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Welcome to the Marketing Evolution...Marketing Today (tm)

 

Internet Marketing Basics
by Peter DeLegge


Whether you have recently been given responsibility for getting your business on the Web or to handle a pre-existing Web site, there are some general truths (at least in this consultant's eyes) that you should strongly consider.

Do not consider the Internet simply as a place to put your brochures in electronic form. Do not make the mistake of treating the Internet as if it is simply an advertising medium. The Web has more in common with the telephone than print. It is different from traditional media in many respects. Even Internet advertising requires a different approach than off-line advertising. Exploit the Web's unique qualities to provide a richer experience for customers and prospects.   

Find out what your competitors are doing on the Web. Spend a few days checking out how your competitors are using the Web. Analyze each site. How does the site help tell the world about that company's products or services; is it easy to use; is it enjoyable to use; does it add value to the company's customer service; is it integrated with the company's other marketing efforts.

Create an Internet business plan and live it. Before starting your company's Web site project, determine measurable goals and objectives for your company's site, establish milestones. Make them both qualitative and quantitative. This may sound obvious, but planning is one of the most neglected areas of corporate Web site management. Your Internet business strategy should be an extension of your company's existing business strategy and well-integrated with everything your company does off-line.

Don't be inconsistent with your off-line brand. Make sure your Web site experience is consistent with your brand image. For instance, is your brand known for superior engineering and being easy-to-use? Make sure your Web site experience is consistent. A recent study found that corporate Web site email responses are highly informal and unbranded.   

Email marketing works, but be careful. Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to stay in touch with customers and prospects online. It can also be effective as a direct-marketing device. My advice to B2B marketers, in most cases, do not rent email lists, build your own. Do not rent out your list. Never spam, under any circumstances. Let email subscribers know in advance how often you will send messages and what type of content they can expect. Make messages as targeted as possible; relevancy keeps people listening.

Be sure your Web site is integrated with your company's other marketing activities. Don't make the mistake some traditional companies do and create an Internet effort that is disconnected with your company's off-line efforts. Your Web site should be connected with your company's off-line efforts. This means more than throwing the company Web address in your ads.

Segment and target. Even without sophisticated personalization technology, the Web allows you to easily target your messages, making them more relevant to users. Find out who they are in the least intrusive way possible and then talk to them more personally. 

Use your company's Web site to enhance customer service -- especially for prospects who may be researching. The Internet allows your company to stay in touch with its customers and provide them with answers to questions they are likely to ask. Make sure your site makes it easy for your customers to find what they want and communicate with your company. A good corporate Web site helps current customers and develops new customers too. Consider real-time online help systems.

Make your site an information resource for its target markets. Becoming a trusted resource of high quality information for your customers is of tremendous value to your business, in addition, it can help win your company free press and word-of-mouth/mouse.

Do user testing. If you have the budget, do usability testing prior to launching your Web site. Bring in an expert usability group -- don't merely rely on the company that developed your site, bring in another, unrelated usability testing firm. If you cannot afford to do formal testing with a usability group, I would recommend you bring in a usability expert and afterwards, test with several of your customers.

Care about privacy. Even though most users don't bother to read privacy policies, studies show they do care. My guess is that this will only increase over time. Make sure you have a good privacy policy and a privacy statement on your site that is easy to find and customer friendly. Build your privacy policy around your customers' concerns. When it comes to email, never send out unsolicited email (spam), it not only damages your reputation and could get you into hot water, it also has extremely low response rates.    

Be ready for inquiries. Most corporate Web sites are horrible about responding to email inquiries, don't let yours be one. Also, be ready for international business inquiries, even if it means telling visitors you don't handle out of country orders.

Outsource areas your company does not have expertise. If you plan on getting real value out of your Web site, outsourcing its development to the right firm is critical. I would recommend that you find a firm with marketing experience, not just designers and computer programmers. Remember that a designer's expertise is in design, a programmer's expertise is in programming and an Internet marketer's expertise is in Internet marketing.

Keeping up with the rapid changes of Internet marketing is a full time job. Find an expert and use him or her. Concentrate your efforts on running your business or handling your professional responsibilities.

Promote Your Web site. There is a popular misconception that Web sites do not need to be promoted. Consider that some of the Web's biggest successes spend about 75% of their advertising budgets on non-Internet media. Having a Web site is like having a toll-free number that's not listed in every phone book...you need to work hard to drive visitors to your Web site. As with any other media, it costs money to make it a success. Plaster your Web site address (URL) everywhere you can -- at trade show appearances, on business cards, stationary, in ads and everywhere else you can think of.

Use Internet advertising where it makes sense. Internet advertising has been pushed as a direct-response device, but the B2B process is far more complex and longer than with B2C. Where a B2C ad may attempt to get a consumer to make a purchase, this is not realistic for high-ticket B2B items. Instead, B2B marketers should consider using Internet advertising to reach targets that regularly use the Internet at the places they often go with ads that feature things like white papers, research, Web seminars and other information that is likely to be of strong interest to prospects.

Give it away free. For B2B marketers, the Internet provides a great opportunity to provide your target markets with high quality intellectual capital that can help position your company as a thought leader in the minds of your target markets.

Continuously analyze your Web traffic and other e-metrics to learn and improve. Find out how people are getting to your site and what they're doing once they get there. Any good Web site statistics software package will tell you how many people are going to your site, what pages they're viewing, what search engines they're coming from and more. If you're using a Web development firm, make sure that they  review this with you on no less than a quarterly basis. Find out what's working and what's not. Redesign your site to make it more effective for your users and for reaching your desired objectives (e.g., get leads, sales, etc.). Integrate your on-line and off-line information to provide a more complete picture of customers and prospects.   

Peter De Legge is an Internet Strategy and Marketing Consultant with over 10 years of marketing and e-business experience, primarily in the business to business arena. He has held marketing, advertising and e-business strategy positions from medium size to the Fortune 250. To learn more about his services, visit his Web site at http://www.businessmarketing.net

© Copyright 1999, Peter De Legge. All rights reserved.

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