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Marketing Challenge: Two Ways to Engage Prospects Online

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For over a year, there's been lots of chattering about Web 2.0 and how the message affects marketing.

The term came to life when Dale Dougherty of O'Reilly Media brainstormed with MediaLive's Craig Cline. Few agree on the meaning of Web 2.0, but most agree the Web has taken a leap lately.

If nothing else, many agree the Web is still maturing. It's changing from "I go get" to "come to me," says Thomas Vander Wal.

Hype or not, the thoughts and ideas behind Web 2.0 contain the meat of the message. The Web is no longer static and one-way. Instead, visitors play a role. Users participate and connect to each other through services as opposed to Web sites.

So what does this mean for online marketing? Readers provide two insights in response to the challenge below.


This Week's Marketing Challenge

How can you help clients switch from old to new online marketing?

A "traditional" marketing company has decided to embrace "new" marketing techniques in order to create buzz about its product through the Internet. As the company's consultant, I have pushed Web site interactivity to engage prospective consumers in conversations.

The business leaders are suddenly "in love" with the idea of a blog because they hear the word bantered about but don't realize the commitment it takes. I think this might be too big of an embrace and isn't right for their needs.

Can you help me understand the criteria by which tools such as blogs, forums and RSS feeds can be judged as appropriate for a company looking to spread the word and educate consumers about its brand? How do you help businesses bring in the new? Should I just give them what they want, even if the trend isn't right for them? Or should I stick to my guns and explain that every technology has its place?

—Consultant

OK, we agree the Web is maturing. But what should we do with the knowledge? Two things:

1. Give users more control.

2. Use social media tools to engage.

Give users more control

Kevin Jerge, in business development at ThePort Network, Inc., sums up exactly what users want. "They want to be in control of their Web experience. They want personally relevant content and information at their fingertips. They do not want to surf to Web sites anymore."

Next Marketing Challenge

How do you deliver on-the-go marketing?

Click here to offer your advice or here to ask a question.

Think about the Web sites you visit. What do you do? Just read? Or do the sites deliver content based on your reading history? Are you drawn to sites that engage? The world of marketing knows that to sell products and services today—you must customize materials to the prospect's preferences. Web sites and online marketing efforts are no different. They deliver content customers want and let them manage it.

Use the social media tools to engage

Giving users control naturally leads to the creation of tools that involve and connect people online. Now that they have control, engage them to build trust and credibility.

Social tools include wikis, social networks, blogs, podcasts, vodcasts and forums. But which tool should you use? An article at LifeHack.org explores these social media and explains which ones work well in certain situations.

Too many tools exist—no question. Accept that you don't need to use every type of tool out there. Find the ones the best serve your market. Successful marketers research these tools and make them part of their marketing strategy, not an afterthought. Furthermore, the tools should complement and not replace current and future campaigns.

Jerge wraps up the topic nicely:

The companies that "get it" are employing these tools to let their community members, fans, and/or interested parties interact on a new level with their brand. Harnessing your community at any level provides invaluable customer information and market research at a great ROI for the company. In the near future, key metrics will measure engagement and influence factors.

The type of approach and entry strategy are the real keys to success. Positioning the technology and managing your clients' expectations are also important pieces in deploying this new media as part of an overall marketing strategy. It takes a commitment in time and effort to build and sustain an on-line engagement model for a brand. The real question that the clients need to hear the answer to is: "How are these new tools going to help me reach my stated business goals, both in the short- and long-term?"

Next Marketing Challenge: Can You Help?

How can we best take our marketing mobile?

As the number of Internet-enabled mobile devices grows, more owners use them. This has led to much discussion about mobile marketing and its potential. We believe it's time to take mobile marketing seriously. Of course, it depends on our audience. But we want to know whether we should invest the time to understand and pursue mobile marketing, and convince clients to take this route, or wait a little longer because it isn't ready. What should we do?

—CEO

If you have a general situation or question needing a few hundred brains for ideas, 250,000 MarketingProfs readers are ready to deliver their thoughts to resolve your challenge. Share your question, and you'll get a chance to win a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.


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Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.

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