanks to this experience, I learned the necessary skills to feel confident about starting my quit smoking site.
In early 1997, I began searching the Internet for quit smoking products that I could resell. I also began to consider my domain name. I felt that perhaps quit-smoking.com wasn't the best domain since it had the dash in it. Checking the InterNIC database of available domain names, I discovered that, unfortunately, quitsmoking.com had already been registered. However, I went to my web browser and typed in quitsmoking.com. The site was unavailable. I guessed that perhaps the person who registered the name wasn't ready to use the name or didn't quite know what to do with it.
Back I went to InterNIC's site and I retrieved the email address of the person who registered quitsmoking.com. I sent an email to inquire if the domain name was for sale. Several days passed, but finally, I did receive a response. Yes, the name was available. After several emails back and forth, we arrived at a purchase price - $400! I think I got one of the best bargains on the Internet.
After several delays from InterNIC, including several calls, emails and faxes trying to coordinate the sale and switch of the domain name from the previous owner into my name, I finally secured http://www.quitsmoking.com as my own domain name. That was in April of 1997.
I located maybe three or four different products that I would attempt to sell. I had no idea what kind of response I would receive from my site, so I didn't want to spend much money. Being a frugal person (ok, some people might say "tightwad"), I set up drop-shipping arrangements with most of my suppliers. (Drop-shipping is simply where you have product shipped direct from the manufacturer to the customer). This kept me from having to purchase large amounts of product and stock them in my small apartment. I also worked out a deal with a friend to use his credit card account at his bank. Because opening a credit card merchant account can cost several hundred dollars I didn't want to spend the money until I knew for certain that my web site would produce income.
Yes, I made less money on each item sold, and I paid my friend more than his cost for his credit card processing, but this allowed me to get started for very little money. If you don't have much up-front money, look for ways like this to limit your risk. You can always make changes later when you see that your business will succeed.
I wasn't certain how I would generate traffic to my site. I considered banner ads and keyword purchases from search engines, but they were too expensive. I looked at other possibilities but finally decided I would try classified ads in my local newspaper. I had successfully used this type of ad to sell information products a few years earlier, so I wanted to test it on the Internet.
Being somewhat of a procrastinator, I hadn't finished my web site. I'm also not what I consider to be an "artist" or a "graphical" person, so I had trouble developing a site that I deemed professional-looking and pleasing to the eye. I was using (and still use) Microsoft FrontPage to create my site, so I didn't have to worry too much about HTML programming, just about layout. Finally, I simply placed an advertisement in my local paper that was set to run on a Sunday. The Saturday night before the ad came out I finally got around to finishing my site. I gave myself a deadline by placing the ad, and it worked. After a marathon webmastering session, I completed The Quit Smoking Company web site. It was basic, but it got the job done.
My ad came out the next day. Nothing happened. I wasn't disappointed because I didn't really think it would work. Too few people at that time had Internet access. Perhaps I should try classified advertising again now that many millions of people have gotten online.
Anyway, I began the standard procedure of submitting my site to the search engines. I purchased a short course on optimizing web pages for the search engines. The best advice I think I got from the course was to focus on two or three key words or a phrase that web surfers would search for on the search engines. I focused on "quit smoking". It worked. I'm still found in the top twenty results on almost all the major search engines when you search on "quit smoking". I'm still #1 on Yahoo!
My first order came some time in August of 1997. I was ecstatic! This Internet thing worked!
Orders began to trickle in. My traffic was coming strictly from search engines. Traffic began to grow each month, and I was getting at least 2,000 hits per day.
As I write this in December of 1998, I currently get about 150,000 hits per month. Sales are cyclical, with December, January and February being my best sales months. Many smokers make New Year's resolutions to quit smoking, so my sales go up.
Sales this month are my best ever. I attribute this to several factors. First, more people are on the Net now than every before. This trend will continue for many years to come and spells continued growth for any company that can get on the Internet now. Second, my site has improved, and grown. Third, I advertise in various ezines, and reach large numbers of smokers quickly. Fourth, I have an in-house email list of about 2,400 people who have subscribed and/or purchased products. I have committed myself to sending an informative and helpful email to my email list twice per month. I'm beginning to find that people who subscribed to the list months ago are finally purchasing products. I have generated trust and loyalty, and when these smokers finally decide it's time to quit, they know where to turn.
September 20, 1999 Update: My opt-in email list has grown to nearly 12,000. My web site hits per month average around 300,000, and sales continue to grow right along with my traffic. I've added several new domains to my list, including http://www.QuitSmokingIn7Days.com which promotes a single product, Smoke-Away. All orders are processed and shipped by another company. This site currently earns $500-$700 per month, with almost no work. Traffic to this site is generated with links from my http://www.quitsmoking.com site, from brochures inserted with all the orders I ship out and from ads placed in my own opt-in email list.
I wish each of you as much success, joy and fun as I have experienced in my Internet business.
Be sure to submit your success story if you have one now, or when you do achieve success on the Internet!
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