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"Internet Marketing Is Direct Marketing"
Michael Scharf, Results Network, Inc.

In today's market, Internet marketing is direct marketing. It's not advertising. It's not branding. It's direct marketing. And that's good news for companies trying to move products to customers.

Internet marketing (whether it's the Web, e-zines or e-mail) has the one key element that enables it to operate like direct marketing: It can be tracked. The ability to track Internet marketing drives almost all your decisions on how to structure your marketing. Those tracking numbers on every direct mail piece that gets into your mail box drive programs just as the unique URLs embedded within banners and e-mails.

The results driven from properly run Internet and direct marketing can be impressive. As an example, one client's cost per new sale reduced from more than $1,000 to under $200 in four months through effective Internet marketing.

Here's a basic outline of the process.

First, set up your tracking systems – the more that can be tracked, the better. With Internet marketing, you want to know who saw the ad (banner, e-zine, e-mail, etc.), who clicked through, who browsed around the site and who purchased your product or service. Know these numbers, and you'll have the power to master your marketing.

• Second, creating direct marketing packages has been honed to a science. Internet marketing is not there yet. The combination of the product, the offer, and the package is magic, when it works. Always use professionals who specialize in direct marketing; many of them are developing a powerful array of Internet marketing tools. In selecting an agency or creative director for this product, you want to see the work he or she has done, and the results they've achieved. If a prospective vendor won't share their results, run.

• The third step is testing – testing, testing and more testing. Test lists, test creative and test offers. Then, after you know what works, keep testing. Your goal is to select the best combination of offer, creative and list. Focus your marketing efforts on that mixture while searching for a better program. You should never be satisfied, and your vendors need to know that.

• Fourth, your Internet marketing (and your direct marketing) efforts have two distinct advantages over traditional advertising. The most important is its immediacy. Unlike advertising, these direct messages can create a need, and fulfill that need immediately. The ability to personalize your message also is important. Banners and e-zines can contain personalization as well. Take advantage of the improved capabilities, but track the results versus less personalized versions.

• Fifth, once you have selected a package and list, and you know it works based on your test, buy as much as you can. Tested and tracked results are statistically projectable over the rest of that population. Concentrate your efforts on the combinations that work, and you'll have the efficiency to drive great results

Remember, Internet marketing, like direct marketing is driven by reason, not emotion. Its goal is to create action, usually sales, not to raise awareness and create loyalty.

(Michael Scharf is the President of Results Network, Inc., an executive coaching and consulting company. Located in Irvine, CalifA, the company has driven improved results for a variety of companies, ranging from Internet-based start-ups to large telecommunications companies. Michael can be reached at (949) 653-0401 or via email at Michael@Scharf.ws)

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