The Internet and its use as a marketing tool can strike fear and trepidation in the hearts of marketers – or simply be dismissed by them.
The industry itself did not – and has not – helped at all. Firstly it sent everyone down the wrong path by focusing on the use of the Internet in particular as a direct response tool, where clickthrough is king. And more recently, the debate is over how big your ads should be.
Let’s get back to basics: here’s a simple approach to consider as you think about if, how and when to use new digital media and channels like the internet to build your brand or company. This straightforward way of looking at new digital media and channels is based on consumer insight – which should always be the basis of marketing initiatives.
A consumer has four main uses of digital media. Let’s look at each in turn – their roles, applications and the opportunities they present:
People mostly go online to interact – with email being the most popular tool. Instant messaging, community sites (e.g. iVillage for women) and chat facilities are not far behind – and are growing fast.
The implication of this is that your consumers are online, ready to interact, chat and engage with you in as close to real time as possible. Are you set up and able to take advantage of this?
This doesn’t just mean shopping – although online retail is the area that gets the publicity. The real powerhouses are things like online banking (faster and more convenient than queuing at your high street branch) and most importantly, peer-to-peer activities. These are where consumers transact in goods (eBay), information (dooyoo) or money (PayPal) with each other.
eBay, the online auction site is the master at this and is not only the most-visited site in the UK, but is also the most profitable online business.
Consumers love peer-to-peer activities and online services that enable and facilitate these make money. Is there a role your company or brand can play in this arena?
Another hook is to enable consumers to manage their relationship online with you by giving them access to their information and data – think personal address books and diaries attached to email facilities.
3. Research and education
The starting point for many people on the Internet is search engines. Google, Yahoo and MSN search tools are among the most-visited group of sites. Sites that consumers associate with education, research and learning are second in popularity only to online transaction sites.
You need to ensure your sites or products are listed well and high up in search engines by making use of search engine optimisation and listings.
Can your site build in more educational content or services?
When thinking about digital media for entertainment, many people tend to think of the much-publicised music swapping and downloading. But the powerhouses of e-entertainment remains the big three portals: AOL, Yahoo and MSN.
These are the three most-visited sites globally and provide the gateway to news, business information, entertainment news, features and downloads – and much more.
Specialised target market portals like Babycentre.co.uk (new and expectant mothers) or Gay.com perform extremely well with their niche audiences.
Big money though is being made in the areas of vice, gaming, gambling and ‘adult’ entertainment.
Forget the idea of building a portal yourself. Too many have burned piles of money trying to compete with the big players. Instead focus on having a presence and relationship with those portals where your target customers are going already.
Focus on the four main areas of digital media and channels that the consumer operates in: interaction, transactions, research and entertainment. Look at each in turn and see what the implications and opportunities are for your brand, product or company.