Javed Sunesra – “Internet Marketing: An ocean of customers if you know the right bait”
The skill of a fisherman doesn’t lie in knowing that there are lot of fish in the ocean, it lies in actually catching the right fish. Everyone knows that Internet Marketing is like a huge ocean and the number and type of customers is absolutely limitless, but that doesn’t help any business, does it? It is not just about knowing there are fish, but also about what customers to target, how and where to target and achieve the maximum returns. Currently there are estimated 1.9 billion users with Internet access i.e. almost 28% of the world population. Of these, many are nascent users who are currently having just basic access to the Internet. Actual Internet use for carrying out any trade, business or exchange on the net, esp. in the BRIC economies and other developing countries is just taking root. As this customer matures, we are going to see the real potential of Internet.
Internet is actually a nation without border. If one can adopt the right strategy, the opportunities are limitless. Your reach can transcend time, political situations, national boundaries or logistical issues that had held back earlier business ventures. Now you can display your wares in the farthest corner of the world and with right logistics strategy can even provide them the same product at a rate cheaper than their local providers. A right strategy can give you an extremely good return overshadowing all other marketing efforts, in fact some businesses can run just on the strength of Internet Marketing.
There are many things to be planned and discussed before implementing or improving your Internet Marketing Strategy. Some of the more simple but critical points according to me are:
1. Target Audience – choosing an appropriate cross section of online audience that you want to satisfy.
2. Online Presence –positive presence about the product / service that you are offering.
3. Neat & Clean user-friendly website – The website is your most basic online presence. It should represent your style of working – user friendly and effective.
4. Customer Interaction – A platform for your customers to provide you instant feedback as well as for you to grasp the market requirements.
5. Promotion Strategy – Locations to target where your clients are most likely to visit. You should be seen and communicated on online/direct to increase revenue.
6. Monitoring, Assessment and Mitigation – Decide on a regular monitoring of your offering and its reviews online; assess the impact of responding / keeping silent and decide on strategy of mitigating issues.
Target Audience: It is the niche category of clients you wish to cater to. Is your offering targeting youth or adults or even children; male / female; high income / low income etc. Accordingly the language, the offering presentation, the brand ambassador may vary. Lets take a very simple example. Suppose Rolls Royce decides to use Mickey Mouse or other Disney characters accompanying their product online? It may not have the same impact (or no impact at all) as compared to say a Richard Branson (or if it’s a cartoon character that you MUST use, then maybe Batman in his civvies!!) The principle is same as regular marketing but applied to the online environment. It is very essential to monitor who is viewing and eventually purchasing your product and whether they actually belong to the customer demographic you are targeting.
Online Presence: You type in your offering name in Google/Bing and the first few results are filled with negative reviews, bad feedback and the likes. Horrible isn’t it? Having a positive online presence is extremely important. Use of search Engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Ask etc. has become a norm with many people in deciding what product to buy or service to use. This proportion is rising daily and may soon become the very first step in deciding on a new purchase. Hence it is very essential to have a very good, positive image about your organization, product/service and even you to have a good vibe about your offering.
Neat & clean website: The website is your most stable platform for client information. Your website is completely under your control and it will be considered as the most authentic source of information about your product specifications. Other sources such as review site, forums etc cannot be controlled as easily as your website. Provide an interface, which can be appreciated by your clients. The design should take in consideration your client’s computer friendliness, their requirements, the offering provided and “action” functions. “Action” functions means ease with which the customer can take steps to finally accomplish the purpose he is here for i.e. increase your business. The presentation, content and feel of the website should present an uncluttered view with a notion of systematic work culture.
Customer Interaction: With the advent of Web 2.0 and customer centric markets, it is very essential to assess your customer’s views. And if you can provide a window for them to discuss their problems or compliment your directly, you will be able to assess their needs and address their criticism immediately. Consider a negative criticism as window to new opportunity. Make your customers feel that they are a part of your offering development process and you will see the customer loyalty levels reach a new high.
Promotion Strategy: Very essential to monitor your presence in the right areas. Just spending huge amounts on web promotion may not mean getting high returns. Target a niche area and make your presence felt in places where your target audience is known to frequent. Viral Marketing, Mouth-to-mouth publicity should be started long before your start any discount schemes. It is advisable to take expert help in case you are planning to spend huge funds for online promotion since any minor mistake and all funds may be down the drain.
Monitoring, Assessment and Mitigation: As I have maintained since the beginning, your approach should be customer centric and we should try to gauge customer (esp. target customer) mood and lookout for new business opportunities/customers. Be very particular in monitoring all feedback, reviews, forums about your offerings, your competition (both direct/indirect) and overall market. Assess what your customers want, what is the need in the market, if it is being filled by anyone and are the returns good enough for you to consider in fulfilling it. Finally decide on how you are going to handle criticism. Which customers are to be appeased, which products are to be defended or accordingly modified and whether criticism is genuine and justified.
This is not the be all and end all of Internet Marketing but a few important points that must be considered when deciding on starting/improvising on your Internet Marketing Strategy. Remember unlike other marketing platforms, Internet is very interactive and the smallest mistake can possibly have massive repercussions on brand value of your offering. If you are uncomfortable or feel less confident, let the experts handle it. Happy Fishing!