What is Internet Marketing?
What is Internet Marketing?
Internet marketing is the process of getting your offer into the minds of consumers, using the Internet as the medium. That’s it. Where things get more complicated is when deciding how to best get your offer into the minds of consumers, using the Internet. There is a plethora of information online describing how to effectively use various forms of Internet marketing, mostly published by the companies that offer these marketing services. Email marketers tell you how to meet your marketing goals with email marketing. Social media marketers tell you why social media marketing is the best way to go. This is similar to the old adage that if you have back pain and go to a foot doctor, he’ll find the cause of your back pain in your feet. So what we really need is a way to know which type of Internet marketing is best for which type of marketing issue.
Inform, Refer, Convert
Internet marketing can be broken into three major activities: Inform, Refer, Convert. By inform, we mean making the target audience aware of us or our offer. By refer, we mean moving them from whatever site they become aware of us to the site that will persuade them to accept our offer. By convert, we mean turning a prospect into a customer by getting him/her to accept our offer. An “offer” can be anything, such as an offer of free information, or a discount, or an invitation to enter a raffle. Important: Not all Internet marketing channels and methods are good at all three activities (informing, referring, and converting). We’ve put together a table to make it easier to understand:
1st iteration (before brand awareness exists) in black, future iterations in red (I’ll explain why after the table). Mouseover terms for simple definitions.
|Search Engine Optimization (SEO)||Excellent Titles & Descriptions||User Experience|
|Social Media Marketing
||Closed Loop Marketing|
|Your Brand’s Blog||Social CRM|
Some people will ask “What about sustaining efforts, meant to keep people engaged and get them to come back and buy again?” That’s what the second and future iterations are. Marketing efforts designed to encourage repeat business are are simply additional inform, refer, convert cycles. Once brand awareness exists, people are open to channels they were not open to before, and once brand loyalty exists, the fences really come down. Think about getting an email from a brand you’ve never heard of, advertising a discount. That’s the definition of spam. Now think about getting an email from a brand you’ve heard of and know to be a quality brand. What if it was a brand you love, advertising a big discount? You’ll be much more receptive.
What the Table Means
Inform is how a brand’s marketing message literally comes into the awareness of the target. That message can be as basic as “We exist, and here’s what we are” (brand awareness) or can be much more complex. Search Engine Optimization puts links high up on Google where searchers will find them. That makes SEO an inform activity. Social media marketing has a similar function. Your friend likes or shares something which you may never have heard of (or not thought about in a while). Advertising obviously gets in front of your eyeballs. And online PR works to inform as well, although in a different way. Regular readers of a blog or online news site will often check out new articles on that site, which makes feature insertions on those sites an inform activity. Why is Your Brand’s Blog and Email Marketing listed in red (as 2nd iteration activities)? Because a reader has to already know your blog exists to want to come back. Further, people don’t appreciate emails from brands they’ve never heard of. However once brand awareness and some positive regard are established, both a brand’s blog and email marketing become great inform channels.
Refer is what gets a person to go to the place where they will convert. So let’s say I searched for “What is Internet Marketing?” and I see a tonyahn.com blog article in the #1 spot. The description reads “If you want to know about Internet Marketing, read this article.” Not a very compelling description! It doesn’t look like an article that will help, because we assume great articles have great descriptions. But if the description was “An easy guide to Internet marketing tools and platforms to answer your marketing needs and boost your sales” you might be more inclined to click that link. Once you click it, you have been referred. In this case, Google (through SEO) functioned to inform, and the great description functioned to refer. But there are other methods of referring traffic.
Proper targeting is very important, which means you do your best to get in front of people that are most likely to want your offer. List segmentation goes along with that (its a second-iteration activity because you have to get the list first). What does that mean, though? It means collecting information about people to build a list that you can use to send them information they want to receive. What sort of information? Of course an email address, but after that, as much demographic, psychographic, and technographic information as you can get without fatiguing or irritating them. Some info you collect via survey, other info you may collect via tracking their activity (such as how purchases are tracked by loyalty cards, or software that lets you see what pages on your site they view), or by taking a look at what they have Liked on Facebook.
A another method of referral is engagement, meaning human interaction with one or more members of the target market, directing them to the conversion zone. This could be via Twitter, or your brand’s Facebook page, in blog comments, on a forum, via email, or any other place multiple people communicate with each other online. Referral through engagement commonly occurs in community management situations, but can also happen in online customer service situations such as email, instant message, or chat.
You’ve gotten in front of your target audience (inform) and enticed some of them to click a link (refer). Where are you taking them? To a place you can convert them. But how do you convert?
Optimizing the user experience is a good first step. This means making sure the site is easy to navigate, easy to use, and visually appealing. Conversion Optimization is heavily related to user experience, and works to ensure that people convert. This is accomplished by testing different versions of web pages and/or web text to see which one visitors respond better to. Having compelling site copy is key. Ensuring that information can be found quickly (with the fewest possible clicks) is another element of conversion optimization. The more someone has to click to get to where they want to go, the greater the chance they’ll give up and leave.
Content marketing is a cornerstone of conversion, because you must offer something of value to visitors in exchange for their email addresses or other information, since we’re online, a common thing to over is a white paper, a tip sheet, or other information of use to the visitor. Closed loop marketing takes this to the next level, by customizing content for the visitor based on the previous content the visitor has accessed. Social CRM is like traditional customer relationship management, except that it connects a customer’s transaction data with the lifestyle data they share online, giving marketers the ability to engage them in more interesting ways as well as send them offers more highly tailored to their wants, needs, and interests.
What is Internet marketing? It is the process of getting your offer into the minds of consumers, by informing them, using the Internet as the medium. Great Internet marketing includes referring and converting them as well, and establishing a relationship so they will come back and convert again and again.