What Is On-line Marketing?

By Clare Hutchinson, Inter-Trainment

Cyber this and Cyber that! If you haven’t heard of the Internet and the advantages of doing business on-line you must be living a hermitic life in the extremes of the Himalayas - even then, there is mountain connectivity. So what is the business advantage of the on-line world and who needs it anyway?

Unlike traditional business models, the Internet provides the business professional with a vehicle for communicating with clients outside of the structured business-to-business communications process. As the Internet allows for direct contact with potential clients at all times, it provides a forum for relationship building and communicating directly with these prospective clients, using a multi-faceted electronic communication method.

According to Donna Hoffman, Co-director of Project 2000, a research program on marketing in a computer-mediated environment, the Internet represents revolutionary change, as opposed to evolutionary change. The Internet has taken five years to have the same impact on business that the Industrial Revolution had three hundred years ago. To put things into perspective, while it took TV and radio 40 years to penetrate over 50 million homes, the Internet reached the same target after only four years. Ms. Hoffman emphasizes that this revolution is having the biggest impact on marketing and communications professionals.

As Ms. Hoffman points out, this medium is more flexible and sense stimulating. Therefore, consumers have more control and are more active in this medium than in any other traditional medium. According to Ms. Hoffman, the real crux of what the Internet has to offer companies is the ability to get closer to the customer than ever before, and this involves communicating with them. In other words, on-line marketing is more customer-oriented than traditional marketing has ever been.

Because of its inherent interactivity, on-line marketing and communications can be more robust than traditional media. The Internet is the only medium where users can view, request and receive product information and make an instant purchase, saving time, money and expense. However, on-line marketing is a misnomer, since marketing is traditionally the foundation or the strategy that allows other communications to take place.

On-line Marketing

On-line marketing is the strategic analysis and positioning of products in the electronic world. It involves the transfer of information from seller to buyer via the Internet, for the purpose of raising awareness that will in turn lead to the sale of goods and services. The job of the on-line marketer is to cultivate quality relationships with potential customers using the Internet.

On-line marketing brings together many elements found in a marketing strategy, but as opposed to segregating each area, on-line marketing integrates all phases of marketing, advertising and promotions, public relations and sales. In other words, on-line marketing has wider-ranging objectives than traditional marketing.

Traditional Versus On-line Marketing

When faced with the challenge of marketing on the Internet it is tempting to adopt techniques that have proven effective for many years in the environment of traditional media. The problem with this, is that many proven and familiar methods of marketing do not work in the brave new world of the Internet. For instance, static text and graphic web sites miss the point of on-line marketing; no other medium gives a company the chance to relate so intimately with prospective and existing customers as the Internet does.

To be effective in the on-line world, you need to understand and harness the power of the electronic communications environment. Approaching this environment without acknowledging that it is a new world, will ultimately lead to on-line failure.

Benefits of the Internet for Marketers

The Internet allows marketers to acquire feedback from customers both directly and indirectly. The immediacy of the technology has created a new dynamic around time. One of the outstanding problems with this immediate access that marketers have not realized is that if you ask for feedback, it will be given. Allowing clients to dialogue directly with your organization opens the door to intimate communications. On-line marketing means you need to have the infrastructure in place to deal with this and respond to e-mail, acknowledge client interaction, and encourage client participation.

Using the Internet, marketers can receive direct requests for information from prospective clients. It is very important that if you implement an e-mail option for customers to use, there is an adequate response infrastructure in place. Establishing direct channels of communication to the organization is the first step; to complete the process you must respond in a timely manner.

Ask your audience about anything. The nature of the Internet is one of communication, and information generation and distribution.

Developing customer interaction

Create on-line surveys. They will not only give you insight into your audience, they will help facilitate ongoing communication.

Develop an on-line newsletter that offers valuable information. This will assist in building your credibility, as an expert in the field. Any information that you can provide in this “gift economy” will bind your audience to you. It is easier to generate repeat business than create new. The audience will appreciate your information offerings and return for more.

Indirect Communication

On-line marketers can analyze the flow of traffic to their web site in order to determine who is coming to visit. This information is valuable to on-line marketers in terms of helping them understand what their target audience is looking for and can result in redesigning the company web site according to the needs of this audience. Information gathered from the traffic reports (Log files) includes how users came to the site, the number of pages viewed and the most popular pages.

Marketers can also use registration forms and surveys to get a clearer picture of their target market. By asking customers to register at your site, the on-line marketer can create an audience profile that will assist in ongoing marketing campaigns.

Unlimited by Time and Space

Space, time or both limit all traditional media. As a consequence, there are restrictions on how much content can be delivered in an advertising message. Traditionally, advertisers have adapted to these limitations very well by appealing to and stimulating a response. Ad campaigns are designed to do just that. The Internet is the first communications medium that is unlimited by space or time; the message is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and there is endless ability to supply information. As a result, we now have the opportunity to appeal to the customer’s intelligence in addition to their emotions.

Reaching Global Markets

The Internet is a global medium. With the use of the Internet, it is as easy to reach someone on the other side of the globe as it is to reach someone locally, and the cost is almost identical. Additionally, the Internet is an equalizer. You can operate as a multi-national, even though you may be a SME based in Miramichi, New Brunswick.

Shorter Channels of Distribution

Channels of distribution are becoming shorter and shorter. A typical distribution channel has three levels: distributor, wholesaler, and retailer. Because the Internet allows for one-to-one marketing, intermediaries are not always necessary. The Internet also gives marketers an incentive to reach their customers directly, since they can obtain detailed information about who is buying their product.

Level of Presence

The Web allows marketers to offer a much richer marketing program through establishing a presence with their customers. The Web is an unobtrusive medium. This means that customers must initiate the contact. Traditional media is obtrusive as it pushes the advertising information at the consumer. Because the Internet is unobtrusive, audiences pay attention to the information that they receive since they have made a conscious effort to retrieve it.

As we have passed into a new millennium, “Cyber this and Cyber that” is becoming more prolific in everyday business. Studies recently highlighted that 80% of business communication was conducted via the Internet. In 1998, e-mail sales and marketing transactions totaled $1.9 billion US.

On-line marketing is fast becoming an integral element of both business and marketing fundamentals. So, some sage advice to marketing professionals is to understand and appreciate the world of on-line and its benefits on-line is the future and is here!

In the words of Lee Iaccoca “The most successful businessman is the man who holds onto the old just as long as it is good, and grabs the new just as soon as it is better.”

Clare Hutchinson presented Exploring the Electronic Frontier An Introduction to Marketing & Promoting Realities in a Virtual World for the Canadian Institute of Marketing on October 6, 1999. The seminar was very well received by all attendees. Clare can be contacted at [email protected], or visit the Inter-Trainment site:

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