I'm anything but a Marketing expert, and I'm pretty much aware that I lack tons of knowledge and data to make any breakthroughs on the matter. On the other hand I've been around the web long enough in order to know a thing or two about it. So I though I'd try to order some ideas into a blog entry. Original, ain't I?
So, what are the fundamentals for good web marketing? I think there is no rule of thumb, some secret recipe you can apply in order to be successful; but there are some basics you must cover in order to achieve success. Then there are the "add-ons", special things you can do, which differentiate you from other sites and campaigns. But let's start from the baics.
1. A good campaign needs a good site, the "do-oh" rule.
Nice, you finally have the budget to advertise and chub your URL down every web-surfer's throat. So you're done; you open accounts at yahoo, google, and every other advertising site. You drop banners everywhere, your pop-ups even appear on TV when people do sapping over the XXX channels. Great, now everyone is going to your site.
The visitors curve goes up, up and away. Away? This darn thing costed millions. Dude, let me tell ya' you've just wasted some perfectly good money.
What went wrong. Basically: your site sucks. And that is the worst publicity you can have. Nowadays a company's website is regarded as a reflection of the company itself. The perception of your website can be broken into two main items, both of which have to be perfect:
- Look and Feel. Simply put, how does it look? Does it look consistent? is there anything out of place, or even worst, broken? Is it attractive, ordered, easy to navigate and read?
- Functionality. Are servers stable? are there broken links or dead ends? Are things easy to find? is the internal search any good? Is it fast? Is it effective? Does it work the way it's supposed to, making customer's life easy? Does it cover all scenarios? (like support, shopping, info, docs, and the like).
If you fail on any of these (or both) not only will you loose the money you spent on advertising your site, but you'll indirectly loose a lot more money in negative experience and word of mouth (the usual "I went to N's website, it actually sucks, I couldn't do what I wanted / never found what I was looking for / never worked")
To sum it up, your first major investment should be in the site itself. Make it nice, simple and easy to use. I can't underline enough that a web page is a company's most visible face.
While I was writing this, David Churbuck made us remember why this is the "do-oh" rule.
2. There are multiple roads to the same place.
There's no rule-of-thumb for efficient campaigning. No secret recipes, no magical mystery tours to web marketing effectiveness. You can try the most common things and be successful or fail or you can go the hard, out-of-the-box way and be successful or fail.
What you need to have is a clear vision about what the aims of web marketing (and content) are. "I just want to sell" is not a good objective, trust me on this one, everyone "just wants to sell" (either in advertising or consumer products). That's the base of web marketing, so you need another "twist" besides that. For example your aim might be to communicate you deliver the best product.
Bearing in mind your audience is also imperative. The type and channels of your marketing campaigns will be greatly determined by the recipients of such campaigns. Say you are a sports shoes manufacturer, you might target a very "niche" audience of people devoted to sports or you might want your products to be hype and aim for a broader audience.
Keep in mind who you want to reach before you start figuring out the how.
3. Web in not a galaxy that far away.
Most things you've learnt from "traditional" marketing can be easily applied and thought for web marketing. As a matter of fact you can regard web marketing as just another communication and sales channel. It has some great advantages over "traditional" media. Its infinitely more measurable and immediate. Word of mouth can be bigger than advertising, and it's usually cheaper than any other stuff you do.
That being said it does have some drawbacks. People are more reluctant to believe in things they read/see on the web (blame spam, scams and hoaxes for that!); so you have to be more convincing. Advertising (in banners, ad-words and the like) is less effective (although MUCH more measurable) since web-surfers tend to develop a "filter" for ads. Don't trust me on this one? simple exercise for you, make a list of 10 sites you visit regularly, and try to remember if they have ads and where.
4. A lot to do.
Since technologies and trends are always evolving there's usually a lot of catching up to do in terms of marketing and content. The result is you'll be always looking at new stuff and approaches, changing along with the tide... well, that is if you want to keep up to date. This is usually so, although there are quieter times. Currently we are amidst the Web 2.0 hype, and if you don't have AJAX and social stuff you're totally off tune... only god knows what the trends will be in the future.
This does not mean you should be following and applying every single trend and fancy stuff that sees the light of day, truth is you probably don't need to use 99% of the new things, but it's important to be updated, to know what has changed, is changing and will change, because you never know what you might end up using or what might inspire you.
5. The basics.
-Present a nice and user friendly site.
-Web Marketing should go along with other non-web campaigns (this brings a sense of uniqueness and coherence, and besides there are people who are already only-web).
-Stay up-to-date with trends and technologies, but don't became slave to them.
-Update contents frequently! (and then update again). This makes visitors return to your site.
This is, probably, the first of a series of unordered thoughts I display here. After I get them out I might come back and make some sense out of it... then again that might not happen at all. Either way... I'm trying to hook you up and return some time.