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Poor Eddie the e-marketer has been plagued by errors in judgment all his life.

From always picking the longest line at the tollbooth to buying lots of dot-com stocks right before the bubble burst, he has constantly struggled with making the right choices. From disagreeing whether a car actually needs oil changes every 3,000 miles to insisting that the eight-track is going to make a comeback, Eddie has bumbled through life perplexed.

One area that particularly suffers is his e-marketing efforts.

You see, Eddie recently got himself a new Web site for his business. Unfortunately, he's been trying in vain to turn it into a vehicle for getting leads and making sales. He's confused. He's dazed. He thrashes about lost in a maze.

Although he at least understands the importance of e-marketing for driving traffic to his site, he's like a hamster running on a wheel, wasting energy and getting nowhere. Let's take a look at a few of the more typical e-marketing errors Eddie regularly makes—and what he should do instead.

Treat the Web as a different medium

The other day, Eddie's business partner, Betty, showed him a recent half-page ad they ran in one of their industry's magazines. Eddie, excited at how pretty the pictures were, wanted it up on their Web site pronto.

Did he alter it in any way before they posted it to the site? Did he add a specific call to action hyperlink in it? Did he optimize the large print graphics so they would download fast in people's browsers?

Nope. He just took the ad, as is, and posted it. Eddie has never been able to grasp the idea that traditional marketing and e-marketing, while related, are not the same thing. What works in print doesn't always work online.

Why? Different mediums require different approaches. Look for Eddie's static magazine ad in his first TV commercial, just the motionless ad on the screen for 30 seconds. Riveting.

The Web is interactive. Site visitors can click buttons, fill out forms, post immediate comments in forums or blogs.

When Eddie was having his site built, he really just wanted to have a way to talk about his business. He wanted to tell the world how great his company was and the exciting history of its formation. This is called brochure-ware. It's just taking a company brochure, posted online, with a few links added.

To say that Eddie is underutilizing the Web is like saying the ocean is mildly wet. The Web is extremely powerful and businesses have a choice of taking advantage of its power, or just scratching the surface with simple brochure-ware. It's similar to buying a tank, climbing in and lifting the hatch only to shoot spitballs at the enemy.

If you have that kind of power, use it.

Ask your customers what they want

Since Eddie doesn't really grasp the interactive nature of the Web, he guesses what his potential customers want and need.

One day, in a meeting, Eddie was scratching his head, staring up at the ceiling and saying, "Gee, if there was only a way to figure out what our customers want, a way we could get in their heads, and a way to reach enough of them to get a really clear picture, hmm…?"

Thankfully, a timid but sharp junior associate raised her hand and suggested that they just ask their customers their opinions and needs directly, and do it online—where they could ask a whole bunch of them.

Eddie jumped at the idea. Finally, he was going make the right choice. They created an html form with 40 of the most important questions he could think of, and posted a link on their homepage called "Customer Survey."

Offer incentives

Only three people ever filled out the survey. Eddie was dumfounded. What went wrong? He was hoping for hundreds. The problem was that Web users are not patient and generally don't like to fill out forms—especially long ones. Even more importantly, they don't like to do something for nothing.

If you were jostling your way through a crowded store in a big rush and a bored teenage clerk asked you to fill out a survey of 40 questions but wasn't offering anything in return, how likely would it be that you'd do it?

A more effective approach for Eddie would have been to narrow down his list of questions to four instead of forty, and offer a coupon for 10% off any online purchase in return for filling it out.

If you want to create leads using your site, offer something for free and require your visitors to give you a bit of information first. They'll be much more likely to respond if in return they get something they perceive is valuable. Give the people what they want.

Regularly study your Web site statistics

Another area in which that Eddie seems to miss the e-marketing boat is analysis. He doesn't have time for looking at all those pesky Web statistics. He can't be bothered with analyzing the number of visitors who come to his site, or how they got there, or where they go once they're there. He's blind to his e-marketing campaigns' successes and failures.

It's like always ignoring your checking account balance and then despairingly wondering where all your money went each week. What's worse, because Eddie ignores the numbers, he has no useful information to help plan his next campaign.

Numbers help in life.

A jumbo jet is off course 90% of time. It reaches its destination successfully by constantly checking the data on its exact position and continuously making the appropriate adjustments until it lands on target.

Likewise, an e-marketing objective can be best reached by analyzing the data and making the necessary modifications. For example, if your target is a thousand visitors a week, then look at your Web site statistics and learn where the majority of your visitors are coming from. Discover what type of site, link or search engine is doing a lot of the referring. Then adjust your time and budget accordingly.

It's been rumored around the office that Eddie sometimes locks himself in his office and counts his new Web site's hit counter, prancing around in jubilation each time the counter goes up by one. Yet he hates to hunker down and look at all the numbers, all the visitors, all the referrals—and then conduct a meaningful analysis to help understand the past and better plan for the future.

Since Eddie hates looking at his site statistics, he has no idea how well his last email marketing campaign went. He sent out 5,000 emails to a rented list and then asked his salespeople if they got any more phone calls that day. That's like a television network executive asking his employees if they happened to see that their neighbors' TV sets were on the night before to determine whether the new show did well.

Hey, Eddie, I have an idea: check your Web stats for page views, and you'll know exactly how successful your email was!

* * *

Poor Eddie the erroneous e-marketer....

Is he condemned to sub-par performances in life and business?

Not necessarily. If he tries to learn from his mistakes, if he starts to treat the Web differently than he does print or any other medium, he'll start to see results. If he uses more of the Web's power and potential, tapping into its interactivity and offering easy ways for his site visitors to communicate with him, and if he offers incentives to motivate his visitors to take action, then maybe, just maybe, he may not be doomed after all.

Unfortunately, after choosing the longest line at the tollbooth again, his car's engine seized from idling and poor oil maintenance. So to pass the time waiting for the tow truck, he popped in an eight-track cassette, flipped open his cell phone and purchased some more Enron stock.

Editor's Note: Jason O'Connor is the MarketingProfs expert who will be leading our next virtual seminar on how to increase your power of one-to-one, permission-based marketing. Click here for more information.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason OConnor is president of Oak Web Works (www.oakwebworks.com). Reach him at jason@oakWebworks.com.