When looking for new and proven marketing techniques to promote your business, increase your sales or broaden your clientele, it is almost guaranteed that you’ve come across the term “Internet Marketing”. If you have no idea what this encompasses on an entity as large as the World Wide Web, you’re not alone. Further confusing the concept is the fact that, depending on who you ask, the answer can vary widely. And they’re likely all right.
In a nutshell, Internet Marketing is a broad mix of online tools and components that businesses or individuals can use to market themselves and meet their business goals. These tools and components include your web presence (website), social media, email marketing, search engine marketing, blogging, public relations and online news media, virtual storefronts and online advertising.
Though it is up to you to decide how internet marketing will fit in to your business goals and marketing strategy, it is important to realize the increasing importance that internet marketing is playing in the global marketplace. Your customers are online and they expect you to be as well. They often research the product or service you are offering online, engage other consumers on online forums or even buy online without every contacting any of the businesses that offer what they are looking for. If you’re not marketing online, you’re losing business to companies that are. In fact, internet marketing is so effective that many companies only utilize this medium.
The most important part of internet marketing is your own online presence – your website. If you are going to market through any other online channel, you need a well-designed and informative website that will drive sales and highlight your key messaging to link your target audience back to. An email blast or banner ad will do you no good if there is nowhere your customer can go to get further information. So make a strong website your first priority in internet marketing.
After that, the possibilities open up and you need to study the available online channels and match them to your marketing objectives.
If your goal is to increase your web traffic and generate leads, search engine marketing (SEM)and online advertising are likely your most effective tools. Search engine marketing is promoting your websites through popular search engines such as Google, Bing and Sympatico. The most effective way to use SEM is by boosting your search ranking through search engine optimization (SEO) principles such as keyword rich domains and content, strong backlinks and good title tags. Another way to effectively use SEM is to employ pay-per-click (PPC) advertising services such as Google AdWords,or pay-for-inclusion (PFI) services that will list your business in online directories.
If your goal is to build long-term relationships with your customers and network in your industry, social media is a fast-growing and popular internet marketing tool. Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and MySpace allow you to share valuable content with your networks and start real-time, two-way conversations with your target audience. This is invaluable when you are looking to build trust and credibility or when you’re looking for feedback on new products or ideas. It also allows you to keep up with the movers and shakers that are leading the way in your industry. Blogging is also an effective tool for a relationship-building marketing goal as it allows you to generate and share valuable information with your target market and drive them back to your website if they like what they read.
If your marketing goals revolve around announcing interesting news or highlighting new products and innovations, tools such as email marketing and online public relations could benefit your business big time. For email marketing, you can either build a marketing list through your website and point-of-purchase opt-in’s, or you can purchase e-marketing lists through many consumer research organizations or even a local chamber of commerce or tourism board. Use email blasts (e-blasts) to announce news, promote contests or make product/service recommendations. Make sure you use e-blasts sparingly or you risk ending up in your customer’s trash bin. Nobody wants to be bombarded with email marketing. For announcements, also consider using online press releases and news services to get the word out.
The internet has made reaching your target market infinitely easier and has many channels available to work for any marketing strategy. When developing your internet marketing plan, never lose sight of what you are trying to achieve to ensure that you are not wasting valuable time or money on strategies that won’t achieve what you want. Employ the right online strategies, and you’ll be able to sit back and watch your business grow. And that’s what internet marketing really is.