Following is an article published by me on my website located at http://www.homebusiness-websites.com/april.shtml
. It includes hot links to these scripts and programs that wouldn't come through with this post.
Everybody wants to make sales. Often it is easy to forget about having a back-end for it.
Especially so, if you are new to marketing and selling on the web. It's bad enough to scratch
your head for the back-end, but worse if you don't have any tools to use... Hopefully my
article will give you some ideas about tools you can use.
One of the most important tools to help you back-end your products or services is the
autoresponder. I'm not going into any great explanation of what this is. I am going to
assume that you will know this term and product.
Here is something many of you might not know. Most forms and even shopping carts can
be configured to send mail to more than one address. For example, you could easily have
the information of your sale sent to you and trigger an autoresponder from a different
What I would suggest is using a multi follow-up autoresponder. These can be configured
to send x number of follow ups at pre-determined times. So you might send one with a
thank-you. The next one might include a FAQ about the product or service, the next one
might include a link to a discussion forum where users can get support. The next one might
be another product that will work with the first one to make their life easier and better.
A message forum like WeBBBs is a great tool for customer support. It can save you tons
of time answering email that are duplicate questions. WeBBBs is shareware, meaning you
can try before you buy.
The script you use for ordering on your websites could be one of thousands that are
available. But if you want a script that will make your job easier you might want to take a
look at GMFormMail. This is a CGI script that will allow you to send information to multiple
addresses. In order to do this you would configure a hidden input in the form to look
something like this:
<input type=hidden name="recipient"
Another thing I like about this program is that if you are going to be sending information someplace
other than yourself (to trigger an autoresponder) you can exclude certain fields such as a credit card
<input type=hidden name="exclude" value="card_number">
This program will write the contents of the forum to a flatfile that is protected by your CGI bin. It will
deposit the credit card info as well as the complete contents of the order form here so you can retrieve it
A flatfile is characterized by some type of delimiter which is used to separate the different fields.
After some toying around I found that the way to create a tab delimited flatfile is to include this field with
<input type=hidden name="db_delimiter" value = " ">
This is an special character recognized this way by anything that reproduces HTML to be a tab.
Another reason you may wish to do this is that HTML aware spread sheet and database programs will
recognize it as well.
The reason this is important is that you can import the entire contents of this flatfile by using a
program like Microsoft Excel into a perfectly formatted spreadsheet that contains all of your customers
information. You do this by running a web query with Excel.
To some of you, including Didier, (because I tried to walk him through running a web query with Excel
over the telephone with no success) this is easier to say than do. Excel 97 implements a powerful, yet
underpublicized feature called Web queries to simplify this task. So in case you didn't know, web queries
provide spreadsheets with the ability to update selected cells over an HTTP connection. By running a
Web query, the user can circumvent manual data manipulation and make the spreadsheet update itself
directly over the Web.
There is a tutorial by Bill Jeffries called Updating Excel From the Web which will show you how to
write a web query and a link to download the Query Connectivity Kit from Microsoft. Chance are if you
still have the disk that you installed Excel '97 or 2000 from, it is on the disk.
Once you have Excel configured so you can run web queries you might want to visit the Microsoft web
site and learn how to Get and Analyze Data from the Web in Excel 2000
To see how to take advantage of the Wizard built into Excel (we are talking "quick and dirty" here) you
might visit Free Training Center and scroll down the list until you come to the Web Query tutorial.
Now once you have this up and running about the only other thing you need to know is how to "url
encode" your query to allow you access to a file protected by the CGI bin. I will show you this along with
a sample ".iqy" file. This is the extension used by Excel for web queries. Here is the sample:
You see? In order to get by security so you can download the results into Excel you must use your
username and password in the URL followed by @. The rest of the URL is a closer representation of a
path than it is an actual URL.
OK - now you have a CGI script that can send to more than one email address, one of which to trigger
an autoresponder. You also have a way to import the data into Excel. Once you have this data imported
you can do almost anything you want with it, including sorting it by fields and saving it as another format.
Now depending on what products you offer on your site you may wish to have various autoresponders set
up. Each one can back-end particular products. Many ISP's come with autoresponders for your use, but
these are not usually the multi follow-up kind. There are several expensive packages you can buy, or you
can download a free one that will not only do multi follow-ups, but will allow you to manage
personalized mailing lists. This is a Perl CGI script. It has autoresponders built in, but the mailing lists
feature will allow you to send multiple follow-ups. Here are some more features of this product:
Unlimited number of users
Unlimited number of mailing lists for each user
Automatically follow up with personalized messages
Give each user their own autoresponder
Versatile and easy to use, Admin Control Panel
Member Control Panel for your users
Plus much more!
People can subscribe by sending an email to your list. You have the list pre-configured with your
follow-up messages and space them so many days apart. That's about all there is to it.
MULTIPLE DOMAIN NAMES
Here is another technique that I see many professional marketers using. They have other domain
names directed to other sales letters and directories on their site. These domain names tend to be more
focused than their generic site URL.
A problem here is that you can wind up shelling out a lot of money for this type of feature on some
hosting servers. Other ones don't mind parking your domain name and pointing it at your index file of your
root document, but they don't offer any support to redirect other domain names to folders within the
hierarchical structure of your web site.
Paying a lot of money for a feature like this does not make it feasible. There is a way around this
using a little CGI and modifying your .htaccess file to recognize files with the ".htm" extension as being
I recently had to do this for a site I manage. I downloaded the shareware version of Domain ReDirector.
From this link I chose the "AddType" version. I decided to use this type because I wanted to ADD TO
their directions for setting up your .htaccess file. Putting this line into an .htaccess file will turn .htm files
into CGI files if your server supports running CGI files outside of your CGI bin:
AddType application/x-httpd-cgi .htm
Typically all the files I usually work with on sites I develop have the .html extension. If you work the
other way around, just substitute the proper changes. Keep in mind though that you have just enabled
one or the other to be parsed as a CGI script.
Now the main file on the site was index.html. This is the page that has to load when the original
domain name is called. There are hundreds of web pages all linking to this file. So I included in the same
.htaccess a 404 error redirect. This means anytime there is an 404 on the site, the homepage will load.
As well, if someone doesn't specify the URL file and just types http://somedomain.com
, the CGI script
automatically forwards them to index1.html as well.
Here is the line I added to the .htaccess file:
AddType application/x-httpd-cgi .htm
ErrorDocument 404 http://somedomain.com/index1.html
By editing the CGI script I could add multiple domain names any time I want, but this method can get
you into trouble if not used carefully.
Some search engines have wised up to this type of trick. So if you are going to use something like
this, you don't want all the domain names pointing at one page or directory and use this as a tool to
SPAM the search engines. Use it responsibly or you will find your site will be penalized by the engines.
To do this your pages of different products might include a tutorial and FAQ or something to give it some
content besides a sales page.
These tools used along with putting your full contact information on every page (including your phone
number) can greatly assist your ability to back-end products. There are lots of other tools you can
implement. Even some third party applications like Human Click.
One of the greatest ways to backend? Pick up the phone!