Internet Marketing: New Media, New Hybrid

Online advertising offers companies the opportunity to waste money in ways not possible just a few short years ago – Web sites, banner ads and marketing tools designed for the new media. It’s possible to throw a ton of money into a black hole. It’s also possible to make a ton by using the tools in innovative, even sexy ways.

If you concoct your online advertising and marketing mix in the proper combination, you have a unique formula for a real-world return on investment that is every marketer’s ambrosia. On the other hand, if you do it wrong, dangerous gasses can result. That’s what this column is about: finding the right mix.

One of the key ingredients we seek at eyescream is attention to the Net-specific details of each client’s advertising/marketing mix. Here’s an example of the results that can spring from this level of focus: While working with one client, it was obvious that visitors to their middle page (page with the offer) were not interested enough to convert and submit a response.

Only 0.5 percent of the visitors to the page actually converted (industry average conversion rates range from 0.5 percent to 3 percent). We took a hard look at the company’s middle pages as well as the media placement and creative leading to them. After applying a little direct marketing magic, things happened.

We narrowed the visitor’s choices and targeted each visitor directly. Each of several different banner ads led the visitor to a form that expanded on the idea introduced in the banner (same character, problem/solution setup, etc.) Once on the form page, the visitor was given only one choice: fill out the form, which was shortened and simplified to fit mostly above the fold.

The improvement in conversion for those clicking through ranged from 400 percent for certain banners to 1,200 percent for others. Not bad for a day’s work, eh?

Common Mistakes

Measuring that conversion-to-action is paramount in the direct marketing portion of online campaigns. Look beyond the obvious to determine your landing-page brandability and conversion rates, and you won’t be sorry.

One of the biggest mistakes online marketers make is taking leads to a generalized front page of a site rather than one that reflects the content of the ad to which they responded. If they’re clicking on an ad featuring stereos, take ’em to the stereos.

Another mistake is misinterpreting Web-site analysis information. The mechanisms for measuring traffic are varied and complex, and marketers need to understand how they work and how to interpret them.

For example, hits, unique sessions, IP addresses and page views are not interchangeable terms. Hits count every uploaded file and graphic on pages the visitor sees. Page views count each time a page on a site is opened. Unique sessions refer to the number of site visits, but don’t differentiate repeat visitors. IP addresses identify individual visitors.

Know the Differences

Think beyond doing your entire campaign using standard-sized banner ads. There are dozens of other ways to reach people’s eyeballs – text links and buttons, for instance.

It doesn’t matter whether the name of the game is to sell something, download something, generate a lead or generate a form fill-out. The ultimate point online is to inspire an action. Your unblinking appraisal of the weak links (bad, bad pun) of a Web site, media campaign or creative material can mean the difference between returns in the nano-range and those in the mega-arena.

That said, online results and branding are a tricky thing. Recent online advertising studies have shown that branding online actually works for good and bad. The good news is that people saw the banner ads and actually recalled the brands in the studies. The bad news is that some participants came away with a less favorable opinion of the advertiser … oops. You will make an impression, but as in any medium, the trick is making sure it’s the one you want.

Use the New Weapon Wisely

The marriage of direct marketing and branding online, resulting in the creation of a new interactive, measurable consumer experience, has the potential to be a powerful new marketing weapon. Or, it could be ugly.

In the online land grab for new clients and new markets, the sharpest business model is light years ahead of the competition. The online branding image can be pushed further than in any other previous media. Here is a crowd of well-educated, financially well-off people who are wise to the ways of traditional advertising and direct marketing techniques. Give them a nod, let them play along,. allow for self-effacing humor.

Go embrace this new technology. How many opportunities arise in a lifetime to define how a new media is perceived and used? The objects, items and tools that define online advertising and enhance both branding and direct marketing are still being developed. Get in the game.

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