As more customers shop online, finding new ways to reach them becomes more crucial than ever. The Internet's global reach has minimized the need for costly ad campaigns, while providing opportunities for a more focused marketing approach. Putting up a website is not enough, however. A company's online campaign must clearly communicate the company's philosophy, products and services, or customers will go elsewhere. Without a comprehensive, specific marketing approach, businesses will experience sluggish sales and uncertain profits.
The Internet's reach helps companies such as online grocers determine when people visit their websites, what they bought and the quality of the companies' service. Using this information, the companies know if their customer is new or must be welcomed back after a long absence. This kind of flexibility helps companies change their strategies instantly to meet customers' needs.
Minimal advertising cost is a top advantage associated with Internet marketing. Local telephone directory ads could cost $20,000, and reach up to 300,000 people, Lee Roberts wrote in his February 2004 "Web News Pro" article. By contrast, a well-developed website costs about $6,000, with a global reach of potentially one billion people, Roberts says. This kind of reach allows companies to market products and services for a fraction of their original cost.
Simply a website will not entice customers to visit, let alone buy products and services, according to Roberts. Businesses must also incorporate elements such as search engine optimization, so customers find them more readily. While Internet marketing has greatly reduced the effort of reaching consumers, traditional outlets like radio and TV ads should not be abandoned. Realistic business owners understand that combining these elements offers the best chance of success.
Negative comments spread rapidly over the Internet, making it crucial for businesses to respond likewise. For example, if customers rate an online grocer's excessive packaging as its most negative feature, the company can respond by overhauling its production process.
Customers who shop online are looking to fulfill extremely specific needs, according to small-business consultant Janet Attard. A website that sends customers to a homepage or multiple listings of similar products will invite them to go elsewhere, Attard says in her article "Internet Marketing Mistakes That Cripple Profits" on NASDAQ.com. Many companies also fail to clearly post phone numbers or other contact information on their website. Such mistakes can lose up to one-third of a company's customer base, Attard says.