Date: Wednesday , May 02, 2007
In dealing with and discussing the issue of online marketing, the primary question I have always faced is: Does it really work? After all, meeting a person, and interacting with him face to face helps create a bonhomie the internet can ill-afford to create, and who will deny that the bonhomie helps one acquire and retain customers.
To that I pop an inadvertent question: Does Bill Gates or any of his associates meet you regularly? How then do you still use Windows? And how is it that you use Adobe Acrobat by default, without any Adobe salesperson coming to your door?
There’s no denying the strength of a personalized approach, but as lives become faster, people would rather prefer to look at prospective buys in their free time, versus when a salesperson might please.
That apart, there are various advantages that marketing over the internet equips one with:
Cost of customer acquisition: The internet has brought down the cost of a new customer acquisition to almost zero. Gone is the cost of paying the salesperson who goes to the customer, the conveyance charges. All you must do is send the information about your product through a simple e-mail.
Marketing over the internet also helps remove intangible aspects that are in no way related to selling, like the way a salesperson dressed, the manner in which he talks et al. In face-to-face selling, these would play a big role, but in online marketing all that matters is the pitch.
That brings us to knowledge based selling. You can tune your pitch according to the customer profile, and your understanding of the customer. The statement you send across will contain information precise to how it might help the customer cut down on his costs/ enhance his business. It will be sharp and incisive, and not get diluted by corollary conversations on football or cricket that characterize face-to-face meetings.
For pitches to be incisive though, you must indulge in what is called ‘creative design’. In offering services like insurance to your customers you can very rarely afford to be pioneers; in such case what will separate you from competition is knowing the small things. You need to account for the fact that one leg of your trouser will have to be half-an-inch shorter than the other leg, since our legs differ in length. Similarly, customers differ in their choices, and you must know where to cut half inch and where to include an additional feature.
You must also understand that it could cost your customers hundreds of dollars, especially if they are heading companies, or running their own businesses, if you meet them and eat away into time they could better have utilized in work-related chores.
Another boon of marketing over the internet is that it removes the distinction between big and small companies. If you have a good value proposition, you no longer need to wait for thousands of dollars in investment. You can simply begin operating online, like I did when with my insurance company G1G. Today, despite there being much bigger players, G1G has grown, and has acquired three and half thousand new customers in the last eighteen months.
f you are looking to launch your dream with the internet as your vehicle though, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
The first and primary being domain name. Let’s say you decide to call your company xyz. Now suppose someone had seen your ad when he did not want to buy the product. Three months later when he does, he won’t remember your website (as www.xyz.com). He might log in to www.xyzee.com or www.exyzee.com or www.exwaized.com, the list could go on. If your product/ service is doing well, your competitor can register any of these domain names and eat into your business. To give you an idea of how important domain names are, at G1G, we have close to 1800 domain names registered for our group companies.
Secondly, you must choose which model to advertise in. Whether you pay your advertising vehicle (website) for hosting a permanent banner on its page, or you pay them on a cost-per-click basis, or on the emerging cost-per-action basis. The last one, needing you to pay only when the customer takes some action—like calling the number displayed in the ad—is gaining ground the world over. In this model you pay for what you get, but you also pay higher.
Thirdly, you must hire experienced online marketing professionals to streamline your offerings and help you acquire and retain customers. They must understand that in the online space, losing a customer is very easy, it takes just a click. Hence the need for them to be constantly engaged in customer interactions.