For those used to traditional advertising strategies, venturing into Internet marketing can seem like wading into murky waters. Too many advertisers approach it blind, lacking a firm understanding of why they are doing what they're doing, or what exactly they are paying for. When their efforts inevitably fail, they throw up their hands and conclude that it's either too much for them to handle, or that its just a big waste of money. This does not have to be your story. The following guide to marketing your products online is designed to help you understand the basic components of Internet advertising, and determine how and why they can work for you.
Define Your USP
Before spending a single moment designing your online advertising campaigns, your company needs to decide on its unique selling proposition or "USP." A company's USP is the one compelling selling point of your organization that sets you apart from the competition. Are you the fastest, highest quality, or least expensive option? Does your team have any exceptionally unique credentials?
Think long and hard about why a person who was presented with a list of companies who offer the same product or service as you should choose your business. The answer is your USP, and it is by the strength of this point that your marketing efforts will flourish or fail. Marketing superstar Jay Abraham points out that having a clear USP automatically sets you ahead of your competitors. "Most business owners don't have a USP, only a "me too," rudderless, nondescript, unappealing business that feeds solely upon the sheer momentum of the marketplace," he comments. "There's nothing unique; there's nothing distinct."
Find Where Your Target Market Is Looking
If you've been reading about different Internet marketing strategies, you've probably seen a lot of hype about how "pay-per-click," or "media buying," or any number of other online channels is the best way to go. The truth is, not all Internet searchers look in the same places, and each strategy can be effective if you are targeting the right people.
The first step to determining where your efforts are best focused is to determine if your product is something people are actively searching for. Google's keyword tool is an excellent free tool for figuring this out. Simply type in words or phrases that are closely related to your product and Google will tell you how many people search for those things monthly.
If your product is not something that is heavily searched for, it does not mean that you cannot successfully sell it online. Instead, it might mean that you offer something original that few people have thought to search for. In this case, you must think about the kind of websites your audience might be reading and deliver your advertising there. This is explained further below.
Pay Per Click
If your product solves some kind of problem that people have, search marketing is definitely worth considering. To understand why, think of a Google search as the stretching of a mental rubber band. When a person has a question or needs to find some information, no matter how nominal it may seem, there is this same kind of tension built-in their mind. The search itself is an attempt to release that tension and restore equilibrium, which is why it makes so much sense to position your company at the forefront of that effort.
When the searcher reads your ad and lands on your page, he or she is looking to see if you can solve this problem that they are having. As a marketer, it is your job to speak to your unique market and assure them that the tension in their mind will be relieved if they choose your product or service.
As was alluded to earlier, if your product is the sort that doesn't get a ton of searches, media buying is an effective supplement (or replacement) to pay-per-click advertising. This strategy is best compared to an online version of magazine advertising. One way to go about it is to think about what kind of websites your ideal customer is reading on a regular basis, and then contact those sites and ask if you can buy advertising space. The best part about this approach is that you have complete control over where your advertising appears, and more importantly, where it does not.
An alternative solution is to join an advertising network and let the software decide where your ads are best displayed. Most reputable networks (such as Google AdSense) allow you to select categories that apply to your product, submit your advertisement, and press play. The software then scans the text of web pages in its network and displays your ad on web pages it deems to be relevant to your product.
Try Lead Generation
Lead generation is a totally different approach to marketing that does not immediately go for a sales closing. Instead, those practicing lead generation offer their customers valuable, free information first, and sales pitches much later. The best example of this strategy is to run a free blog on your company's field that publishes informative knowledge for anyone interested. The key here to make sure that the content is useful in its own right, and not just a dressed up sales pitch. Once you have a significant readership, you might offer a free email course or newsletter, and allow readers to subscribe.
When a person agrees and enters their email address, they are letting you know that it is okay to contact them. Along with the free email course, it is appropriate to try to include sales pitches for your products. Since they already find your free content valuable, they are more likely to trust that your paid products will be of equal quality.
Write Effective Ad Copy
Now that you've thought a bit more about where the bulk of your advertising efforts belong, it's time to write ad copy that gets people to your website and sells your product. Think back to your USP and center the focus of your advertising around it. Remember, your USP is what sets you apart from all of your competitors, which means that without one your ad will not stand out from the rest in any special way.
Most web surfers are good at tuning out everything that isn't directly applicable to them. Because of this, your ads and website copy cannot be all about you. Starting off your copy by talking about how long you've been in business, how decorated your team is, or how innovative you think you are, is a bad approach because it has nothing to do with the customer and does not demonstrate an understanding of their problem. Instead, strive to make an emotional connection through your USP and communicate that you know what they're feeling and how to help them.
Testing And Tracking
Without proper tracking, you can design the best marketing campaign in the world, but you will never know what parts of it are working or how it could be improved. Website analytic software (such as Google Analytics) allows you to see exactly where your traffic is coming from, how long visitors stay on your page, and who actually buys from you. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough, because it is literally impossible to make informed changes to your campaign without this kind of insight.
Imagine that you are media buying on 35 websites and advertising on 100 search keywords. With tracking you can determine which sites and keywords are actually producing sales, and which are just needlessly wasting money. Without this capability, you are like a sailor in a fog storm, having no other choice but to go straight ahead because you can't see any better alternatives.
About the Author: Eric Flores is a freelance writer for Adobe. Adobe software and services revolutionize how the world engages with ideas and information; anytime, anywhere, and through any medium. On their website you can find a PDF creator as well as many other tools.