THE BIG QUESTION
On the Internet, every business is a microbe facing an unfathomable universe. A few simple facts: 1) Terra alone has $200 million in Internet advertising. 2) There are 150 million domains on the Internet, all trying to promote themselves. How do we stand out from the crowd? HOW DO WE REACH OUR TARGET AUDIENCE WITH THE LIMITED RESOURCES WE HAVE?
In traditional or physical marketing, we get up on a stage in front of our potential audience. Then we unfurl a banner (press, magazines, catalogs, billboards,…) and we shout our slogans over the loudspeakers (radio, TV, trade shows). The number of recipients of our message depends on the height of our stage and the power of our loudspeakers. In other words, how many and how powerful are the media we hire? In short, the solution is simple and straightforward: I invest money and I hire media.
THE INTERNET MODEL
To explain how things work in cybermarketing, I will use an analogy I came up with a few months ago that represents the Internet as a vast sea full of Internet users. This analogy leads us to 2 important conclusions.
1) AMONG THOSE INTERNET USERS – currently about 200 million – ARE OUR POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS, as well as our competitors and all the companies in our industry.
2) we are also immersed in this sea, among our customers and competitors. Therefore, we cannot stand on a platform from which we can attract the attention of all of them. On the contrary, we have to make them identify themselves, raise their arms and point out their existence and their interest in what we have to offer. From there, we will be able to build a relationship with each of them that is as personalized as possible.
HOW DO WE GET CUSTOMERS TO “RAISE THEIR ARMS”?
To answer this question, it may be useful to know how Internet users find websites. There are several studies on this subject with very interesting results. The numbers differ from study to study, but the order of the means does not. In the first place is “word of mouth”, used by 89% of Internet users. This is followed by search engines with 75%. In third place are links, with 68%. This is followed by other media such as offline advertising (TV, radio, press, magazines), classifieds, packaging and stationery, etc.
At first glance, it may seem shocking that the first means of web diffusion is MOUTH TO EAR. But if we remember the analogy of the sea, it is quite logical. Because of the medium itself, information flows through the network from web to web, from Internet user to Internet user, that is, from mouth to ear. We will have to learn to develop this way of communication. And this will be difficult to contract out. Most of it will be the direct responsibility of the company.
Then come the SEARCH ENGINES. It is very important to appear in them. This is done by registering and selecting the most appropriate ones. But there is another tool that allows us to appear in all the search engines without any effort. These are the meta tags of each of our pages (title, description and keywords). If these tags are well defined, search engine robots will be able to include us in their databases. If not, no. And yet, out of sheer ignorance, many of the pages we find do not have these tags defined.
The famous BANNERS are a subdivision of the third way to access the web: the LINKS. They are therefore far from being the “universal solution” that many would like. Several studies show that the rate of contacts generated by a banner has fallen from an average of 3% – 3 out of 100 Internet users who see the banner click on it – to 1% today. What is interesting is that we get many links to our pages from all over the web. Either in articles that talk about us, in the lists of resources that many web sites maintain or, as another alternative, by means of banners.
SAVING YOUR NETWORK ON THE NET
Going back to the analogy of the sea, and given the variety of media available to us, the most appropriate tactic is that of the fishermen. They spread out their nets in the sea and collect their catch in them. In addition, they use hooks on which they place baits appropriate to the fish they want to attract. Then they pick up the fish one by one, select them, discard the inedible ones, and so on. Of course, it’s a lot more work than placing an ad, but in the environment in which we operate, it’s much more effective in attracting INTERESTED customers.
The secret, for the vast majority of companies, is to WEAR YOUR NETWORK ON THE NET. A network that is centered around our headquarters and that we expand little by little, patiently, day by day, tirelessly, in all directions. A network that, as it grows, and if we give it the means to do so, will be able to develop by itself and reach further and further.
HOW DO WE WEAVE OUR NETWORK?
The means to build it are many and varied. We can mention a long list.
Among the virtual means: Search engine submissions, banner ads, microsites, interstitials, press releases to digital publications, inclusion of links in related websites, purchase of words or positions in search engines, participation in newsgroups, organized e-mail, sponsorships, exchange of content packages or provision of free websites.
The more traditional media can also play a role, especially if we are targeting the general public and have the means to do so: press releases to the media, corporate stationery, packaging, gift items, advertisements in all types of media, conferences, trade shows, publication of articles and books, etc.
I have presented a number of concepts and elements necessary to understand the mechanisms of a correct promotional action on the Internet. And we have seen that the approaches must be radically different from those of physical or conventional marketing.