The Internet has drastically changed the way that companies design their marketing strategies. Whereas marketing may have once been limited to a specific geographical area, the Internet has meant that marketing strategies and targeted demographics can be greatly widened since the web knows no true geographic boundaries. At the same time, the easy access of the web also means that your competition has changed as well. Before you might have had one or two major competitors in town; now you’re competing against everyone who has a website.
Still, that’s not all bad news. Particularly if the competition doesn’t fully understand how the rules of Internet marketing are different from the rules of traditional marketing. With this ebook, you’ll learn the basics of Internet marketing and how you can use that information to stand out from the competition. But first, let’s start with a basic review of what we mean by marketing and its related activities.
Marketing is the full range of activities that you undertake – both on and off the web in order to make certain that you are meeting your customers’ needs and that you are receiving enough in return for doing so.
What is Marketing?
When you think about what marketing entails, are you clear on exactly what is included? A good definition of marketing is that it is the full range of activities that you undertake – both on and off the web – in order to make certain that you are meeting your customers’ needs and that you are receiving enough value in return for doing so. Note that we said ‘enough’ value; you need to be receiving enough in return that it is worth the time and investment that you are taking to provide the service or product that you offer.
Internet marketing, like marketing off-site (off of your website), requires that you know enough about your customers and markets that you know how best to price, sell, and distribute your product or service. Doing so requires a level of marketing research and the development of a marketing plan. But before we discuss marketing research and planning, let’s look further at how Internet marketing is related to other activities by defining each one and how they are performed in the online environment.
Advertising is the process of bringing your product or service to the attention of your prospects and customers. For Internet marketing, this means finding new ways to drive traffic, or visitors, to your website. Online advertising can take many forms: banner ads, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, links placed on other websites and more. Usually advertising is focused on one product at a time or one segment of your target market at a time. So, your Internet marketing plan might require several different advertising campaigns in order to help generate the number of customers and sales that you need. Advertising can and should also occur off-line, through direct mail, commercials, personal representation, or other collateral, always including your website address so that customers can learn more about you online. Advertising may also involve ways of letting your customers know about special offers or pricing that is limited in time or scope.
Promotion can be thought of as the way to keep your company, product, or service in front of your customer. It can help to generate more demand for the product as well. Whereas it might include advertising as part of your promotional strategy, it also includes publicity, public relations, and sales. Some of this promotion can be done online through sales efforts, press releases, offering a free information product, or writing targeted email campaigns, but some will also be done off-line. Any effort that you make to improve or enhance the image of your organization, sell more products, or get the name of your organization into the thoughts of your customers and potential customers is part of promotion.
Public relations, or PR, involves developing your company’s image and brand so that it is perceived by the public in the way you want it to be perceived. For example, you might want your company to be seen as the leader of the pack in your field, or you might focus on showcasing the community service that your company provides in the areas where they operate. When you are speaking about an online form of public relations, you need to consider first and foremost what your website looks like and how it operates. Is it young and trendy because that’s who your target audience is? Or is it more traditional and less focused on social media because your products appeal to an older demographic? Your website can be thought of as the “front line” of your public relations strategy.
PR also involves representing your organization to the media. You should have someone designated to speak to the press who is able to represent your organization’s interests and strengthen the image you want to portray – as well as answering any questions about your products or services. Your PR department or representative would send press releases announcing new products or services, answer complaints that the press might have picked up on, and generally be ‘the face’ of your company to the public. This might require adopting some form of technology on your website so that the press and customers can both communicate with you.
This activity is the easiest to understand. It’s the act of locating, informing, and agreeing on terms of the purchase with your customers. Before the Internet, this would have happened by attempting to drive customers into your store or onto your phone lines. Today, many people will first look for you online. So in online sales, you need to help your customers find you. However, the Internet is full of other websites clamoring for the attention of the same customers. You will need to actively market your company, your services, and your products to reach these customers. There are a number of strategies that we will discuss that will help you do just that.
You need to be familiar with the “new rules” of marketing if you are going to develop an effective Internet marketing plan.