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Entrepreneur Philip Murad is as passionate about internet marketing as he is about magic.

Building on a background in magic and ventriloquism, Murad, 39, launched Philip and Henry Productions Inc. 10 years ago in Vaughan, Ontario.

About 70 per cent of his business, which books a variety of magic acts through a network of magicians across North America, is generated through the Internet. And that business has been growing 30 per cent year over year.

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Murad, who started his own business performing magic at age 9, refers to internet marketing as his new bag of magic tricks, but his success has not happened magically. It has required an investment of time, energy and dollars. He is quick to point out that you have to work at driving traffic to your website if you want it to effectively generate sales leads and turn them into new customers.

"The beautiful thing about marketing through the Internet is that you can track its effectiveness," Murad says.

He has explored a wide variety of internet marketing options, from paid online advertising campaigns to advertising on YouTube. He advertises his business through accounts he has set up with search engines such as Google and Yahoo, buying keywords through a bidding process and then paying for results on a cost-per-click basis.

Using free tools available through search engine providers, he carefully tracks every aspect of his internet marketing efforts.

"There is no sense in starting up an account if it's not tracked," he says. "We know, for example, that when we send a specific number of clicks to our website from a specific batch of keywords, we will generate a specific amount of dollars."

Although he advises entrepreneurs to work with professionals to help get their internet marketing off the ground, he warns they have to remain involved in this aspect of their business.

"Business owners need to work on developing keywords," he says. "They understand better than anyone what drives consumers to their products and services. They also need to be involved in tracking, and build a database of which keywords are generating which revenues on which search engines."

"They really have to delve into it and understand it."

BDC consulting partner Rony Israel notes that Murad is successful because he's a true believer in internet marketing. "Philip spends time every day tracking where visits to his website are coming from and what the conversion to sales rate is," he says. "Too many entrepreneurs look at internet marketing as just gravy and don't give it enough attention. They should treat internet marketing as a virtual sales representative, checking constantly to see who has been to the site and what the results are."

The website itself is an important part of the equation. Judith Madill, a professor at University of Ottawa's Telfer School of Management, says that research recently conducted by her and a colleague indicates that Canadian entrepreneurs could be getting better results from their internet marketing efforts.

"They need to look at internet marketing as another way of running their business, not just an add-on," Madill says. "That starts with defining what they want their website to do for them.

"Is it to provide information, to facilitate e-commerce or to establish and maintain relationships?" she asks. "Once you know what your goal is, you can decide where to spend your dollars. It's also important to keep in mind that consumers can compare your site to every other site out there. To attract consumers, a website needs to be up to date, user-friendly and professional."

Murad says free tools, such as Google website Optimizer can help entrepreneurs improve their online effectiveness by testing different content and design alternatives and monitoring which combinations lead to the highest sales rates. "I've tested 20 different ways to position different words on our site," he says. "I tweak it all the time."

Even entrepreneurs with a very small budget can use e-marketing more effectively, Israel says. "They can start by putting their website address on all their printed material, from invoices to business cards, and by encouraging people to visit their website every chance they get."

"They can also work to drive traffic to their website - without paid advertising - by carefully selecting keywords and then monitoring how well they're working." Entrepreneurs should also keep in mind that their site will appear higher on a search engine's results if it has been updated recently. Refreshing a site and providing new content on a regular basis is a means of driving more traffic to it.

"Each business has to learn what works best for them and keep tracking and adjusting," Murad adds. "The internet is a wonderful arena to work in."

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.

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