airt insights

February 3, 2013

Online Marketing Programs: An Overview

Many business owners believe that if they build a nice-looking website that communicates all about the company's products and capabilities, then visitors and sales naturally will come. Typically the focus is on visual design, the content company-centered. It's basically what has been called a sell-and-tell approach.

Websites developed this way may look and sound great to their owners. But neither attribute has much to do with getting prospects to: a) visit the site in the first place; b) stay for a while after arriving; and c) initiate some action that the company desires. These three tasks are the purview of online marketing, a multidisciplinary undertaking that applies tried-and-true principles of direct marketing to various kinds of new digital media.

Aspects of Web Marketing

There are various ways to classify the activities involved in online marketing, but six general categories prove useful:

Acquisition

Any program that drives visitors to a webpage, with the ultimate aim of capturing data or dollars, qualifies as acquisition. Search engine marketing (SEM) is the most common of these. It increases site visibility on search engine result pages through the use of paid placement, contextual advertising, or paid inclusion—or through free search engine optimization (also called organic search). Budding technologies such as mobile, digital outdoor, video banners, and demand-side platforms fall into this category too, as do referral and affiliate marketing programs enabled by web technologies.

Conversion

Conversion strategies aim to improve the relevance of content and the attractiveness of offers in order to increase customer engagement and action. Most site designs fail to consider a wide range of common obstacles to online conversion, so these must be addressed first. To further increase performance, proven direct marketing fundamentals must be put into practice including split and multivariate testing, audience segmentation, and content personalization.

Retention

Online retention tactics such as email marketing; online surveys; newsletter and news feed signup; loyalty program enrollment; and voice-of-customer (VOC) tools can reach thousands of customers or members at a low cost, delivering higher ROI than traditional direct marketing channels. However, these strategies require a specialized approach to writing, design, coding, delivery, data management and analysis, and response to customer input or feedback.

Multimedia

Multimedia marketing applies the art of storytelling to digital media forms such as e-books, e-newsletters, e-zines, e-comics, video, Web TV programs, mobile content, social networks, and interactive games—creating a more immersive experience than static media channels. But to merely think tactically is to miss the point. The key to successful multimedia campaigns is to combine compelling content, engagement interactivity, integrated analytics, and widespread content distribution.

Social Media

Social media doesn't fit neatly into any of the above categories. Sometimes it can specifically be an acquisition, retention, or conversion strategy, other times, it's all of the above. The decision as to if, when, and how to use this diffuse channel should be based on the technographics and social computing behaviors of the specific audience—and the ability to demonstrate payback.

Analytics & Measurement

As is true for all direct marketing programs, effective online marketing requires specific, valid, and reliable measurement systems. Metrics are the key to understanding the performance of websites, social media campaigns, mobile applications, online video, and all other online investments. Good analytics also help identify the most profitable click-paths through a website, determine where visitors are navigating away from the site, and pinpoint the metrics that actually drive ROI. Most importantly, web analytics enable a marketing strategy development process based on evidence (up-to-date data) rather than the hunches and hearsay that too often guide marketing decisions.

Online Marketing Program Benefits

Although different online marketing programs may vary immensely, the goals for most programs are relatively similar and straightforward. An effective online marketing program will:

  • Raise webpage ranks from major search engines
  • Improve website traffic (quantity, quality, and fit)
  • Extend visitor time-on-site (stickiness)
  • Increase conversion rates (sales, requests, sign-ups)
  • Enable accountability to valid marketing metrics (quantifiable performance improvement)
  • Expand online presence (backlinks and impressions)

Online Marketing Program Development

Online marketing programs developed by the airt team begin with an assessment of the current performance of your website and related online programs in view of your company's marketing and business development goals. We then map out an action plan for incremental improvement, putting first things first. This stepwise approach is a major virtue of online marketing. You can commit a fixed, affordable amount toward predetermined goals or tasks and apply a continuous-improvement model. Once metrics are established, return on investment can be readily gauged along the way.

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