Competition is intense in the e-business and e-commerce worlds, and a solid e-marketing strategy can give a company an advantage. In this section, we explore various components of a marketing campaign, such as marketing research, advertising, promotions, branding and public relations (PR). We also discuss the importance of search engines and how they can be used to increase Web-site traffic.
A brand is typically defined as a name, logo or symbol that identifies a company’s products or services. Brands should be unique, recognizable and easy to remember. Brand equity includes the value of tangible and intangible items, such as a brand’s monetary value over time, customer perceptions and customer loyalty to a company, its products or services.9 Businesses that already have a solid brand may find it easier to transfer their brand to the Internet, whereas Internet-only businesses must strive to develop a brand that customers trust and value.
2. Marketing Research
Marketing research can help a company develop its marketing mix, which includes product or service details and development, effective pricing, promotion and distribution. Tradi-tionally, marketing research has consisted of focus groups, interviews, paper and telephone surveys, questionnaires and secondary research (findings based on previously collected da-ta). Research can now be performed over the Internet, giving marketers a new, faster chan-nel through which to find and analyze industry, customer and competitor information. The Internet also provides a relaxed and anonymous setting to hold focus-group discussions and distribute questionnaires.
To target marketing campaigns effectively, it is useful to learn about the demographics of Internet, World Wide Web and wireless device users. Demographics are statistics on the human population, including age, sex, marital status and income. Knowledge of customers’ personal information can help to reveal their purchase preferences and buying power. Through additional research and analysis, marketers gain information about customers’ psychographics, which can include family lifestyles, cultural backgrounds and values.10
Through online focus groups, current or potential consumers can present their opinions about products, services or ideas. This feedback can be useful when making critical deci-sions concerning the launch of new products, services or campaigns.
3. e-Mail Marketing
E-mail marketing campaigns provide an inexpensive and effective method of targeting poten-tial customers. The marketer should define the reach of a campaign, or the span of people the marketer would like to target, including geographic locations and demographic profiles. The marketer should also determine the level of personalization of the campaign. Personalized di-rect e-mail targets consumers by using their names, offering them the right products at the right time and sending special promotions on the basis of their interests. Internet mailing lists can help marketers target customers through personalized e-mail. Opt-in e-mail is sent to peo ple who explicitly choose to receive offers, information and promotions. However, it is im-portant to avoid flooding opt-in customers with promotional e-mail. Excessive correspondence can decrease the effectiveness of an e-mail campaign. Marketers should avoid sending e-mail to people who have not shown interest in specific products or services. Spamming—the distribution of mass e-mails to people who have not expressed interest in re-ceiving information from a company—can give a company a poor reputation.
Promotions can both attract visitors to a site and influence purchasing. Promotions can also be used to increase brand loyalty through reward programs. Frequent-flyer miles, point-based rewards, discounts, sweepstakes, free trials, free shipping and e-coupons are all ex-amples of promotions. Although promotions are an effective way to establish contact with potential customers, it is vital to make sure that customers are becoming loyal to the com-pany, rather than to its promotions or rewards program. In addition, the costs of the program must be monitored carefully.
5. Consumer Tracking
While generating Web-site traffic is important to an e-business, it is not sufficient to ensure success. Keeping user profiles, recording visits and analyzing promotional and advertising results are helpful when measuring a marketing campaign’s effectiveness. By discovering the target market—the group of people toward whom it is most profitable to aim a market-ing campaign—a company can focus its campaign, increasing the number of visits, re-sponses and purchases. Marketers use log files (files that contain data generated by site visits, including each visitor’s location, IP address, time of visit and frequency of visits) and log-file analysis (the organization and summarization of information contained in log files) to monitor consumer information.
ID cards (tracking devices that provide Web sites with the numerical addresses of and information regarding consumers’ operating systems) record and convey information requested by users. Cookies, another type of tracking device, are text files stored by Web sites on individuals’ personal computers. Cookies allow a site to track the actions of a vis-itor. The first time a user visits a Web site, the user’s computer might receive a cookie. This cookie then is reactivated each time the computer revisits that site. The information col-lected is intended to be an anonymous account of log-on times, visit durations, purchases made on the site, the site previously visited and the site visited next. Although the cookie resides on an individual’s hard drive, it does not interact with other information stored on the system; furthermore, cookies can be read only by the hosts that place them.
6. Electronic Advertising
E-business advertising is conducted through such media as television, movies, newspapers and magazines, as well as online and wireless channels. Advertising gives e-businesses the opportunity to establish and strengthen branding. The publication of URLs on all direct mailings, business cards, billboards, print, wireless advertisements and other media also can increase brand awareness, bringing more visitors to a site.
While newspapers, magazines, television and films all provide effective advertising channels, the Internet is quickly becoming an important medium through which to market companies, products and services. Online advertising can include the placement of links and banners on other companies’ Web sites and the registration of a site with search engines and directories. In addition, businesses can charge other companies for placing their adver-tisements on its site, providing businesses with additional income.
Banner advertisements are similar to billboards seen along the highway, but banners offer the additional feature of interactivity. Valueclick.com and Double-click.com are examples of companies that offer banner-hosting services. Some compa-nies base advertisement charges on the number of times a banner ad is viewed on a page, whereas others charge according to the number of click-throughs generated by the banner ad. However, in both systems, advertisers pay only when a viewer clicks on the banner ad and goes to that Web site.
7. Search Engines
A search engine is a program that scans Web sites for desired content, listing relevant sites on the basis of keywords or other search-engine ranking criteria. Search-engine ranking is important to bringing new visitors to a site. The method used by a search engine to rank a Web site will determine how “high” a site appears on lists of search results. Businesses can customize and register their sites to improve the sites’ positions in search-engine results.
A meta tag is an XHTML tag that contains information about a Web page. Although the tag does not change how a Web page is displayed, it can contain a description of the page, keywords and the page’s title. Search engines often use meta-tag information when ranking a site.
Some search engines rank sites by sending out a program, called a spider, to inspect each site. The spider reads the meta tags, determines the relevance of the Web page’s infor-mation and keywords and then ranks the site according to that visit’s findings. Marketers should examine competitors’ sites, analyzing the sites’ meta tags and content. It is impor-tant to have a site appear in the top results, because often people will not look further. For valuable information about keyword selection, visit www.keywordcount.com and
8. Affiliate Programs
Affiliate programs have become a dominant and unique form of Internet marketing. An af-filiate program is a form of partnership in which a company pays affiliates (other compa-nies or individuals) on the basis of prespecified actions by visitors who click-through from an affiliate site to a merchant site.
Affiliate programs also can increase Web-site traffic. Affiliates post links on each other’s sites in exchange for referral fees, which usually consist of a percentage of each sale or a fixed fee for click-throughs that result in sales. For example, Befree.com is a fee-based service that helps users set up affiliate programs. For more information, visit www.befree.com.
9. Public Relations
Public relations (PR) provides customers and employees with the latest information about products, services and such issues as company promotions and consumer reactions. A vital aspect of public relations is communication with customers and employees through press releases, speeches, special events, presentations and e-mail.
Press releases, which announce current events and other significant news to the press, can be delivered over the Web. For example, PR Web (www.prweb.com) allows mar-keters to submit press releases to its site for free. Online press releases sometimes include video clips of news appearances, speeches, commercials and advertisements, all of which can be effective publicity. Visit www.prnewswire.com and www.business-wire.com to view lists of recent press releases, including audio and video news.
Crisis management, an aspect of PR, is conducted in response to problems a company is experiencing. When a company is doing poorly, its public-relations department will often issue information regarding the causes, as well as announcing what steps will be imple-mented to remedy the problem.
10. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Customer relationship management (CRM) focuses on the provision and maintenance of quality service for customers. Effective CRM involves communicating with customers and delivering products, services, information and solutions in response to customers’ problems, wants and needs. Customer satisfaction is key to business success, because it is far less expensive to keep current customers than it is to acquire new ones. Online business-es should give particular attention to CRM, because transactions are often conducted through a series of additional parties, and the establishment of personal relationships with customers requires innovative strategies.
Aspects of CRM are call handling (the maintenance of outbound and inbound calls from customers and service representatives), sales tracking (the tracking and recording of all sales made) and transaction support (support for technology and personnel involved in business transactions). Unique functions of eCRM, the application of CRM to an e-busi-ness strategy, include the personalization and customization of customers’ experiences and interactions with a Web site, call center or any other forum for customer contact with the e-business. The term iCRM (Internet customer relationship management) can be used inter-changeably with eCRM in reference to e-business customer relationship management. Business analysts should review all CRM plan details and data, such as reductions in costs or an influx of customer complaints, to refine the CRM system.
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