E-mail marketing is one of the most effective ways to keep in touch with customers. It is generally cost-effective, and if done properly, can help build brand awareness and loyalty. At a typical cost of only a few cents per message, it's a bargain compared to traditional direct mail at $1 or more per piece. In addition, response rates on e-mail marketing are strong, ranging from five to 35% depending on the industry and format. Response rates for traditional mail averages in the 1-3% range.
One of the benefits of email marketing is the demographic information that customers provide when signing up for your email newsletter. Discovering who your customers really are – age, gender, income and special interests, for example – can help you target your products and services to their needs.
What is E-Commerce?
E-commerce is the sale of products and services over the Internet. It is the fastest growing segment of our economy. It allows even the smallest business to reach a global audience with its product or message with minimal cost. Currently, there are more than 250 million people using the Internet internationally.
Sixty-nine percent of the online population has made at least one purchase in the last 90 days. Analysts project online sales of $3.2 trillion by the year 2004. The Internet user average household income is $59,000, making this a very attractive demographic for your business to target.
Introduction to Online Marketing
The goal of marketing is to maximize revenue and sustain operations. With such a broad goal, marketing integrates an array of business processes, technologies and strategies. The Internet is one of the many tools that can be applied to marketing. Properly understood, it can be harnessed to complement existing marketing practices, extend operations and create new opportunities. The key to successful marketing over the Internet is applying the strengths of the medium to proven traditional marketing practices in innovative ways.
Much of Internet marketing is similar to traditional marketing. Whether Internet-based or traditional, each marketing operation normally addresses the five constants of marketing:
- People - Who are the target customers?
- Product - What products meet their needs?
- Price - What pricing and payment policies will customers accept that yield sufficient revenues?
- Place - Where will the business operate (e.g., geographic, virtual)?
- Promotion - What forms of promotion will reach the customers (e.g., advertising, brochures, sales staff, and customer support)?
The marketing plan is the master strategy that defines the five constants of marketing and outlines how the various processes, technologies and strategies integrate. The marketing mix is the actual configuration of these components.
Marketing is typically an innovative operation that blends into the marketing mix both established and state-of-the-art communication technologies. The Internet is one intriguing component that many businesses are adding to their marketing mix. It presents a viable means to extend the marketing plan's traditional tactics and capitalize on the strengths of the underlying technologies.
Establishing a Web Presence
Even if you choose not to sell your goods or services online, a business web site can be a virtual marketing brochure that you can update on demand with little or no cost. Your presence on the Internet can be a useful marketing tool by providing richer pre-sale information or post-sale support and service. This might temporarily differentiate your product or service from your competitors'. E-marketing has lessened the disadvantage that small businesses have faced for years when competing with larger businesses.
E-Commerce has redefined the marketplace, altered business strategies, and allowed global competition between local businesses. The term "electronic commerce" has evolved from meaning simply electronic shopping to representing all aspects of business and market processes enabled by the Internet and other digital technologies.
Advice for Developing a Successful Site
- Make your site easy to use.
While it might be tempting to have a cutting edge website with all of the bells and whistles - don't forget the basics. You will fail if a visitor can't navigate successfully through your site. Provide clear, easy to understand navigational tools on each page of your site. Don't rely on graphical buttons for your links. Not all web surfers have graphic capable browsers, and some surfers intentionally turn their graphics off to speed download times. Provide text links.
- Provide Useful Content.
Don't Just Sell! These days, it's not enough to have a website that lists your products and provides a shopping cart for purchases. If you want your visitors to return, you'll want to provide meaningful content. If you sell ski equipment, your site could post local ski conditions, articles about the latest ski fashion trends, resort reviews or any other information that would give visitors a reason to want to return for more. A CPA's site could publish tax tips and offer links to IRS forms. A catering service could offer articles on how to host a successful party.
- Encourage customer feedback via online forms and email.
Ask your customers what they want. Did they find what they were looking for? How could your site be more useful or easier to use? Listen to your customers' frustrations and gripes. They'll tell you what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong.
- Develop a Mailing List.
Most consumers hate getting junk email, also called "spam." A far more appealing strategy is to develop a mailing list. Invite your customers to "opt in" to receive a newsletter or notices of specials running at your business. Make this information relevant and useful for your customer. Provide a "coupon" that will give them a discount on their next purchase. And, always give the recipient an easy means to "opt out" of receiving future emails.