How to web enable the marketing process
-- Vinny Alex
Philip Kotler in his book Marketing Management, defines
marketing as "a societal process by which individuals and groups
obtain what they need and want through creating, offering and freely exchanging
products and services of value with others".
Don't we wish it were that simple? As many great inventors
found out the hard way, it not just about what you make, it also about
how many know what you have made. Conventional business face tremendous
hurdles when it comes to letting the world know of the products and services
that they have on offer.
Consider. Unlike big business, small businesses rely on
the entrepreneur's understanding of the market to give the ideas for innovation.
After all surveys and trials cost money and time, both of which are perennially
in short supply. Even after the prototype is built, small businessmen
(and women) depend on family and friends to test the product and give
them the feedback they need. And even if a great idea were to make it
through these odds and come out as a great product, the small business
continues to face the hurdle of making enough people aware of how this
product can fulfill their needs better and more thoroughly than any other
product on the planet. No wonder that in the physical world, entrepreneurs
that succeed are rare and deserve all the appreciation and accolades that
the corporate world heaps on them.
But with the advent of the Internet, we have begun to see
the emergence of a whole new playing field, where there is no "big"
or "small" or "far" or "near". In many ways,
the internet is a true level playing field allowing small businesses to
reach out to a huge international audience, both for product ideas as
well as for product promotion.
However, in order for us to leverage the opportunity that
the internet (and its sister opportunities - the intranet and the extranets),
we need to know some fundamental rules of the game. The list I give below
is not permanent, and it's certainly not comprehensive. However, I hope
to keep adding to this list as this area of technology matures and settles
The fundamental rules of Web based marketing
- Internet is about involvement. Many businesses build their websites
as a development project with the end point being the launch of the
website. However, the launch of a website, is only like the publishing
of a book - no one's going to read it unless they come into the store
and pick it up. This is where a carefully thought out promotion plan
that starts with the launch and carries on from there is vital. Some
useful activities include submission to search engines and directories,
and lists, as well as targeted advertising and email marketing. As your
business grows look for additional ways to invite customers. Promote
in places where your targeted customer gather. Make it easy for your
existing clients to promote you, by giving them material they can forward
to their friends, or by allowing them to refer their friends on your
- Internet is information.On too many occasions we have come across
sites that look like it's been created to satisfy the owner's ego, and
little else. If a site is to become truly credible, it needs to have
credible content. Good content that deals with the customer's areas
of interest help the website in many ways. It provides a sense of credibility
to the site. It also serves as a useful fodder to search engine bots
and allows visitors to come in using any of a large range of keywords.
In effect, each of the pages can be promoted separately, thus opening
multiple doorways for visitors to enter through. Thirdly, it also creates
positive word of mouth. You will be surprised how quickly word spreads
of good content that's available on the net.
- Internet is interaction. Unlike any other print or media channel,
the internet provides the unique ability for the customer to interact
with the message. Truly successful websites understand 'user experience'
as something more than just good graphics, it involves a combination
of aspects such as ease of access to appropriate information, layout,
the help it gives the customer as he navigates through the site. Technology
allows customers to personalize interfaces, so that they have quick
access to just the content they require, while simultaneously allowing
the marketer an insight into the attitudes and characteristics of the
visitors. Really effective sites also ensure that they use this interactive
nature of the internet to get the customers to take small steps such
as filling in a registration form, in return for giving something of
- Internet is iterative. Recently I happened to read the history behind
the success of Netscape's Navigator - the internet's first killer app.
Netscape was certainly not the first web browser in the market, but
what it did right was that its creators understood its weakness vis
a vis many larger companies - it didn't have the large teams or the
money to test and refine the product. So they implemented what is now
the norm for all software development - free beta releases. All of a
sudden, Netscape had hundreds of thousands of software testers who were
more than willing to let Netscape know if there were any bugs in their
software. This allowed Netscape to develop iteratively, each release
building on the previous release, till all chinks were ironed out. This
had the added advantage, that as users became more comfortable about
the product and the company, they were willing to purchase their other
products and services, thus opening out huge business opportunities.
The beauty in this whole exercise was that Netscape did not have to
invest substantially more as the number of people downloading the software
increased, thus allowing huge scalability at almost no additional cost!
- Internet is about impact. If you want use the internet to give your
marketing a new dimension, then an important point to realize is that
the internet is about impact. It needs to have an impact in terms of
experience, in terms of cost differentiation, in terms of how it can
make the whole customer relationship management easier. Customers like
to feel that they are valuable. Amazon.com has done an exceptional job
of managing this relationship. It tracks the items purchased in the
past, and intuitively guides the visitor to areas that would be of interest
to him. This not only ensures lower drop out rates, but also increases
- Internet is interdependence. What really made the internet take off
is its ability to foster collaboration between people all over the world.
In spite of the trend towards payment based services, there is still
a huge scope for collaboration. For instance, affiliate programs are
still a very useful way to bring prospective visitors to your site.
By implementing a commission based sales (www.commissionexchange.com)
system, you ensure that you only pay based on sales that you accrue,
not based on clicks or hits. In turn, can direct customers to other
sites that would be of interest to your visitors, thus ensuring that
you too, have other sources of income. And it's not just sales. There
are a number of link exchange sites, where you can participate in campaigns
that dramatically increase the number of links on the site (in exchange
for you putting up some links as well). Even after considering all the
above points, there is no guarantee that your business will take off.
That depends on many other factors as well. Sound business models, good
financial planning, good people and systems all play their respective
roles. (Go through some of the other articles in this site to see how
we have helped business in these areas as well.) However, keeping these
points in mind while working with your web enabling specialist will
definitely help you avoid some of the common pitfalls associated with
marketing on the web.
Collaboration options include enterprise applications, web services,
e-mail application and integrating with enterprise information portals.
Mathematical models like statistical analysis play a major part in