It’s one of the great fears of direct marketers: A colleague or, heaven forbid, a client will ask you about a new online technology, and you’ve never heard of it. You scramble to your computer to learn more, and by the following week you’re the one at a cocktail party embarrassing someone else about the latest and greatest tool online.
Staying on top of trends online can be daunting, even for the savviest marketers. One reason is obvious: Marketers are too time-strapped by today’s deadlines to see beyond the horizon.
Another reason is the nature of the lightning-fast medium. Internet marketing trends, like those in food and fashion, have a woefully short life cycle. What is hot today can become tomorrow’s cold leftovers. It doesn’t help that the barrage of online clutter is exploding. In any given day, 68.3 billion e-mails are sent, up from 40.1 billion in 2003 (Source: The Radical Group).
Though it may seem that keeping abreast of online trends is akin to salmon swimming upstream, the payoffs are worth the time and trouble. Consider all of the companies that were bidding on the GoTo network before it became Overture. They were getting major keywords for pennies on the dollar. These companies spotted an online trend early, took a risk and are now reaping the benefit. Some of the latest, coolest technologies are just waiting for you to take the leap.
Consider the following top three picks:
Pay-per-call. It sounds a lot like pay-per-click, but offers much more than typical search results. Launched in October, pay-per-call is a revolutionary pay-for-performance lead-generation service that delivers personal interaction between buyer and seller. When an Internet user finds your ad, you pay only when he or she calls you. This takes the Web site host out of the equation. After all, who better to close the deal than your own sales representative, one on one over the telephone?
Here’s how it works. Choose your categories based on relevant keywords and geography, then bid on those keywords. When the user searches on your listing and finds your phone number, he or she calls you. You pay for the call by the amount that you bid on the placement.
Digital brochures. This next hot technology is one step forward for the Internet, though it may appear like one step back to print. How so? Most people still learn by tactile communication or touching. People like receiving brochures, magazines and catalogs. They feel comfortable with turning the pages and browsing.
How does the Internet compete with this? It mimics print by having a Web site resemble a magazine or catalog. Some sites let you download this type of brochure and surf the pages like a Web site, but with the sensation of turning pages of a book.
Home furnishings retailer Hold Everything’s site at www.holdeverything.com is a prime example. It turned its printed brochure into a Web site without it being called “brochure-ware.” It is simply data, text and graphics compiled in a Web site format and linked into an executable file that opens like a book or brochure when double clicked.
The benefit of this technology is it can deliver your company’s information to prospects’ desktops cost-efficiently. The user can print one page or the entire brochure.
Digital brochures are not designed to replace existing collateral. They eliminate expenses associated with sending collateral to unqualified leads. Digital brochures also can serve the information needs of qualified leads because they can be designed to mirror your existing collateral. And you can augment the collateral by adding video, e-commerce functionality and product demos.
The New Zealand Tourism Commission replicated its offline promotional material. More than 67,000 digital versions have been downloaded at 10 percent of the cost of print alternatives.
Live personalities or live spokespeople on Web sites. Rovion has created “Bluestream” technology, letting users create live human desktop promotions that literally jump off the page. These live spokespeople can entertain and deliver practical customer help, with a “wow” factor to boot. It requires a download, but it takes only seconds on a high-speed connection and is every bit worth it.
Many television stations have embraced this technology, as it gives them another venue to promote anchors and build viewership. Though the “gee-wiz” factor is high, the costs aren’t out of reach for the typical business. You simply hire talent, write the script, produce with the technology’s media and load it on your Web site.
Consider embracing one of these new technologies. It may be just what your company needs to break through the Internet clutter and pass your competition. But act quickly. Today’s pay-per-call will be tomorrow’s penny pay-per-click.