Web Marketing Equals Constant Change

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A few years ago the advice to Web novices like myself was to register with search engines and start testing banner ads. Now it seems that search engines can not keep up with site changes, and banner ads are losing some steam.

So, what's the latest? If a Web marketer wants to build brand, drive traffic to his site and generate revenue, what's new? I think it's e-mail newsletter advertising. Today, advertising on e-mail newsletters is becoming one of the most popular forms of online marketing and may become the No. 1 advertising choice of many.

Why? Because they are low cost, highly targeted and produce results. The media also benefits from low ad clutter and it seems that newsletters get an implied endorsement from the editors by being inside the content. In fact, newsletters can be one of the most effective marketing investments you can make. For example, there are newsletters, where you can reach a targeted audience of thousands of readers -- at 1.5 cents to 3 cents per reader or less. All of which have opt in to receive the publication for the newsletter that carries the advertisement. This is permission marketing at its very best.

What is an e-newsletter? An e-newsletter is simply a newsletter that is created on a computer and e-mailed to a publisher's subscriber e-mail address list. E-mail newsletters are sent daily to millions of subscribers in many different categories of interest.

Why use newsletter advertising? Many Internet marketing strategies depend on visitors voluntarily coming back to a Web site. By itself, this strategy will not work. No Internet marketing plan is complete unless it incorporates both an inbound and outbound strategy. Drawing customers to your Web site is inbound. Sending messages out includes the use of e-mail and newsletter advertising. A Web marketer must use both strategies to have an effective Web site.

What are the advantages of newsletter advertising? One advantage is a better response rate as compared to banner ads. which makes it a more cost-effective medium. Another is transferability, a fairly unique e-commerce concept. When a person receives a newsletter of high interest, they often send it to a friend or co-worker. This pass-a-long readership is free advertising and is highly encouraged.

Selecting the right audience. Like all other advertising, you must select the newsletter with the right audience. You must also select a newsletter with good content, i.e., one that people will read and has few ads. Most newsletters are fun, enjoyable, readable and contain about three ads

What will my ad look like? Most newsletter ads are currently text only. They consist of about 50 words and compare to a short e-mail message ad. Each ad contains a URL that directs the reader to your Web site where your marketing action takes place. Make sure that the URL does not wrap and works well prior to the ad placement.

What should I test? Newsletter ads contain some basic parts just like any other ad and can be changed to fit your needs. But primarily, the ad will contain a "from" section, a subject line or teaser copy, a header, creative copy and a URL to let them respond. You can also change and test the length of the message and the creative style.

In addition to format and copy tests you should be constantly testing offers. We feel that the basic offers that have been used in direct marketing are applicable on the Web. As in traditional marketing, event marketing is an extremely effective tool in e-commerce. Special offers for Fathers Day, Mothers Day and other holidays can be put together quickly and inexpensively to maximize your Web site's ROI.

Next steps. As you prepare your next e-mail promotion to your house list -- and I all hope you're now building a database of your customers and Web visitors' e-mail addresses -- consider testing with a few outside e-mail lists and some Newsletter Sponsorship Ads. As you would in any test, make some copy, format and offer variations as well as placement. I think you will be pleased by the results.

Paul Forringer is manager of strategic business development for the Millard Group Inc., Peterborough, NH. His e-mail address is pvaf@millard.com.

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