The following article was published in the April/May edition of the Eastern Director a magazine for members of the Institute of Directors.
Although the dotcom bubble has burst, internet marketing techniques are still developing, with the current emphasis on trading through the website. Whilst making it easier for customers to buy, it misses the big opportunity. Having a website with e-trading is a little like having a brochure and a sales counter. They are fine as far as they go, but customers need to know that you are there in the first place. This is where the internet has tremendous potential to dramatically improve customer awareness, on a global scale, at a very low cost.
Customer buying methods are changing significantly and they vary for different groups. When purchasing consumer goods, customers often visit the large retailers to identify the product / model that they are interested in, before searching the internet for the cheapest supplier. For B2B purchasing of technical products, many specifiers search the web to find the products of most interest before talking to the short listed suppliers. The first step in the battle is to make customers aware of your existence and how to find you.
All of the traditional marketing communications tools are available in different forms on the internet, along with some new ones. They can be grouped into two types; “push”, where information is sent out to tell customers about your company and products; and “pull”, where it is made easy for customers to find you when they are looking. Good examples of push techniques include e-mail newsletters, advertising on industry portals, listings on group interest sites, and viral marketing. Pull techniques include search engine optimisation for the website, click-through advertising on the search engines, listing on industry directories / portals, and hotlinks from complementary websites. As always, every company’s markets and customers are different and these ‘ingredients’ need to be put together into a ‘recipe’ that’s best for the business.
The crucial questions, of course, are ‘do these techniques work?’ and ‘what is the cost?’ A Cambridgeshire SME which makes fluid transfer components for the scientific instrument manufacturers provides a typical example. They have customers from Tokyo to San Francisco, and wanted to increase their global sales. Having rebuilt their website, they implemented an e-marketing campaign that included most of the techniques discussed above. The results were dramatic. Over a four month period, enquiries increased twofold in numbers and quality, visitors to the website increased from 700 to 5000 per month, and the number of top 20 rankings on the search engines more than doubled. In addition there was valuable feedback. A number of enquiries mentioned how useful they found the applications case studies on the website, and this information has been incorporated into future marketing campaigns. As to the costs, they were less than four thousand pounds!
Internet marketing techniques can dramatically improve customer awareness, give global market reach, and increase sales at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods such as print catalogues and magazine advertising. However, these traditional methods still have a role to play, and the best marketing campaigns will be a well crafted combination of new and old techniques.
Robin Higgons of Qi3, which specialises in marketing support for technology based companies, is a branch member. firstname.lastname@example.org