Whether your business is a solo operation providing a simple service or a retail organization selling hundreds of products, it's important to have an e-marketing strategy in place.
With over 600 million people now using the web regularly, e-marketing allows you to reach the growing number of people who spend time online. It also gives you more bang for the buck than traditional shotgun-style advertising and public relations because it enables you to better target prospective customers.
As well, e-marketing allows you to improve your reach within a narrow base of customers with specific needs or interests who are spread out over a large geographic area. Best of all, e-marketing is often less expensive than traditional marketing methods.
Among the most common e-marketing tools:
- E-mail: the electronic version of direct marketing is a popular way to deliver messages to prospective customers.
- Webinars or seminars delivered online: can be an effective way of demonstrating a product or explaining your service or merchandise.
- Video: posted on your website can be a good way for manufacturers and service providers to increase sales by showing prospects the features of your product.
- E-newsletters: delivered via email or on websites, can help you create communities of customers and attract prospects.
- Blogs or online journals: are becoming an increasingly popular form of online marketing. They allow users to comment and provide insight, and can create an instant buzz about your product. They need to be kept updated with useful information.
- Expertise documents: such as white papers and case studies are growing in popularity as a marketing method, since they elicit greater trust among web users than do blatant sales messages.
- Well-designed websites: whether focused on information or sales, can help you win business.
- Search engine optimization: involves tweaking the design and content of websites to maximize the odds they will show up in online searches. Since about 80% of e-commerce is generated through search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN , it's critical for users to be able to find your site easily.
- Pay-per-click advertising: involves paying for ads that appear when certain keywords are typed into search engines. This can be prohibitively expensive unless you choose keywords that are meaningful to users.
- Online information distribution: is delivered by websites to customers who submit profiles of their needs and subjects of interest. E-marketers can use these sites to deliver targeted messages.
Whatever form of e-marketing you choose, keep the following pointers in mind:
- Understand your customers. Service businesses will use different marketing techniques from product-based businesses because their customers' buying behaviour is different. Likewise, if your product is consumed by a narrow market, the marketing message you choose should be customized to suit that market.
- Make choices. E-marketing means ignoring some prospective customers; it's the opposite of the old mass-marketing system that emphasized sending sales messages to as many people as possible. The good news is that targeted customers have a higher likelihood of buying.
- Work with fewer customers. E-marketing often targets small market niches. This means messages are sent to fewer people than would be the case in conventional advertising. But the people who receive the message are more likely to buy. It's crucial, then, to know your targeted audience intimately.
- Measure and analyse how well your tools are working. Readily available software packages can help you test techniques, gather information on buyer preferences and refine offers so as to appeal more effectively to those preferences.
- Be innovative and flexible. Try new techniques, measure performance and then adjust your website and marketing tools to better reflect results.
- Be entertaining. Web users usually prefer information presented in an entertaining or novel way. So you could use humour, satire or visuals to gain attention.
While much attention is focused on sales of consumer products on the web, the reality is that only about 25 per cent of online commerce involves sales of products to consumers. Most online commerce involves e-business or business-to-business (B2B) transactions.
The web has become the information library of choice for business customers who are scanning the market for potential goods or services. As a result, a sophisticated methodology has evolved for online marketing to businesses.
There are a number of differences between business buyers and consumer buyers that you should keep in mind.
- Businesses often use the web to conduct research, while consumers tend to look for specific products. Marketers reinforce this behaviour by providing useful and educational material to businesses via the web.
- When marketing to businesses, generating sales leads is more important than conducting transactions. With consumers, the opposite is usually true.
- Business customers are usually beginning their shopping experience when they go online and are in the process of gathering general information. On the other hand, consumers are often near the end of that experience and are narrowing down their options or comparing choices.
- Most businesses use the Google search engine to conduct research, while consumers are more likely to use other engines like Yahoo and Bing.
Content in this section is provided in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada. BDC provides entrepreneurs with financing, venture capital and consulting services. To find out more go to BDC.ca.