A Definition of Marketing
Marketing can be an extremely frustrating and expensive exercise if we mistakenly view it as merely an advertising function. Any discussion of marketing should be preceded by a definition of exactly what we mean by marketing: marketing is not just sales, or advertising, or promotion, but rather a combination of all these functions plus more.
One comprehensive definition of marketing provided by authors' Boone and Kurtz in their book 'Contemporary Marketing Wired (1998)' published by Dryden Press states: "Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, services, organizations, and events to create and maintain relationships that will satisfy individual and organizational objectives."
This definition seems to satisfy all the basic requirements of marketing; a recognition of which must made before we can proceed to creating a successful Web-marketing campaign.
Six Critical Elements of Web-Marketing Campaigns
If your marketing efforts fail to deliver the results you want, it could be due to a lack of resources, or more likely the lack of achievable expectations and patience. Marketing is a strategic exercise requiring a commitment to a long-term comprehensive plan, not a short-term fix to create instant sales. Concentrating your resources on stand-alone advertising and promotional efforts without considering the more important conceptual marketing framework is a prescription for disaster.
Ultimately most business managers come to realize that one-time advertising and short-term big-splash ads are a waste of time and money, but the lure of quick-fix shotgun advertising based on old school broadcast and print distribution volume seems to be a business addiction that is hard to kick. Even deep-pocketed corporate advertisers keep plowing money into television advertising that has knowingly become increasingly irrelevant and ineffective.
With the growing realization that the marketplace is not what it used to be, more and more companies both large and small are turning to the Web as an alternative marketing environment capable of reaching a dispersed diaspora of 'Long Tail' (Chris Anderson, "The Long Tail", Wired Magazine) interested prospects with a relevant memorable marketing message.
Realizing that you now have an economically viable multimedia platform that evens the marketing playing field, you must carefully consider how to proceed. If you merely transfer your traditional print advertising and direct marketing mailings to the Internet, you will be left behind.
Any business can put together a successful Web-based marketing plan if they take the time to define the six critical elements of a Web-marketing campaign:
1. Marketing Purpose
2. Marketing Objectives
3. Presentation Vehicle
4. Information Format
5. Marketing Venue
6. Achievable Expectations
1. Marketing Purpose
Marketing is all about building a brand personality that relates to an interested audience of either business-to-consumer or business-to-business prospects. Prospects search-out brands that help them construct and maintain their own self-image or at least an image that they aspire to, an image that they are comfortable communicating to others. The purchase, for example, of a Macintosh computer says as much about who bought it, as it does about that person's computing requirements.
"Thus, while the psychological/emotional need is to construct, reconstruct, and maintain the self-identity, the socio-cultural need is to communicate to others the self-identity." -Ouwersloot & Tudorica, 'Brand Personality Propositions'.
Accepting the need to build a brand personality that legitimate prospects can relate to might very well mean rethinking exactly who you are as a company and exactly what you are offering on both a psychological, emotional and socio-cultural level.
Most companies have a well-defined list of functional benefits that they provide clients; but what you have to ask yourself is, what psychological, emotional, and socio-cultural benefits do you offer and are they represented by your corporate image or brand personality? And if you think this only applies to consumer product companies, you are mistaken. Every company from industrial widget suppliers to packaged goods manufacturers needs to define their personality in terms of the emotive benefits they provide.
2. Marketing Objectives
One of the most difficult things for small companies to accept is that sales are the result of establishing an appropriate marketing framework. Once you recognize that the real purpose of marketing is to create a relationship with your audience based on an emotional connection in the form of a brand personality, you are ready for the next step: defining your marketing objectives.
Successful marketing campaigns rely on strategies and tactics that grow out of defining eight important marketing objectives.
Awareness: objective one is to make your market audience aware of your existence, but name recognition alone won't bring in the orders.
Attention: objective two is to draw attention to your company, product, or service. Your market audience may be aware of your existence but not understand or care what you do or why they should be interested. You have to do something to attract their attention before they'll listen to what you have to say.
Comprehension: objective three is to explain to your market audience what it is you are offering them. Telling people you sell the best widget and provide the best service is meaningless - your audience must understand how their personal or professional lives are going to be improved functionally, emotionally, and socially. Most automobiles will get you were you want to go (functional benefit), but a Mercedes gets you there in style (emotional benefit) and displays to the world that you are a success (social benefit). When was the last time you saw a real estate agent drive around in a jalopy? As focused on closing the sale as real estate agents are, they instinctively know they must project a confident, comfortable, successful professional image.
Knowledge: objective four is to provide your audience with the ammunition they need to make the purchase. Your prospects need to justify to themselves, their corporate superiors, or maybe their spouses, their purchasing decision. Prospects must be educated, informed, and enthused with the knowledge that your company, product, or service is the right choice.
Behavior/Experience: objective five is the creation of a corporate culture that matches your brand personality. If prospects are frustrated or annoyed by their experience in dealing with you, your website, or your email landing page, then all the feel-good advertising in the world is wasted. The customer experience of dealing with your company must match the image you project.
Involvement: objective six is to evangelize your customers so that they become involved in promoting your product, service, or company to their friends and colleagues. People want to show-off their intelligence, good taste, and business acumen. If your product fulfills your customers' emotional and psychological needs, they will become your best sales people.
Ability: objective seven is to education your customers so that they can maximize the benefits from their purchase. Show customers how to increase their ability to achieve, perform, or excel by using your product or service. It is absolutely amazing how many 'how to' books are sold by third parties to supplement the dreadful instructions and manuals provided by manufacturers. Think about the message you are sending customers when they have to buy a book with the word "Dummies" in the title, just to make your product work.
Opportunity: objective eight is to give customers the opportunity to purchase you product or service either directly or through an appropriate channel of distribution. Spending money on advertising and promotion for things people can't get is not much value. If prospects can't satisfy their needs when they want to, you'll have missed your chance.
3. Presentation Vehicle
Old habits and ideas are hard to overcome. After all we are creatures of habit, more accurately we are creatures of pattern. We understand the world around us by absorbing familiar patterns of action and behavior. Patterns make it easier for us to deal with the complexities of modern life and the demands of everyday work. This is a good thing as long as these patterns serve our needs, but the world of marketing communication has changed.
There is a new marketing paradigm that needs to be accepted and new sets of behavior patterns that need to be acknowledged. There was a time when you used the phone book to lookup phone numbers and the local newspaper to find what movies were playing; but today, the first place people go is the Internet. Things have changed and businesses have to change with the times.
Sure every business has a website, that's a given, but most websites are nothing more than digital versions of company brochures or catalogues that have been pushed and pulled out of shape by SEO consultants selling the latest miracle marketing cure - more traffic. Never mind the appropriateness of the traffic, or the relevancy of the bloated SEO-massaged content, or the meaningfulness of the marketing message. Traffic by itself will not win the day or get you where you want to be - this is nothing more than the same old shotgun volume broadcast approach that we know doesn't work for most companies.
The real issue here is presenting relevant, meaningful, compelling, informative, memorable material on your websites and landing pages to an interested audience that actually cares what you have to say - just make sure you say something worthwhile.
So how do we do it? The answer is Web-based multimedia presentations. Now let's be clear what we are not talking about: we are not talking about adding meaningless background music or irritating banner animations to your site. What we are talking about is using audio and video to present information that establishes your expertise, creates your brand personality, and delivers your marketing message so it sticks in the minds of your audience.
4. Information Format
Your Web-marketing campaign should consist of a variety of information vehicles that each build on one another, creating the image and delivering the information that will ultimately lead to a relationship.
Your Web-marketing campaign should be aimed at achieving more than just a sale; it should be aimed at creating a satisfied customer who will promote your company through word-of-mouth. To achieve this end you must deliver a variety of information to potential clients; information that attracts attention, narrows decisions, instructs usage, and promotes involvement.
Information as entertainment: when you want to establish a personality or image, your audio or video presentation should have some entertainment element. This entertainment element could be in the character of the presenter, the script or dialog being presented, or merely the style and panache of the voice-over announcer or on-screen actor.
Information as knowledge: there used to be a Buffalo-based clothing retailer that featured the slogan, 'an educated consumer is our best customer." They never had a sale, but all their clothes were discounted the same way on a sliding scale based on how long the merchandise was in inventory. All their advertisements explained their policy in clear, concise terms. They understood, that if customers know and trust their policy they would have confidence that they were buying from a legitimate retailer at a legitimate price.
Information as instruction: we live in a very complex world where products and services are increasingly complicated. If we want customers to take the leap of faith and buy our merchandise and hopefully upgrade to bigger, better, more expensive versions, then customers must understand how to use the product and also how to maximize the promised benefits from their purchase. Teaching people how to take better photographs with the camera you sell is a far better sales tactic that promoting an extra feature they will never use.
Information as involvement: we all know word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising. Getting your Web-audience involved in your campaigns through the use of contests, surveys, and interactive entertainments are only a few ways to get them involved. But the best way to get people involved in evangelizing your product is to provide an experience that echoes their psychological, emotional, and socio-cultural aspirations.
Information as promotion: let's face facts, the vast majority of website visitors are jaded and cynical and hypersensitive to unscrupulous online businesses. Most of your Web-audience puts you right next to politicians and used car salesman in the trust department. You are not going to overcome this lack of confidence with a website that smacks of high pressure or alternatively a website that bores people. Present your offer using real people delivering a well crafted message that reflects your company persona and inspires confidence rather than puts out danger signals.
5. Marketing Venue
The Web's multimedia capability has often been equated to an egalitarian form of television, where every company has a shot at attracting an audience without the high cost of buying airtime, but like television it is the programs people are attracted to, not the commercials. If your website is nothing more than a commercial your visitors will hyperlink themselves away from your site at warp speed.
If we equate the new multimedia Web to television, we must construct our websites as if they were programs, not brochures. An excellent example of this new style website is the Ford Motor Company's 'Bold Moves' site (http://www.FordBoldMoves.com).
Your email marketing and Adword campaigns are the equivalent of program teasers, attracting people to your main site, campaign micro-site, or landing page based on a content hook and promise.
6. Achievable Expectations
We are all concerned about ROI but you cannot expect instantaneous results. Websites are long-term investments that must be continually tweaked to conform to your long-range strategic objectives. You must have realistic achievable expectations: new leads, customer inquiries, information requests, newsletter sign-ups, and even complaints. You cannot determine the value of your site based on direct sales alone. If you are not achieving adequate results, then it's time you rethought your website strategy in terms of it's multimedia content and program potential.