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Marketing Views

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Zsolt Kerekes - news editor

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - July 2008
There's a game which I sometimes play with marketers when they talk to me on the phone.

And in the many years or that I've been an online publisher (since 1996) it illustrates one of the things which hasn't changed on the web.

Customers (mostly) search for and learn about new companies and products in a different way to you.

If you sell an IT product or service on the web and go about searching for your own company and competitors - you already know what your company is called, what your product is called and what common terms / acronyms will find your company in a web search.

Potential customers may not know any of those things to start with.

They might get to know about your kind of product or company through articles or news stories.

If their interest grows they'll go to sites that talk a lot about similar things. The more they learn - before they come across you - the harder your task will be to convert them. Because their initial raw unformed opinions rapidly transform into informed expert views, expectations and brand awareness within minutes of researching the new topic online in a trusted context.

If, after all that, they do get to your website the experience for new visitors is often off putting.

You'd be surprised how many companies want to advertise a product that is barely (if at all) mentioned on their web site. Hiding your best selling product in a maze that can't be reached from your home page is common too.

You may argue that the ad takes the visitor to your chosen landing page. I'll counter that by saying that an intelligent customer (who hasn't heard of your company before) will often independently go to your website to get another view of what you do. After doing that - they may not be able to retrace their steps to find the original ad with the magic landing page url they need.

It happens with PR too. I follow up thousands of new product press releases to find that there isn't anything about the recently launched product on the vendor's website at all. Having it there days after it first appears on a trade publication news page is too late to do most good.

Or how about this? Does your website say what your company does? Or who your ideal customers are?

Visitors find it helpful to compare that kind of statement with themselves and their own needs. But it's not unusual for me to see company descriptions that haven't changed since the founders did their first business plan. The company profile text is so vague (or all encompassing) that it actually says nothing at all.

If the stuff on your web site doesn't look like it has anything to do with the ad messages or PR that you've been spreading around the web - then a high proportion of the visitors you get will lose interest at that point.

An intelligent buyer should get a good feeling that they've come to the right place when they get to your site. All too often they just start a futile navigational nightmare and wonder if the link took them to the right place.

When you start an ad campaign you should make sure that you invest at least as much content in your own web site to support the ad - as you spend on the advertising and related PR.

The web sites you should be investing more time with - are those which your customers and future potential customers use to learn about your industry.

Most marketers make the mistake of thinking that search-engine advertising or optimization are the start and the end of everything they need to concern themselves with. Tick those boxes and the web marketing is done...

My belief is that the surfers using the ad words and search terms you spend most of your money and brainpower on - are not potential customers at all - but are more likely to be your competitors in the same business - trying to research and improve their own web marketing.

This is confirmed by marketers who admit they get lots of traffic from their search engine ads - but relatively little business.

Find out where your customers invest their time learning about your market - and that's where you should put effort too. Customers search differently to you. And in this case the customer is always the right model to follow.
  • Branding Strategies in the SSD Market - Few people cared much about the solid state disk market during most of the first 20 years I reported on it. In 2010 it became a multibillion dollar market. In 2019 it could be worth $100 billion / year. A lot more companies which had never even heard of this market until recently are starting to take notice.
  • PR Strategies: Remember, the web has no memory! - Can you remember what your home page looked like back in 1996? Maybe you think that's not important right now. Like global warming, you suspect there may be some problems accumulating somewhere because of all this web stuff, but it's only when your house gets flooded, you really start to believe in it.
  • The 4 Seasons of Publicity - Building an All-Year Publicity Machine - In this age of immediacy (only a few seconds separate a Matt Drudge or a CNN from writing a story and putting it before millions), it's easy to forget that, for many print publications and TV shows, it can be weeks -- and sometimes months -- before a completed story sees the light of day.
8 years later (2016) - how effective are linkedin and twitter for B2B awareness?

One of the biggest bottlenecks to future growth in the market I care about is the same as it's always been - education and comprehension. How do you get the message across to someone you meet online for the first time? - is anyone really listening any more?

3 years later (2011):- here's another article on how customers search

Excuse Me While I Have A Ranking Report Rant is an amusing (but serious) article by Conrad Saam- published in February 2011 - on

I suspect that many of you too get thrilled when you see your own site appear top of the page for a search term which real customers looking for your product would never think of using. the article

  • Press Release Errors I see every day - Every month I have to disregard thousands of press releases, which vendors have paid good money to their agencies to write and distribute. Here are some of the common reasons why.
  • The Golden Keys of E-Commerce - Domain names are no longer small issues to be handled by the booming logo-centric-slogan-happy-agencies or web-tech-teams.
  • Green Storage - my new year resolution for 2008 is to see how many months I can go without running a story including this abused term.
  • Fighting Linkrot - this article, written by web usability sage Jakob Nielsen, is just as relevant today as it was back in 1998 when he first wrote it.
  • Think of Web Ads as Signposts - they can lead the right people to your destination. But give them a credible message so that the brain follows the mouse click for sound business reasons. Ideally the ad should also signal to the wrong type of customer they can filter themselves out at this point and not waste their time and yours by following this path.
  • Venture Capital Funds in Storage - If you're starting a new storage company where can you go to get money? - I was asked that question so many times that in 2000 I started a list of which VCs were giving how much to whom. It lists the failures too. It's important to have a good story for your prospective VC if your business idea sounds similar to an earlier one that tanked.
  • 7 laws of direct marketing - The late Isaac Asimov managed to write volumes of entertaining stories which revolved around his three fundamental laws of robotics... The stories showed that complex behaviour can result from apparently simple origins.
  • Rethinking the Banner Ad - There are 2 sets of viewers who see you banner ad, and you should cater for both. The most important set, are the 94% to 99.5% who are typically going to see the banner, but not click on it at that moment in time. What impression are they left with after seeing the banner?
  • Where B2B IT Web Advertising Works Best, and Why - I often talk to B2B computer advertisers who after disappointment with search-engine advertising ask me why advertising in a portal should be any better? They get hits, from their key word advertising but not much business.
  • Why Reader to Advertiser Ratios are Important to Advertisers - Another way to apply this kind of ratio is to look at expos. If you divide the total number of visitors by the total number of booths... That can give you numbers which are scary, especially when you factor in all the costs. So don't do it if you're the nervous type.
  • Smashing the Myth of the Press Release - Publicity "gurus" are springing up all over the Internet touting the press release as the answer to all marketing ills. Just knock out a release, mass e-mail it to journalists, sit back and wait for Oprah to call. It's a cruel joke. Here's the reality:
  • The Mysteries and Future of Websites - Either your customers can find you easily or you're simply lost. No amount of money can create a bounce to your expensive websites or your big budget branding in these times, except your alpha-structure of your URLs.
  • Why Batching Up Press Releases is a Bad Idea for the Web - When it comes to delivering physical goods, it's a good idea to batch up several items and send them in one package. It saves time and money. However when it comes to issuing press releases, this is almost always a bad idea. FAQs for connected IT marketers

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