Differences That Make a Difference

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I've probably been one of the biggest proponents regarding similarities in targeting and purchasing Web media and direct mail lists.

Such similarities include targeting by specific market segments, stratification of the business-to-consumer vs. business-to-business arenas as well as the identification of subtle nuances and variances in demographics, psychographics and more.

Frankly, the transition from one medium to the other (forgetting the enormous technological aspects of the Web) is simple, as long as the marketer understands the key difference. In the realms of direct mail marketing, the marketer goes to the consumer (or target audience). On the Web, the consumer goes to the marketer.

There has to be something compelling for the consumer to go to a Web site. They either go to the site through a prior or ongoing relationship or are coaxed to the sight through banner advertising. There is a host of very hot firms that deals with building the relationship that keeps consumers coming back to Web sites. It's sort of like maxi marketing but virtual.

But before your interactive Web sessions and relationship building activities with customers and prospects begin, you must get them there first. Unfortunately, great creative in the banners is not enough, if the banners are not on properly targeted sites. And while there are services that would have you believe a person visiting a golf or boating site will respond to a financial services banner -- simply because they've done a demographic overlay that shows golfers or boaters invest -- the "real-life" outcome proves this wrong. It doesn't work this way on the Web.

If a person's mindset is in a "Web-golf" mode, it is more than probable they are not visiting financial sites. Remember that in the realm of the Web, the consumer (who wears many hats as their purchasing habits and interests shift) goes to the marketer they want to see on their time schedule, and not when you (as an advertiser) want them to go.

Portal sites are another myth because they are not primary market sites. They are gateways in which banners on these sites serve a different role than banners placed on targeted sites, banners triggered by keywords, or vertical areas of a portal. Portal sites do serve a purpose for marketers: They offer a good platform for targeting newcomers to the Web, while also performing well for branding, sweeps and give-away type offers. To surmise portal sites as a marketing tool, they perform adequately for the short-term offers as mentioned. However, they are not the right choice for long-term relationship-building activities.

Long-term relationship building is dependent on the selection of sites that have a market affinity to the products and services you are offering. If you are offering discount brokerage services, your Web media plan should place you on financial and investment related sites.

It's a baseline marketing tactic that makes sense and works -- "primary placement on primary market sites."

And with a targeted campaign in place, make sure you test a control banner. This will give you the opportunity to fine tune the creative of the banner so you can maximize its performance. As part of any relationship building activity, you will need to ethically gather information from your site visitors. This will act as a core for enhanced database marketing activities, so you can establish a "need" for the individuals to return to your site and transact business with your company.

Most importantly, you need to have the technologies in place to track your impressions and click-throughs (per site, per banner), as well as the mechanisms to calculate your return on investment. Without it, you're throwing your hard-earned advertising dollars into the vastness of cyberspace.

Roy Schwedelson (roy@worldata.com; www.worldata.com) is CEO of Worldata Inc., Boca Raton, a list marketing, electronic marketing and database services company specializing in the hi-technology and microcomputer markets.

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