In the 12th century, English archers who returned from battle with unexpended arrows or who had been seen shooting aimlessly faced capital punishment. Their leaders regarded these highly accurate weapons a precious commodity neither to be squandered nor used half-heartedly. What the Norman Longbowmen commanders knew so well is still being learned by contemporary e-commerce marketers.
Today's e-marketers often fail to use all of the marketing techniques at their disposal. While the penalty of failing to shoot all available arrows may not be as extreme as that faced by medieval archers, the outcome to their e-business may be the equivalent of economic beheading. The successful e-marketer must understand and apply all marketing means, traditional as well as electronic, to drive traffic, secure registered users and generate revenue-producing transactions.
Frequently, the e-marketer believes that electronic means (Web banners, search engine listings, site links and permission-based e-mail) are sufficient. The reasons for this flawed belief are several. Many of those leading the marketing functions of e-businesses have come from a Web-centric technology background. At times the requisite expertise in direct mail, promotions, media, advertising and other traditional marketing disciplines does not exist in e-commerce enterprises. Thus the “art-of-the- possible” is not well understood. Some believe that true dot-com businesses must engage in a wholly Web-contained business model whereby the Web is the sole means by which the business is operated and marketed. These people hold that true competitive advantage can be gained only when all aspects of operations, fulfillment, customer service, marketing and sales are done online. This view is not so much wrong as it is incomplete.
Experience of the last 2-3 years would certainly validate the premise of Web delivery, fulfillment and enablement of the e-commerce value proposition. Web-based marketing should play a role in the overall marketing mix. However, what very successful Web commerce marketers are coming to understand is that e-marketing is only one of several arrows in their quiver. They understand that the real imperative faced by e-commerce ventures is to build brand, capture category supremacy, achieve first-mover advantage and gain share of mind and share of wallet of Web users. To do this, they are shooting all the arrows in their quiver and inventing new ones to boot.
One need only to watch prime-time television, drive down the freeway or pick up a magazine or daily newspaper to see the dramatic presence that e-commerce companies are taking in the media milieu. It does not stop with advertising by any means. Targeted direct mail, outbound telemarketing, DRTV, co-op mailings, event marketing, cross-category promotions are all being used with great success by the best e-marketers.
This increase in marketing expenditure is evidence of more than that firms are flush with early post-PI cash. It is evidence that e-commerce businesses are entering the mainstream of American business and American life. As such, conventional marketing techniques, which have been perfected over the last 50 years, are being applied with great success by these very nonconventional companies.
The virtual world marketer faces all the challenges of the physical world marketer with some special concerns as well. Both must attract attention. To the e-marketers this means getting visitors to the site. Your offer could be the hippest and your graphics the coolest but first they have to come visit you. With more than a million and a half total sites on the Web and over a thousand more coming on line every month, this is no small task. Relying on search engines and links simply is not good enough. The Web is no longer a cloister of perpetual chat-room geeks. Rather it is a racially, demographically and psychographically diverse universe of over 84 million users. Many of these people don't surf at all, but rather visit a site when referred to by a friend or directed to it by some inducement.
Rule No. 1 of e-marketing: It's about visitors, stupid! Both the e-marketer and his physical world counterpart must gain interest. Too often the e-marketer thinks that this just means content-rich graphics. Interest is more than just graphics. The savvy marketer, e-type and otherwise, understands that gaining interest also is about creative, about offer, about price and how to present each in the compelling fashion. It is not enough to just show up to a site: The visitor must be willing to do something. To many e-businesses, this means registered visitors.
Rule No. 2: It's about registered visitors, stupid! Why? Simple. This permits a level of knowledge and customer intimacy that really pays off the Web-commerce one-to-one promise. Without registered visitors the site is little better than an electronic storefront.
Evoking desire is the next common task of all marketers. Creating or responding to a need that your site's product or service can fulfill is the desire that should result from a successful series of clicks through the site. A desire to know more, a desire to be more fully informed. In short, the desire to act.
Thus, stimulating the purchase act should always be the end game for the e-marketer. The entire marketing mix used by the Virtual World Marketer should be tuned to the next rule.
Rule No. 3: It's about paid transactions, stupid! Admittedly, there are Web business models where visitors are enough. There are others where registered users are the end game, but for most the purchase transaction is the Web-site raison d'être. Why then do so many e-businesses rely only on the site to do all the heavy lifting of marketing? This is the virtual-marketing equivalent of returning from a 12th century battle with arrows still in the quiver. It didn't make sense then, and it doesn't make sense now.
R.T. Butkus is vice president and general manager of list firm IQ2.net, New York, a unit of IntelliQuest specializing in information on consumers of hi-tech products. He can be reached at [email protected]