DBA Houston - Marketing on the World Wide Web

By spinning an untangled Web, you can weave worthwhile profits
By: Vic Cherubini

If you haven't already ventured onto the World Wide Web, 1997 should be the year you take the plunge. If you're already there, you're probably looking for ways to boost your site's role in your marketing efforts.

Here are some pointers for getting the most from your Web site this year:

  • Motivating potential customers to visit your site and then persuading them to come back is tricky. Make sure the content is relative to the target audience. If you're not continually paying attention to your site by adding new content, you won't attract traffic. Putting money into the site is an investment, not a one-time expense. If you neglect to see your site as a continual investment that requires nurturing, your money won't be well spent.
  • Understand your company's positioning and branding before building the site. This is a prime reason not to have your information systems department direct the site's design and content. Most companies don;t completely think through the positioning of their site and end us watering down their brand on the Internet. One way to keep costs in line is to use existing brand logos and designs, repositioning them for use on the Web.
  • Make your URL (Web address) short, sweet and memorable. Offer additional URLs for other product lines in your company. For example, IBM's URL is www.ibm.com. For its personal computer line, IBM offers a www.pc.ibm.com page. This gets customers the relevant information quickly, instead of forcing them to sift through pages of information about IBM's other services. Cross-reference your home pages when you have multiple sites. Don't register only your home page with the search engines; register each subset as well. '
  • A home page is like the outer envelope of a direct-mail piece. Just as you wouldn"t create a direct mail piece without an offer inside the envelope, make sure your home page includes an offer as well. Otherwise, you stand the chance of losing visitors before they even open the envelope. Once they do, give people multiple opportunities to reach you. Don't limit an email link solely to the end of the page; pepper it throughout the site. Similar to a direct-mail piece, continually urge people to "send in your form" or "send in your order".
  • Traditional thinking in direct marketing is that components for success include the offer (25 percent), mailing list (50 percent), copy (12.5 percent) and format (12.5 percent). Because the Internet is a relatively new medium, the offer still has the biggest impact about 55 percent on a site's success. Don't spend 70 percent of your time, effort and budget on slick graphics. Instead, concentrate on what will get people to come to your site.
  • Consistently deliver value in your Web site and give users a reason to come back again and again. One way to ensure this is to provide an online newsletter of industry news, gossip, jobs and other current information. Another way is to include a list of tradeshows or conferences relative to your target audience. A regularly updated glossary of products or list of terms gives users a reason to revisit your Web site. Lastly, offer a piece of problem-solving software or an interactive game that's industry-related and is designed to motivate visitors to think about your company and products.
  • The lack of clear models at this stage in the Web's evolution requires a company to experiment with more than one model. Accept the fact that your participation on the Internet will have a research-and-development component to it. Securing a place on the Internet requires a relatively small financial outlay, so keep your initial revenue expectations conservative. Avoid return-on-investment analysis and cost justification. No one has enough data or experience in this new medium to advise on these matters.
  • Don't build your Web site and then hide it. You have to promote it. Include your site address on everything - brochures, catalogs, invoices, phone, fax, e-mail, etc. Try something innovative, such as sending out a catalog on a diskette or CD-ROM with direct links to your Web site. The more awareness you create, the better off you'll be. Make sure your home page includes all the key words that you would want a search engine to pick up. Commercial search engines also sell keywords. This means that you can buy the word that stands for your company, and a banner ad will be displayed at the top of the page of recommended sites.
  • When you capture visitors Web addresses, provide a multiple-choice questionnaire that asks prospects what they're interested in. As them if they want an e-mail confirmation for every order, if they're interested in new-product releases, if they would like notification of product recalls, special promotions, etc. Don't flood your customer with unsolicited email; send related, pertinent information only. Keep in mind that "junk"' e-mail isn't simply an announcement on the Web; in some cases, your prospect is being charged for it.
  • One way around the problem of unsolicited e-mail is using an Internet tool called a "cookie". In essence, a cookie stores profile information on your site visitors. When a visitor completes a form and submits it, that information can be stored on your computer in a reference file. When the visitor returns to your Web site, information of particular interest based on preferences identified by this stored file will be displayed.
  • Get an electronic backup copy of your site form your Internet service provider. This will help you relocate your site with another server if necessary. Just as you back up important files on a regular basis, a high-quality Web site represents a large investment that should be safeguarded.
  • Make a new content easy to find. Design your Web site so that fresh information is immediately recognizable and upfront. Internet users have nano-second attention spans, so don't depend on them to dig through your site, attempting to discover what's new. At the same time, keep in mind that change can be a double-edged sword. Too many changes can give a confused look. Users familiar with a site won't appreciate too many redesigns.
  • Don't simply convert your printed information into its electronic equivalent without first studying new ways to communicate. This is a different medium, requiring different techniques. The challenge for today's marketer is to move from an advertising-based model short, emotional reactions ' to an information-based value marketer. It's the difference between a commercial and an infomercial. The objective is to deliver content that's rich, appropriate and presented in an entertaining manner. If your ad agency only pays 'lip service' to this new communications tool, find a company that understands your products and can communicate in this new medium.