If you've been looking high and low for the secret to Web success, today is your lucky day. These "18 Web-Marketing Concepts That Make a Difference" may just give you an edge on your competition—or an edge, period.
So if the same old left-brain thinking that everybody else is using just doesn't get you where you want to be, try these creative concepts on for size.
1. Think audiences not markets
What's your market? Hire a consultant to help you with your Web-business problems, and one of the first questions he or she will ask is, What's your market? How about 18-34-year-old, single male college graduates with a dog named Spot; or maybe 45-59-year-old married women who hate their husbands and can't get their adult children to move out of the house. Maybe, just maybe, they're asking the wrong question.
The Web isn't about markets, it's about audiences. Audiences need to be entertained, enlightened, and engaged; and if your Web site doesn't, you're never going to achieve what you want.
Time to rethink how you're delivering your marketing message. Start treating Web visitors like an audience, not a market, and you might just find what it takes to be successful on the Web.
2. Think people not customers
You know all those visitors you attract to your Web site with your brilliant search engine optimization schemes? How many actually purchase anything? Stop treating visitors as if they are already customers and start treating them like what they are—people. That's right, people. You know, the two-legged funny creatures with wants, needs, desires, and maybe even a few bucks to spend.
Customers are always looking for a deal and they're leery of Web sites that only want to take their hard-earned cash. Treat your Web visitors like people who can satisfy their wants, needs, and desires with your assistance... and guess what? Maybe it will make a difference: one small step for Web credibility, one giant leap for Web success.
3. Think experiences not features
Bought any good features lately? Didn't think so. You would think the way business pushes them that features are exactly what people are looking for; but nobody buys features, they don't even buy solutions (doesn't that whole solution provider nonsense really get to you after a while?).
What people really buy are experiences: hopefully, positives ones. Whether it's soft ice cream or a new accounting program, what people are paying for is the experience your product or service provides.
Does your Web site offer an experience? Does it explain the experience your product or service delivers? If it doesn't, then you really haven't got anything anybody wants.
4. Think emotion not logic
Think you're a logical person, always making rational decisions based on practical criteria, and bottom-line results? So tell me what was the functional thinking that went into the purchase of those leather pants you bought last year, or that 60-inch plasma television you bought just to watch the big game?
Let's get real. You make purchasing decisions based on what you want, and then justify them with seemingly sensible rationalizations, just like everybody else. So stop trying to appeal only to the practical, logical aspects of bean-counter sales, and start pushing the feel-good aspects of emotional marketing.
If you're trying to appeal to an audience that gets its only satisfaction out of acquiring the most features for the least cost, then you're marketing to the wrong audience.
5. Think memories not promotions
Most animals live in the moment, whereas human beings live in the past. Our here and now and our plans for the future are based on our experiences, our histories, and our memories.
We take pictures of our kids, holidays, and special events; we commemorate birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, and milestones of all kinds. Even the significance of our prized possessions is centered on the fact that those mere objects represent memories of the people, places, and events that shaped our lives.
Real marketing, the kind that creates long-term clients and customer relationships, is not about coupons, sale promotions, or deep discounts; it's about delivering memories.
6. Think marketing not SEO
Okay, here's one you've heard from us before: Think marketing—not search engine optimization.
Sure you've got to drive as many people to your Web site as possible, but if your marketing message is so confused, unfocused, and hard to comprehend because of all the keyword density and SEO tricks, then what have you really accomplished other than wasting people's time? And people get really upset when you waste their time.
7. Think stickiness not hits
It's not about how many hits you get on your Web site, it's about how long people stay. If visitors remain on your site long enough to get your marketing message, then you must have said something worth listening to; and if visitors get the message, your site has done its job.
If your Web site delivers the message, then you can expect the email inquiries and phone calls to start flowing, but it's still up to you and your sales staff to close the sale: People close sales, not Web sites.
8. Think stories not pitches
Did you hear the one about the farmer's daughter and the search engine optimizer? Stories, everyone loves stories. In fact, before the invention of the Gutenberg press, oral storytelling was the way knowledge got passed down from one generation to the next, and how news was sent from one region to another.
Now that we have this multimedia Web environment, we can continue the tradition of real people who deliver creative audio and video presentations that capture the imagination and drive home the marketing message so your audience won't forget who you are.
Nothing informs, engages, and entertains like a good story: Sounds to me like one heck of a way to sell to an audience desperate for meaningful communication.
9. Think focus not confusion
There you go again, telling everyone who will listen all the wonderful things you and your company can do. Trouble is, telling them all those things just confuses them.
What is the product or service that is most important to your company, the one you are determined to sell to your audience? That's the one you want to talk about. That's the one you want to devote your marketing effort to promoting. That's the one you want people to think about when they hear your name or see your logo.
Focus your communication ,else your message will just be a forgettable, incomprehensible blur.
10. Think campaigns not ads
Isolated one-time advertisements are like one-night-stands: exciting for a while, but ultimately unfulfilling and devoid of meaning. Your audience is looking for marriage, not a short-term fling.
Your marketing has to woo your visitors with long-term campaigns that tell your story and deliver your focused message; audiences expect to be courted and counseled with meaningful communication. And that takes time and commitment.
If you're spending money on just ads, you might as well be throwing that money down the drain. There is a better way. So if you're looking for a long-term relationship with your audience, think campaigns—not ads.
11. Think message not hype
What message are you delivering to your online visitors? Are you telling them you've got the best product, at the best price, with the best staff, and world-class customer service? Is that what you saying? Guess what? Nobody cares, because nobody believes you.
There is only one way to show people you're the best and that is to prove it; but here's the catch, you can't prove it until they become customers. Whoops.
OK, so what's the solution? How about a real marketing message that speaks to what your audience really wants. It's not about you, it's about them.
12. Think personality not banality
Does your Web site just lie there like a lox: you know, that cold, dead fish that often comes with a bagel? No personality, just more of the same tedious, dull, dreary, mind-numbing, tiresome, lackluster, monotonous stuff everybody else has. Boring!
This is the new Web, so if you can't get with it you'd better get out, because you're wasting your time and everybody else's.
You're so worried about downloading times that you forgot to put anything on your site worth seeing or hearing. Check your logs. If people are jumping ship faster than rats on a burning ship, it's time to try something new—like some compelling content.
13. Think branding not copyrights
Hey, I love the Beatles. I grew up with them, and I have all their records—yea, records, like vinyl, not CDs. And guess what, I've also got a Mac, in fact I've got a bunch of them, not to mention iPods and other assorted Apple gizmos and gadgets. And you know something? I've never once got John, Paul, George, or Ringo confused with Steve Jobs. Amazing!
Worry just a little less about all that small-print stuff and more on building a memorable brand that people will remember, and that nobody will mistake for some johnny-come-lately imposter.
14. Think positioning not slogan
It's funny how people have a position on almost everything: You name the issue and people will have a definite opinion on what they think, except when it comes to their businesses. Just because you have a cute slogan that you print under your logo doesn't mean you own a position in your audience's minds.
It seems businesses can't stand to make a definitive statement about who they are and what they do. Why is that? Afraid they'll lose a customer, I guess; but if people don't understand exactly what you do, and why they should be doing business with you, then they're never going to be customers anyway.
No company can be all things to all people, and companies that try... never go anywhere. Tell people who you are and what you do, and forget about all the other stuff; it just gets in the way.
15. Think sensory appeal not cents appeal
Do you want people to sit up and take notice of what you have to say? Do you want people to actually remember what you're telling them? If so, you'd better appeal to their senses, and we're talking about sights and sounds.
Deliver all your juicy, got-to-have content in an audio and video presentation that will stick in people's heads.
If all you're doing is appealing to their desire to spend less, then maybe they aren't the customers you're looking for anyway. Nobody can afford to sell for less all the time, every time.
16. Think identity not logos
Is your company the equivalent of the invisible man? You're on the Web, but nobody cares because you're not saying anything worth listening to; and if they do see you, you are instantly forgettable.
You've got to have an identity, a personality, an image—and there is no better way to create that identity than with a video of a real person delivering your marketing message in an entertaining, memorable manner.
17. Think entertainment not biz-speak
Speaking of entertaining... you cannot engage, enlighten, or entertain if everything you present sounds and looks like it came from some b-school textbook or one of those self-help courses on direct marketing guaranteed to make you a millionaire in only three weeks.
Every business has a story to tell, and it can be presented in a compelling way with a little imagination and creativity. And yes, even B2B businesses can rise above the mundane and deadly boring if they take the time and make the effort.
18. Think communication not copy
Last but not least, let's all remember that Web sites are about communication. If you've got nothing to say, nothing to offer, or are afraid to say what you can do for your audience, then how do you expect to be successful?
Filling your Web pages with keyword-dense prose and instantly forgettable sales copy is not going to win the day.
Whether you are presenting your case in text, audio, or video, it had better be interesting and enlightening—even text can be entertaining if written with style and attitude.
When Web sites fail, they fail because they do not communicate a realistic, believable, convincing marketing message.
A note to Web site adventurers
If you missed the discovery of the "Lost Brad Tapes," follow the adventures of fellow Web site entrepreneur Brad and how he tried to find the secret to Web site success. It's time well wasted.