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-- Can You Give Me Directions, Please?
Can You Give Me Directions, Please?
by Michel Fortin
A recent eMarketer article (see http://www.emarketer.com/estats/080999_activ.html) revealed that online orders will grow from 12% of all transactions in 1998 to 30%, among direct marketers. The study, commissioned by ActivMedia and the Direct Marketing Association, assessed how well direct marketers are doing online (rather well, thank you).
In fact, the study concluded that, because of the Internet, traditional direct marketers (i.e., the kinds that send you their coupons, offers or catalogs in the mail) are expected to see a whopping 150% growth in their overall businesses by year 2000.
In an unrelated article, Red Herring magazine says that while direct marketing may not be among the most glamorous marketing techniques used online, it is nonetheless quietly becoming "one of the leading tricks of the trade." At a recent worldwide online advertising conference, Herring reports that both marketing and advertising professionals admitted the fact that online marketing is slowly shifting from branding to direct response (see http://www.redherring.com/insider/1999/0817/news-jupiter.html).
Even more surprising -- or not so surprising, depending on which end you happen to be -- department store giant Nordstrom recently formed an online direct marketing subsidiary for their catalog sales. Explained in a recent issue of the Target Marketing Tipline ezine (see http://www.targetonline.com), Nordstrom Inc. announced that it will establish etailer Nordstrom.com (amalgamating both its current Internet and catalog efforts).
In the final analysis, institutional marketing -- the kind that only says "I'm open for business" -- may very well have its place offline. Undeniably, it may also work online for some. But aside from the considerable advertising dollars it requires and the fact that it is totally immersed in a never-ending ocean of information, "warm, fuzzy feeling" kinds of marketing online is, in the very least, very risky -- especially for small business owners.
With the Internet comes the ability to gain the attention, consent and response of a click-happy audience -- at least in some way. (Whether or not one succeeds is a whole different issue.) But nevertheless, netizens are more intimately involved with the product or company they encounter on the web, which is why direct marketing online makes all the more sense.
In a recent issue of the Internet Business Informer ezine (at http://www.ibizcenter.com), a great article stated that the principles of direct marketing apply more so online. "While there is debate on whether the web is all about direct marketing or branding," claims its editor Rick Olson, "the fact is that you probably want to elicit some kind of response from your visitor."
The bottom-line is that the Internet marketer, web designer or ebusiness owner must understand how to make effective sales presentations aimed at getting the surfer to take some kind of immediate action -- be it to buy into an offer, order a free report, subscribe to an ezine or click to another page. Beyond the obvious need for good marketing copy, there are many other aspects that a web marketer must take into consideration.
For instance, ease of navigation, proper linking, accessible forms, sales infrastructure, ecommerce capability and so on are just a few of the many preeminent components of a successful online business. In the end, they all help to lead visitors to specific outcomes and, concurrently, provide them with the necessary support in such outcomes.
As Donny Askin, founder of CommercialWare, said in a recent issue of Tipline, "E-commerce is a classic direct marketing transaction, and the awareness of this is growing" (rapidly, I might add). Therefore, ebusiness owners have a lot to learn (and gain) from direct marketers. Their visitors should -- no, make that must -- do something. And all too often however, this is what most sites unfortunately lack: A very specific, clearly defined objective.
"What exactly do you want your visitors to do?" is the ultimate question to ask. Not only must webmasters work around the answer as specifically as possible, but in order to take full advantage of the potential presented by the web they must also THINK like direct marketers. Without a response-oriented, user-driven objective, web sites will often leave their visitors clueless. And strangely enough, the Internet marketer's worst enemy is not his or her competition but in fact the visitor that cries out: "What do I do next?"
Ultimately, it is safe to conclude that an ecommerce-enabled web site is more than a mere brochure with some retail capability. It is an intimate medium. It is a relationship vehicle. And more important, it is a direct response mechanism. Even if the site's primary goal is to expand a certain brand, it should still somehow take the visitor by the hand and gently direct them to specific, favorable outcomes -- be it as simple as subscribing.
... Enter "directional" marketing.
On a lighter note, read Linda Cox's article entitled "Better Marketing Through Modern Mind-Control," in which she takes a humorous look at the differences between direct marketing and branding (see http://www.lindacox.com/a-brand.htm). While she appears to favor branding, let me ask you this: Did she get you to subscribe while you were there?
About the Author
Michel Fortin is a consultant dedicated to helping businesses turn into powerful magnets. Visit http://SuccessDoctor.com to receive a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning." He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" ezine delivered weekly to 90,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at http://SuccessDoctor.com/IMC/.
Tags: E-commerce and Internet