Read an Excerpt
Marketing on the Web
In This Chapter
- Putting the World Wide Web to work in your marketing program
- Designing Web pages and banners
- Interactive advertising comes of age
- Direct marketing on the Internet
- Publishing on the Internet
How do you market on the Internet? I've been asked that question more often in the months I took to write this book than any other. And so I'm breaking with marketing tradition and addressing electronic marketing right now, in detail, and before I go on to the more traditional elements of a marketing program. You asked for it, you got it.
The Internet and the World Wide Web combine to create a wonderfully versatile -- and often misused -- new medium for direct marketing. Most people in marketing have already dabbled with electronic media -- Web pages are springing up like mushrooms. But I rarely encounter anyone who is making a significant amount of money on the Web. It's not that you can't. The Internet, like any mass medium, has the potential to be of great value to marketers (the Internet will someday be a major retail force, for example). But most people do even sillier things than usual when they try to market in a new medium. So I've devoted considerable thought and research, and a fistful of pages, to helping you avoid being a fly caught in the Web.
Unfortunately, I'm afraid that this chapter will age more rapidly than the rest of the book. Electronic media are evolving so rapidly that major news breaks every week and creative new marketing practices emerge every month. So I'll give you a tip for how to keep up with the fast-changing field of Net marketing. I think you ought to subscribe to . . . Net Marketing! Advertising Age has just introduced this new publication as Marketing For Dummies® goes to print, and I'm impressed by the first issue. Contact Advertising Age (write for information at 220 E. 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017; or fax your request to 212-210-0111) to find out how to subscribe to it. And for now, Net Marketing is going to be free to Advertising Age and Business Marketing subscribers, although if it succeeds, it no doubt will switch to a subscription basis.
It's Gonna Be BIG!If you add up the money spent around the world on online advertising (on Web sites, e-mail, and online and offline services) for 1996 -- the best data available as I write -- you get about $275 million in ad spending. That's an impressive figure for a new medium, but it is dwarfed by the billions spent in other media worldwide.
However, if you look at the year quarter by quarter, you discover a startling fact. Spending on online advertising starts small, at just $30 million in the first three months of the year. It jumps about 40 percent in the second quarter and about 30 percent in both the third and fourth quarters. In 1997, the growth rate dipped for a while, but seems to be settling down at about 10 percent a quarter. That's still phenomenal. You are looking at the birth of a major new advertising medium, one that I predict will reach spending levels of several billion dollars a year by the end of the century!
One reason online advertising took off in 1996 is that standards began to emerge for advertisers. Standards help. They make buying and selling advertising space and time easy in this medium, just like in any other. For example, general agreement has been reached on eight standard banner sizes for online ads, which should simplify the design and production of them considerably (if the standards hold -- stay tuned!). If you get involved in designing Web pages or other online advertising, you will find that following these standards is helpful and maybe even necessary. That way you'll be in sync with the rest of the Web world, and your ads will fit their spaces. And it's not hard -- just request ad requirements from anyone selling ad space on the Net. As standards take hold, you will find these requirements becoming less individualized, meaning that an ad designed for one Web page or service will be suitable for others without modification. A nice convenience.
To find out what's going on in the world of online marketing, you need to keep in regular touch with experts and practitioners. The Web is a fast-moving target -- part of what makes it such an exciting new medium. You can learn a lot just by browsing the Web regularly (I often type in keyword searches on advertising or marketing just to see what's up). For example, a detailed study called Research Program on Marketing in Computer-Mediated Environments is published (and periodically updated) on the Web by two professors from Vanderbilt University. You can check it out at
http://www2000.ogsm.vanderbilt.edu/. And if you feel like traveling, you should contact Interactive Conferences, Inc., in Minneapolis, Minnesota (phone at 800-323-0310 or fax at 612-922-2320), which puts on Marketing on the Internet conferences that collect leading practitioners on the topic.
Outreach via the WebPerhaps the simplest way to take advantage of the World Wide Web is to use it to find prospects through direct-action advertising.
Direct-action, or direct-response, advertising is what you are doing whenever you take it upon yourself as a marketer to create and manage customer transactions at a distance through one or more media. In other words, it's when you reach out through media to find individual customers. I'll treat print advertising, mail, and telephone media later on in this section, but you need to know what direct marketing is now because the Internet is emerging as a useful tool for direct marketing.
Direct-action advertising's goal is to get prospective customers to contact you so that you can get them into your direct marketing database and start building a business relationship with them. And the Web is an increasingly good medium for this task. In fact, I think that Web ads and pages are going to be the cheapest media for direct-action ads, as measured on a cost-per-response basis.
Why? Two factors (aside from the obvious growth in the number of people cruising the Web) tell the tale:
- The cost structure of Web space is different from other media.
- There is more Web ad space than needed.
You can create a home page (the Net equivalent of an information booth about you), or distribute a virtual publication (an electronic version of a newsletter or magazine), on the Web. To the extent that your stuff is interesting to prospective customers, you will attract traffic. And the economics of doing so are fundamentally different than in any other medium because your Web space costs you mostly in what accountants call fixed costs, or up-front expenses that do not vary with usage. You have to spend some money on hiring the designers or techies to help create your page or on hiring a writer to design a virtual newsletter for the Web. And you have to spend something each month for Internet access -- probably by renting it from a commercial company with an appropriate server. But these are fixed costs. They won't go up appreciably as readership goes up. So as you attract more visitors, your cost per visitor goes down significantly!
Compare this cost structure to other media, where the variable costs are typically much more important than the fixed costs. You have to pay for every reader in a magazine's circulation, every name on a direct mail list, and so forth. The cost of producing a mailing or ad is a fixed investment, to be sure. But then you have to make a significant variable investment on top of it. So your costs don't go down as rapidly as volume goes up. Only on the Web can you escape your costs through scale so effectively (because as you reach more customers, you don't have to incur more costs!). And that means the Web is going to become the most cost-effective medium for outreach via direct advertising. This cost advantage has nothing to do with the allure of high technology. All media choices come down to cost and quality of an exposure. The advantage of the Web is an economic one -- if you are savvy enough to see and exploit it.
The cost structure advantage described in the first bullet applies to those who want to design (or have someone else design) their own Web pages. But much can be said for buying ad space on other people's sites. The main advantage of this strategy is that you can tap into the traffic already visiting these sites. Just like advertising in other media, where you buy access to the viewers, listeners, or readers. And, just like in other media, Internet ads are priced to reflect the number of exposures they will likely receive. So you'll pay plenty for a banner on a main screen from America Online because of the high viewership.
The trend is toward per-thousand pricing on the Internet, making its ad price structure comparable with other media. Banners now cost between $10-40 thousand for 500,000 exposures according to a recent Wall Street Journal analysis (Feb. 24, 1997, p. B9). Cost-per-thousand or CPM is the standard pricing method for ads in other media, and it tells you how much you will pay to put an ad before one thousand of the users/subscribers/viewers/listeners/readers of the medium. Who they are and how they view (or listen to) an ad differs from medium to medium, but the CPM figure helps give advertisers a standardized measure of the cost-effectiveness of any potential purchase of ad space or time.
I'm convinced that the rapid expansion in Web sites means that a great deal more advertising space will be for sale than the number of advertising buyers for the next few years at least. So the smart buyer should be able to find extremely good deals in Web advertising!
http://www.webconnect.net, or you can reach them by phone at 800-331-8102 (within the U.S.) or fax at 561-241-3599 -- they are located in Boca Raton, Florida.
I also recommend an interesting new company called FlyCast Communications Corp., based in San Francisco that auctions unsold advertising space on the Internet. They can provide more systematic access to discounted Web ad space because they are building relationships with the advertisers. You can reach their Web site at
Designing Banner Ads and Web PagesThe banner ad (brightly colored rectangles at the top of a Web page) is the Web's answer to display advertising in a print medium or outdoor advertising on a billboard. Viewers won't want to read as much copy as they might in a print ad, so use banners the same way you use a billboard -- to get across a very simple, clear, and engaging message. A single, brief headline, perhaps supported by a logo and a couple lines of body copy. Or maybe a brand name and an illustration. In either case, the ad must be simple and bold -- able to attract the viewer's attention from desired information elsewhere on the screen for long enough to make a simple point. Don't expect too much from a banner ad!
If you decide to use the Web for direct-action advertising, be sure to include a clear call to action in the ad. Typical Web banner ads don't give enough information about the product to stimulate an urge for immediate action. Nor do they make taking action easy. They are simply awareness-builders at best.
An interview with Arthur Torres
The Web-page banner is simply a very high-tech display ad, so the rules of good print design apply -- or ought to! See Chapter 5 for applicable rules and guidelines. If you're running what's supposed to be a direct-action ad (see Chapter 18), make sure that you include multiple options for prospects to contact you (see Chapter 18 for ideas). Give your Web address, and also a button or click-on option of some sort for direct linkage to your Web page. Even if you don't have a regularly-updated Web site, you should establish an automated form (an electronic fill-in-the-blanks contact sheet for people to give you their contact information and request follow-ups or place orders). Finally, be sure to include standard contact options for those who may prefer the postal mail, a fax, or a telephone call.
Don't forget to try to make a sale. Even if your product is complex and expensive, some people may prefer to place an order immediately rather than waiting for follow-up from you. Give consumers this option! Too many Web ads act as barriers to the eager customer. What an easily avoided mistake!
Interactive advertising on your Web pageInteractive advertising is advertising that engages its audience in entertaining, creative, or learning experiences. This type of advertising is pretty rare -- most ads are made to be seen or heard, not used like a toy. Yet creating interactive advertising is a reality on the Web, because viewers are already sitting in front of a computer with a mouse and keyboard at hand. Internet advertising has an opportunity to develop advertising into an active communication with the customers instead of a passive one.
Checking your page
Okay, you have a great-looking Web page (thanks to your own Web savvy or that of a designer). But does the page work, and is anyone visiting your site? Do the graphics take so long to download that people give up? You need this kind of data in order to evaluate and improve a site.
One way to find out whether your Web page needs improvement or will work well is to use the free testing service offered at
http://www2.imagiware.com/RxHTML. This company's software is designed to test Web pages, and they are happy to have you demo the software on your page. One of the best features in my mind is link verification -- making sure that the stuff you don't see also looks good. I better tell you what that term means now, as you'll need to know about links when you start marketing on the Web. Link verification checks out your links to other sites -- links being software linkages that help interested Web users find their way to your site (which makes them pretty important!). The software will catch simple spelling and syntax errors as well. And an image analysis test will tell you how long the typical user must wait to download your material.
What the statistics of a testing site don't tell you is whether your page is too aggressive or sneaky in how it obtains information from users. This determination is a judgment call in many cases, because the FTC has yet to issue any clear guidelines, and industry groups are still debating what is and isn't proper. For now, keep an eye on the headlines to make sure that you find out about any new regulations, and try to do things that wouldn't upset you if you were the customer. A classic ethics test is to ask yourself if you'd be embarrassed if a story about your activities were published in your local hometown newspaper.
Be especially careful if your site attracts kids. Don't blur the distinction between editorial and advertising content -- you don't want to be accused of deceiving children. And don't use children as your spies to collect information about their households that their parents wouldn't want you to know. This practice has garnered some negative headlines already, and is one of the reasons the Council of Better Business Bureau's Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) is developing standards for kid-oriented Web advertising. The standards aren't available at the time of this writing, but you can contact the Council for more information at 703-276-0100.
Getting to know your visitorsEach time someone visits your Web site, he is exhibiting interest in you and your products (or he's lost -- unfortunately always an option!). And when someone exhibits interest, that makes him interesting to you. So whatever you do, however you go about setting up a site, make sure that information about your visitors is captured in a useful form and sent to you regularly.
An agency or service bureau should have the capability to get information about visitors to your site for you. Ask. Or you can purchase specialized software or services to track visitors on your own site. For example, VISITrac Tracking Solutions Provider (or VISITrack TSP) specializes in tracking, measuring, and reporting on Web site activities. It is located in The New York Information Technology Center (55 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004) at 212-482-0851.
Publishing on the Web: A Hot OpportunityWhen I poke my head into the World Wide Web, I am usually terribly disappointed in the content I find there. Publishing on the Web is at a ridiculously primitive state. But why should you, as a marketer, care? Because publishing on the Web -- the creation of useful or entertaining materials others will want to read -- is essential to building the value of the Web for advertisers. The publishing side of the Web delivers attractive content, and that attracts Web users, and once you can attract Web users you can then deliver marketing messages to them. Just like in the magazine industry, where everybody knows your circulation depends upon good editorial content. But so far, many of the Web pioneers are marketers -- which is good; I like to see us wear the leadership hat. But the trouble is, we aren't always as focused on developing compelling content as we are on making or selling ad space.
Most Web sites are really just huge, interactive advertisements or sales promotions. After a while, even the most cleverly designed ad gets boring. To increase the length of time users spend with your materials, and to ensure high involvement and return visits, you need to think like a publisher, not just an advertiser. Create and deliver fascinating content and refresh it regularly. Even consider going so far as to distribute your content (like a virtual magazine) so that you don't have to wait for Web users to find you. Build a distribution list of e-mail addresses and put your content (plus ads) in their virtual mailboxes. Publishing is an unfamiliar hat to many marketers, but it's one that fits them well when it comes to marketing on the Internet.
Whenever you have a hidden problem with a medium, you should have clever ways to turn that problem into an opportunity. That's what Michael Dortch advocates. He is publishing a high-quality, electronic column and is building up a readership base the old-fashioned way -- by finding and retaining interested readers! He writes about the topics he likes to consult in so that the contacts his newsletter creates may someday turn into paying business for him. And you can build meaningful customer contacts through a Web newsletter, too -- it's a surefire formula for attracting repeat visitors and building those fabled electronic relationships that everybody wants but so rarely achieves.
Dortch is an old hand in the computer industry, having worked and consulted for most of the leading companies at one time or another. Now he provides consulting services for developing communications/marketing strategies for the Web. And he is also an experienced book author and journalist, so when he writes a column or Web page, it's engaging and informative. And, surprise, when you put out good content like that on the Web, it really stands out. High-quality material attracts repeat readers.
Eventually, the rest of the world will get over its puppy love with the Internet and realize that the same rule applies in this medium as in any other:
- You have to have killer content to win the attention war and attract readers to your site!
But how do you replicate Dortch's strategy? First, note that your content must change. Most of what you can put on the Web loses its news value just like yesterday's newspaper articles. You are in essence a publisher, producing a periodical. Never mind that the publication is on the Web -- the medium is not the message! The message must stand on its own -- in any medium. You wouldn't send the same catalog to a mailing list over and over, so don't leave the same old stuff on your Web site either.
Here is Dortch's further advice on how to develop a column, newsletter, or such that really works to attract and hold Web readers, in his own words (I just downloaded this from the Web with his permission):
If you're interested in engaging help in carrying out any of the above steps, by all means, get in touch!
-- Michael Dortch
You can reach Dortch via America Online at
MEDortch; on CompuServe at
76711,1500; on the Internet at:
email@example.com; or by fax at 415-386-9854. He is based in San Francisco, California.
Putting Real People in Your Web AdsOne more thing -- some late-breaking news. I've just learned that Lucent Technologies (
http://www.lucent.com/internet) is developing a call center that you can contract to service visitors to your Web site. The idea is that your customers can, with the click of a button, reach a human operator who will interact with them over the computer to answer questions and take orders. This could turn out to be a very useful tool for you, the virtual marketer, and for your customers.
I cover the important topic of how to set up and run call centers in Chapter 18, but the Web may very well someday antiquate the roughly 60,000 telephone call centers that now operate throughout North America.