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Successful Internet marketing requires in the beginning of all activities a distinctive CI (corporate identity). In an unpredictable and quick off the mark communication world it is important to find out by oneself about the required final state of the company. The CI describes the required state in short and concisely. The anonymous participants on the Internet need a clear vision and a distinctive image of the company. This image, which is being transported through the net by online editorial departments, search engines and newsgroups, sends a signal in the spacious and interactive information field to which the surfer is geared to. The more attractive the CI and the more striking the image, the better it meets its task in pull marketing. A strong charisma attracts the target groups.
Before you make the first step you have to establish a concrete plan that describes the target, the instruments and the way. The means can and have to be flexibly adjusted to the response on this way. Much as flexibility is required you need persistence in order to prevent that the image wears away on the move. The way is being concretely described before the first marketing activity begins. The plan supports the decision process and still allows for modification, diversification and reaction. The persons involved in this process start with the awareness to have the marketing process completely under control instead of becoming the pawn of interaction.
Every marketing strategy has a quantified target that is being fixed in the beginning in a business plan. In the easy case, the target is the maximization of the earnings from the sale of the products. On the Internet you have to pursue this target as directly as possible because detours take a lot of time. The traditional economy often integrates its messages into subtle statements which are supposed to create a need in the prospect so that there will be caused a demand and the products can be disposed of to the customer via commerce in the abovementioned push. The demand already exists on the Internet. The supplier has to attract the demand like a lighthouse before others do – he pulls the demand from the market.
Internet marketing has to give itself a target first; a target that consists of a target group and several checkable success criteria on the path leading to the goal. Marketing typically works on individual steps of a target pyramid whose peak is the profit objective and whose basis is in most cases the search for and the binding of prospects. The target pyramid is the starting point of every marketing strategy. The measures are being fixed directly, implemented immediately and their effectiveness will be controlled straight away.
The target group has to be defined very precisely. As the Internet is a medium for millions of users an exact definition does not restrict the target group improperly but edges the marketing instruments and provides for a better accuracy. All Internet surfers are within reach so that a local restriction is not advantageous.
Before you start, you have to decide on the control instruments and you have to install them on your own Internet pages. The easiest method counts the visits to the pages. At first there has to be a pixel installed on every page. After that you have to establish page counters recording the request for the pixel. All other methods are too inaccurate. Above all they do not allow for verification for co-operation partners who probably reciprocate for procured page visits.
On the Internet, every participant is addressee as well as sender. From this it follows that every partner is not only a target person for advertisement but also an advertising medium. No other medium allows for such a quick changeover from marketing object to marketing agency. So-called affiliate programs support this changeover. A virtuous use of the marketing tool makes the company more attractive for collaborations. The success verification of the marketing strategy thus operates in two directions: on the one hand for the control of one’s own activities and on the other hand for the efficiency verification for synergy partners.
The quantitative counting methods begin with the page visits and continue from the orders up to the turnover and profit control. All data must thus be accessible online and without delay – the use of an efficient customer database is obligatory. The reaction of the Internet takes place immediately and spontaneously. But it is not restricted to countable variables; the participants are also reliable critics. A guest book or another possibility to catch qualitative comments of the Internet community is part of every Internet presence. Surveys among the prospects promote interaction and normally put forth useful suggestions for improvement for one’s own marketing strategy.
Good marketing does not answer the question about the attractiveness of a product by itself. Marketing is good when the prospect feels attracted by the product. He will then probably decide on instinct. The environment in which the surfer’s expectations are being fulfilled and in which he feels comfortable is being created by means of interaction. This is the reason why marketing has to meet the partner’s view of the world exactly on every interaction level by the right address and take him into interaction.
However, people do not decide “on instinct”. This type of decision is in fact motivated by an environment that corresponds to the individual view of the world. It is thereby completely irrelevant whether the experience corresponds to deep thoughts about the background of the world or to emotional spontaneity. Thinkers and emotional people come together “in the instinct”.
The qualification of users takes place in consecutive steps like the ascension of a pyramid – a dependency pyramid. Between the levels of the pyramid there are relatively firm relations that can be measured and quantified in conversion quotas.
With relatively firm conversion quotas the attracted surfer develops from
partner (regular customer).
The starting point is the often cited community in which first of all the prospects have to be collected. On this level you do not have that much information on the users and often not only an e-mail address. You only know that there have been anonymous users visiting your page. You have to emanate from this basic population in order to increase their qualification and to uplift them on the dependency pyramid.
In the language of communication experts, a message will be positively received when the network is intact. The result of this is the definition of the first marketing task. The message will be received quickly when you have to reprint only few images of the addressee. The prospect comes to the Internet from his social environment and expects to find some communication rules. This is an easy request. You have to listen to him, to react to what he does, to take him seriously, to reward his attention, to be hospitable and offer him something. Thus, the success formula for the handling of a new prospect is: do not interfere with the Internet experience but promote interactive communication. In this spirit, the surfer expects entertainment and the Internet is a multilateral basis for the latter. In Internet language it is content being delivered on the pages.
By means of interaction you can make your Internet presence that attractive that the prospect will give you more information on himself. When the surfers communicated at first anonymously and accepted the communication probably under an alias they will reveal their identity on the next level when they receive better information in exchange. The information is better when it is personalized and specific to his requirements. This can be special offers from his field of interest or advice to his specific questions.
The surfer will become a member of the community by means of the authorization; he is not anonymous anymore and thus susceptive to concrete information. There is a firm conversion rate between the surfer and the member that can hardly be influenced; the best thing to do is to take note of it and to attract that many prospects that the qualification brings about an acceptable yield. The conversion rate on the lowest level is normally only a few per cent, sometimes even only a few per mill.
The next quality of marketing measures concerns the members and consequently and obtrusively communicates the target of changing the member into a buyer. Gentle reservation does not go with the Internet marketing raster; it only generates time loss. You can definitely risk a deregistration of the member because whoever does not sometime positively react to the attractions of the offer is no profitable target for Internet marketing. Inactive members are of no use in a target-oriented strategy. A high number of members is at best of a certain use for the exchange with co-operation partners. When the synergy with other companies does not deliver the desired results, the revision of the database should have priority.
The initial purchase can be incited by means of various methods. There are no limits to imagination as long as you don’t lose track of the target. As the members have different preferences you should offer several rewarding variants: lotteries and raffles, rebates for first-time buyers, vouchers, coupons, bonuses for recommendations, etc. The amount of expenditures is measured according to the value of the buyer. This value can roughly be estimated as the turnover of a regular customer multiplied by his thus earned profit. The conversion rate is an important measurement here, too. It decides on the total amount of the reasonable expenditures. At this point, every supplier has to make his own experience with the effects and the profit contributions of incentives because the gross profit of every product and in every branch is different. Solely the success justifies the marketing effort. And the success is the conversion of members into buyers.
The same thoughts apply to all qualification levels of the dependency pyramid even if it is more finely structured and differentiated, for example in: the member inclined to buy, the member of good financial strength inclined to buy, the first-time buyer, the returning buyer and the regular customer. Between every step there is a firm conversion rate whose dimension can be measured from the controlling by means of statistics. Regardless of how many steps you define, one thing is clear: you have to put a big number of prospects into the funnel in order to get regular customers out of it.
A buyer will thus not automatically become a regular customer. He wants to be taken care of, to know that his interests are in good hands and to have his problems resolved quickly. He needs personal communication, an individual approach, a listener and an agent for his concerns in the company. Customer care seems laborious but it is unequally easier than to lift a new surfer to the peak of the pyramid. This well known fact applies to the old economy as well as to the Internet. However, it will become evident and calculable in e-commerce because interaction opens a short way of communication to the surfers and members. The statistics and experience values allow for an individual comparison between customer acquisition and customer care for every company. The conversion rate from site visitor to buyer makes the marketing efficiency obvious.
Competition as an economic engine and selective process has fewer chances of success on the Internet than in the established economy. You have already been advised of this fact in the theoretic basics of e-commerce. Synergy and co-operation have a greater influence to success because of the natural information dissemination, the promptness and the direct interaction – the credo of successful Internet actors is “from fighting to partnership”.
Co-operation is needed between supplier and prospect as well as between different suppliers who harmonize in a synergetic way. The best results can be achieved when both companies solicit the same target group with different or supplementary offers. The more the respective products are in competition with each other, the more fragile is the co-operation. Every partner has his own quite appropriate estimation of a big, anonymous and hardly susceptible pool of prospects. As the Internet is being experienced as a demand-driven market with complete information and high flexibility, the willingness to co-operate is high between the suppliers. They are open to respective offers. The willingness to co-operate is the most distinctive with equally-sized partners.
In practical work, marketing is being developed in symbioses. Additional services for the same target group will be brought together in common presences. There, partners do not only bring together their ideas but also their customer groups. A common information on synergetic services will be addressed to the customers. Thus, every partner gets new prospects who increase the acquisition basis. He sends this potential through the conversion process and in the end he has more customers and members for the next partnership. This is the way in which trained marketing strategists work their way to the top in respectively new and increasingly bigger marketing collaborations.
A fundamental element of every partnership is the willingness to give. But this does not urgently mean donations but information, tips, advice or marketing contacts. With a concentration on the distribution of advantages, the chances of co-operation, the recommendations, the mediated members and thus in the end the number of customers, turnovers and profits are growing.
We have already defined interaction and promptness, co-operation with partners and the conversion of customer potential as characteristics of the Internet. The successful supplier on the Internet needs appropriate tools for the fulfillment of these tasks. He is primed for the quickly changing challenges of the medium with a filled toolbox that he uses in versatile ways.
An efficient database and a meaningful statistics that promptly counts visitors, members, buyers and their orders and turnovers are part of the basic tools.
However, the following things are also part of it:
One or more employees, who are trained in customer marketing. A writer seminar is part of the training in order to find the right choice of words in the letters and Internet texts.
A webmaster who services the pages and makes them known on the Internet. He has to be well versed in search engine functionality and he has to know how to position pages in directories and newsgroups.
A marketing plan that describes the targets and activities concisely. It consists of:
- CI (corporate identity)
- target definition
- target groups
- market niche
- USP (unique selling proposition)
- marketing instruments
A plan that describes the incentives by means of which you want to turn them into buyers.
A list of co-operation partners who want to reach the same target group with their marketing.
A plan for collateral advertisement.
A press database with the most important magazines, editorial offices, online publications and news services.
A search engine and Internet catalogue directory for the aimed for target group.
A market survey about the multipliers with the same target group who are already established in the market and send messages via existing communication connections.
An analysis of the presence and the marketing means of competitors, of their strengths and weaknesses.
Presentation documents, banners, articles and product descriptions.
When everything has been collected, the campaign will at first be shown internally in order to inform the whole company, to prepare for questions and to motivate the employees.
It is a lot easier to confirm existing customer relationships and to make further business with the already convinced partners than to heave new prospects to the top of the dependency pyramid. The mere reaction to market resonances is in this spirit less promising than an active strategy for customer care. The companies with a provident care of the existing relationships head in all surveys on customer satisfaction, growth in sales and profitability. The loyal customer influences and reinforces the company’s positive image and sends the CI as a message through the Internet.
The basis for this success is the consequent use of all available internal and external data on the target group and one’s own customers. This information allows for the development of a personality profile of the customer from a rough sketch to detail. The marketing instruments can be implemented in a more useful and target-oriented way with a clear idea of the customer’s preferences. That saves both time and money.
Not only communication but production and distribution will be geared towards the customer’s needs with the newly gained knowledge. The Internet is a demand-driven market that requires from the seller an absolute comprehension of service. Competition is direct, quick and close. The competitors’ information is immediately available for the customer. Comparisons are possible and will be used within seconds. In such an environment, the supplier has to keep the entropy as low as possible and to use the chances of cheap and quick information search.
The data on one’s own processes has to be available preferably in real-time; the customer data on turnover, buying behavior and support requirements is in direct access for distribution and customer care; changes in demand will be immediately taken into production in order to optimally adjust the capacities.
The customers will be segmented for efficient quotation strategies. Every customer group will get it’s own approach on the Internet; they are being assigned to different communities according to their source, their field of interest or their buying behavior. The customers will at first be led to the Internet pages made for them. In any case, the customer should identify himself so that you can personalize the information for him. A personal approach is the best precondition for the customer’s devotion.
With personal Internet marketing the company differentiates itself in an anonymous environment and simulates the selling atmosphere of direct customer contact. Thus, the basis for individual offers has been created. Every buyer can be addressed to supplementary services or products from earlier purchases. The reasonable information search will thus be merged with the interaction on the Internet to a competitive advantage.