Key marketing methods for 2008

Isn't online marketing by definition, expensive? Not necessarily. Online businesses are coming to the realisation that in an organic environment like the Internet, organic marketing is required; paying for traditional or static marketing only gets you so far before it becomes ineffective. The consumer now controls your marketing. What is wrong with the old methods? Old marketing methods are failing because users are beginning to wise up (Rise Up) against the old brute force advertising that tries to win users over through sheer volume, using abrasive web-page banners, unrelated Adwords displayed on the page, or repeated newsletters (most being restricted by anti-spam laws). The old methods no longer work effectively for two key reasons. One is the fact that they are a "flash in the pan", directing users to websites only so long as you continue to pay for the campaign, the second reason is consumers are now at the stage where they either ignore them or go out of their way to block them (with plug-in based browser or email filtering). Let's quickly run through some of the "traditional" ways to market on the web, and their failings.
  • Paid Campaigns - (These only work while active) Paid campaigns may lure people to your site, but they are regularly not your target market and after arriving they promptly leave (High "bounce" rate).
  • Banner Ads - People hate banner ads. Most of the ads on the Internet are loathed because they aren't relevant. Seeing a banner for a better insurance rate when on a gaming site is a massive disconnect for the audience and a significant portion of banner ads are plain abrasive to users. Filling one third of your page with banner ads will not increase the likelihood anyone will care.
  • Adwords - Adwords (PPC, Pay Per Click) have the same problem as banner ads, though to a lesser extent. Adwords work by displaying "sponsored results," in search engine results. Adword results are separated from normal search results so not many people select them and the unknown quality in the user's eye causes distrust (how do I know that a sponsored result is better than an organic result). Competition is fierce, with prices spiraling upwards, and returns staying constant. For more information see our article about Google marketing pitfalls.
  • Newsletters - One word: Spam. Because of the spam epidemic, users are becoming ever more wary signing up to receive mail from any online source. Legislation and the ever increasing ability of spam filters mean a continually shrinking audience (Restricting the ability to send newsletters, and filtering them before they reach your audience).
The "Old World" marketing relied on one or two large marketing sources to drive traffic with big budgets and marketing firms. You have to get people to create the "news" then you pay other people to distribute the "news", so you are pulling people into your "store" to show them what you have (whether they want it or not). New methods for marketing These days having others create and distribute your content for you is in vogue, this can mean syndicating your articles for other users to repost, paying users to review or rate your services, guiding users directly on forums or having users sign up to receive exclusive information. In every case, the handiwork of distribution is left to others. Lets quickly run through some of the new "Web 2.0" ways to market on the web, and the reason you should try them:
  • Blogs - Blogs are a goldmine to both the reader and the writer. Blogging is less time consuming and considerably cheaper than traditional marketing. Blogs give you the ability to convey your personal thoughts on happenings in your industry and your personal and corporate life, letting you really connect with your audience. Another positive is the viral marketing component where you are referenced through various social media websites, search engines and other blogs, increasing both your credibility and searchability, making it easier for consumers to find and trust you.
  • Forums - Forums give you an insight into what people are talking about, letting you get directly into the heads of potential customers. An easy way to find an appropriate forum is by asking existing customers what forums they frequent. Join in conversations, threads, contribute to the community and become a trusted member, then you can give your professional advice and mention what you do for a living. You should approach this as a way to get insight into what people are talking about, with the side-effect of possibly generating leads. If you approach this as direct marketing, the community will quickly tell and either ban you, or develop a healthy disdain of you.
  • Articles - Articles are a great way to show you are connected to the issues in your industry and the wider world around you. You can either submit your articles through a syndication service, or post it on your blog; even better is a combination of the two: Choose a topic you enjoy talking about and write an article (like this one!) with your personal opinion or some helpful advice. If it is well-written and educates readers, you will already have an edge on your competition.
The theme of the new marketing methods is tailoring your content to the audience. The intent is to create something readers want to read. Marketing is not about trickery or insincerity, it's about communicating your ideas with honesty and authenticity. If it is worthwhile to your users, then they will happily talk about the content and spread it around. You have to communicate authentically with your customers and it simply doesn't happen using "traditional" online marketing. A word of caution: if you try any of the above methods but approach them traditionally (as a direct marketing channel) then not only will you annoy a great number of users, you will also damage your company image. Again I stress the above point, make the content something people want to read, not just marketing material. Old marketing methods that are now approached differently Benjamin Franklin said insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." This is increasingly true for some of the more traditional forms of online marketing. It's not so much what people are doing, but more a case of how they are being done. Let's take a look at how we should be approaching some of the old marketing methods today.
  • Press Releases - Before we start, I'm sorry to tell you, but unless you are in the 5% of the market that people pay attention to, no-one reads your press releases - at least no potential customers do. A high percentage of companies marketing on the web use traditional methods of delivery, either in print or on a section of their website. Consider changing your press release to positively present your company then send it through a syndication service for papers and online news sources to pick up and republish.
  • Search Engines - Previously you had to specifically tailor your site to search engine specifications to ensure you had a high pagerank and were located at the top of search results. To put it simply, the important factor was how your site was presented to the user. These days although page display has an impact, it is far more important to have the right content on the site. Search engines now care more about content. Structure your pages logically and efficiently with appropriate content for each page, and be sure to link to those pages wherever possible, especially if you are engaging in blog or forum marketing.
  • Mailing Lists and Newsletters - With new anti-spam laws coming into effect, coupled with users increasingly annoyed at anything email based, mailing lists and newsletters are becoming far less effective. Ensure all the users on your mailing lists and newsletters have agreed to receive them. You don't need to re-ask permission from your existing list, but be sure to let users op-out, and put an optional op-in form link in your communications.
Old-world communication can still be effective, but you need to ensure it is not your only approach. The conclusion? Reevaluation is the key to a healthy online presence. You need to be constantly measuring and reevaluating your marketing methods to ensure you are not wasting money, and can take advantage of effective new methods.

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