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Web Marketing Promotional Tools and Techniques
No matter what kind of online business you have, it is essential that customers are able to find your company. Once they locate you, it is necessary to engage them in the browsing or buying process, depending on your site objectives, using various promotional tools and techniques to enhance the online experience.
The challenge in getting customers to visit your site and return in the future is a reflection of the competitive nature of the online environment. Not only do online businesses have to compete against thousands of new companies that go online every day, but they must also consider the increased buying and decision-making power of consumers, who have a variety of options at their fingertips. If you want to stand out from the endless stream of online businesses and gain the attention of customers, you need to promote your site, and you need to do it well.
There are a number of ways you can promote your online site. You can use your own site as a vehicle to drive your objectives forward using various online tools, or you can implement a number of online and offline promotional techniques.
Online Promotional Tools:
Feedback Forms - What better way to find out what people think of your company than to solicit their opinion. Using customer feedback you can improve your site and provide better service to your customers. Using feedback forms also shows your customers that you are interested in what they have to say, and provides an opportunity to build relationships with them. For instance, you may send out an email thanking a particular customer for bringing an issue to your attention and follow-up with a coupon to show your appreciation. The disadvantage with a feedback form is the type of information people provide or the questions they may ask. If customers cannot find answers on your site, they may resort to using the feedback form. To receive targeted feedback, it is useful to develop an online form for customers to complete that leads them through the feedback process.
Bookmarking - A good way to encourage customers to visit your site is to ask them to bookmark it. Through bookmarking, they have easy access to your site and do not have to remember your site’s exact URL to visit. Bookmarking a site is particularly beneficial for web surfers who like to follow links. It enables them to go back and take a more in-depth look at what you have to offer when they need to.
Content - Content is a strong driver for encouraging repeat visits by customers, particularly when it is fresh, timely, and gives customers a reason to visit regularly. For example, perhaps you have a ‘Tip of the Day’ or a regular visit by an ‘expert’ well-known in your field of business who provides online advice. Content that is useful for your visitors and will enable them to leave with new knowledge will attract them to your site, and encourage them to check back regularly.
Daily Give-Away/Coupons/Contests - Sites that offer regular promotions such as a ‘give-away’, coupons and contests are in a solid position to capture a regular audience. While the promotion acts as the driver that attracts customers to visit initially, it provides an opportunity to showcase new products and services, and deliver important news about your company. For instance, you may initiate a ‘give-away’ that is a printer, but also take the opportunity to tell your customers about a printer sale next week. Your promotional tool has not only lured customers to your site, but it has also increased the likelihood of getting a sale. Offering various promotions also enables you to obtain customer information that you can use in future marketing campaigns.
Surveys - Surveys provide an effective avenue through which to gather important customer data that will help you to improve your business and plan for the future. To encourage visitors to complete the survey, you can provide an incentive such as an opportunity to win a prize.
Awards/Testimonials - Including awards and testimonials on your site will provide credibility to your business. They will also provide a foundation for you to build rapport and trust with your customers, who will be more willing to visit a site they can trust.
Online Chat - Online chat mechanisms provide a forum where customers can come together and share their experiences with each other and you. This interactive tool allows you direct access to customer opinions where you can gauge trends and determine their views on the industry.
Tours - Online tours provide you with an opportunity to showcase particular products and services, and highlight their key benefits. For instance, you may have a CRM product that you would like to promote. What better way to show how it works than to provide a tour of the product - making what could be a potentially complex product look simple and easy to use.
Online and Offline Promotional Techniques:
Article Submissions - Submitting articles you write to targeted resource portals will broaden your reach and position you as an expert in your field of business. If people identify with you and find your articles useful, they are likely to visit your site and take an interest in your products and services.
Newsletters - As a low cost promotional tool, a newsletter enables you to build rapport and strengthen your relationship with customers. The key to success is to focus less on self-promotion and focus more on providing information that is newsworthy and valuable. To effectively communicate with prospective and current customers release the newsletter regularly and provide customers with an opportunity to unsubscribe.
Press Releases - When you have important news to share about your business, sending a press release, by email, mail or fax, to editors and public relations newswires, will give you direct access to customers most interested in your message and increase your exposure. For instance, if you have a technology related site you may focus on journalists who cover the Internet. You can also target your release to specific industries.
Banner Advertising - If you want to increase your company’s brand awareness, implementing a banner ad campaign is an effective advertising method. Banner ads are an effective direct marketing tool that can increase site traffic if they are creative and include a call-to-action. Advertise on sites that your customers would visit, and ensure you provide the best possible offer you can.
Sponsorships - Sponsorships are an effective way to develop greater brand impact because you can capitalize from an existing community and associate your brand with fresh content. By customizing your sponsorships to specific areas or for specific messages, you can create an excellent platform to communicate your products and services.
Link Strategies - Linking strategies provide an effective way for customers to learn about your company through other sites related to your subject. The key to developing an effective link program is to identify sites that are not direct competitors but have a similar target market as you. It is also necessary to find a balance between the amount of traffic that exits your site through a link and the number of people who visit your site through a link on another site. Building links from other sites to your site also increases your site’s relevancy to search engines.
Newsgroups - Joining a newsgroup will enable you to build your reputation, identify trends in your industry, and evaluate the needs of potential customers. To get in close contact with potential customers, it is necessary to research groups that target your prospective customer base and spend time identifying what kind of behavior is acceptable in the group. Netiquette is very important when you are a member of a newsgroup. The best way to give your business exposure without appearing like you are only there to market yourself is to use a signature file, which references your contact information
Email Marketing - With people spending so much time on email, there is an enormous opportunity to market to them and build solid customer relationships. Email marketing has emerged to become one of the most profitable and economical ways to manage customer relationships, presenting marketers with many opportunities and benefits. Its benefits include the following: low cost vehicle; access to a targeted and qualified audience; fast, efficient and effective; offers personalized communication; easy to track and evaluate; increases sales, awareness, and traffic.
Search Engine Optimization - Effectively submitting your site in search engines will enable you to acquire top placement in search engine results and increase the likelihood that people will link into your site during search queries. The trick is to identify effective methods to optimize your placement. The criteria search engines and directories use to determine which sites rank highly varies. Some, like Google, use link popularity in their ranking mechanisms. Others measure click popularity, gauge the number of times key words are used throughout a site, or favor sites that are updated regularly. Therefore, it is important to learn about the various search engines and identify the ones that are best suited for your site.
Affiliate Marketing - With an affiliate program you offer affiliates an incentive to perform a particular outcome. This outcome may be to generate customer leads for your business, increase ‘clicks’ to your site or improve sales - from a banner ad, text link, graphic or other means such as a newsletter. The incentive is usually a fee, provided as a flat rate or percentage depending on your affiliate program objectives.
Web Site Promotion Services - There are web site promotion services that will assist you in marketing your site. While these types of services can be helpful, they do not guarantee results and can be quite expensive. It is necessary to do your research before working with a company - check their reviews and contact references if necessary.
Collateral Material - Ensure your Web and email address are on all collateral materials including any promotional items you give away, such as mouse pads. This will give customers an easy way to contact you and increase your brand awareness.
Trade Shows - Attending trade shows is an effective way to increase awareness of your business to a targeted audience and provide you with direct access to potential customers, who can get hands-on knowledge about your business and its products or services. Attending a trade show will also enable you to identify trends in the industry and provide you with information about your competitors. Furthermore, you can give away products with your web site address and encourage customers to complete forms for prizes, providing you with valuable customer data.
Launch Events - An event that introduces new products and services is an effective way to generate excitement and develop relationships with potential customers. For instance, you can obtain customers’ contact information so you can follow-up after the event with promotions or introduce new products and services. As well, inviting prominent guests to the event as speakers or supporters will generate interest in the media, which can result in free publicity and bring greater exposure to your business.
The kind of promotional tools and techniques you implement depends on a variety of factors including your online objectives, customers, products and services, marketing budget, and competition.
Objectives - Whether your online objective is to increase awareness, improve sales or drive site traffic, it will influence the type of promotional tools and techniques you use. For instance, if you want to increase sales, you may offer online coupons, which give customers an incentive to buy. You may also conduct daily ‘give-aways’, which will enable customers to test your products and encourage future purchases. If you want to increase awareness of your site or drive site traffic, purchasing banner space on sites that target your customers may do the trick. You can also conduct an email marketing campaign to keep customers up-to-date on your company and inform them of new products and services.
Customers - The demographics of your customer group will influence what kind of promotional tools and techniques you use. For instance, women may be more likely to use coupons than men. A young audience may appreciate more interactive tools on the site that are fun and engaging, such as an online tour of a site or particular product.
Products/Services - The type of products or services you sell can impact the promotional tools or techniques you implement. For instance, if you sell highly complex products, it will be necessary to find avenues where you can communicate product features concisely and enable customers to walk away with the most useful information. You may provide an online tour of a particular product that shows customers its benefits. If you sell packaged goods, you may focus on making sales and providing online coupons to encourage purchases.
Budget - When choosing the right promotional tools or techniques, your budget is obviously a big consideration. Some promotional techniques are very expensive including attending trade shows and organizing a launch event. Low cost options may include submitting articles to resource portals, sending out a newsletter or developing a link strategy.
Competition - If you want to stay in line with your competition, it is beneficial to identify what type of online or offline promotions they are using. How are they getting top placement in search engines? What kind of promotional tools do they use on their site?
Driving traffic to a new web site involves a large amount of strategic planning, development and organization. Your web site should never be static - it must be regularly updated to meet the needs of your customers, be checked to ensure there are no dead links or old promotions, consider trends in the market that support specific online marketing techniques, and reflect changes in your business over time. As a result, it is important to ensure you have the right resources committed to your online site and allocate the appropriate budget to maintaining and promoting it. When you start to measure how well your site is doing compared to other traditional sales and marketing channels, you will be able to quantify the impact of your Internet presence and develop strategies that will build on your successes.