As the internet grows and more and more people are relying on it when it comes to things like purchasing products or finding new restaurants, companies need to keep up with the times by developing internet marketing strategies. Traditional marketing methods are becoming less effective on their own and moving into the internet is vital if a business wants to continue to be successful. But what is an internet marketing strategy and how do you go about making one?
Internet Marketing Defined
Internet marketing is broadly defined as anything a company does to market their services and/or products by using online or digital methods. The exact definition may vary depending on whom you ask but everyone can agree that internet marketing is a lot more than just putting up advertisements on the web or having an online shop.
Startups and small businesses often use internet marketing as a means of building their brand and getting the word out that they exist in the first place. Internet marketing strategies also include things like researching a company’s competition or identifying their target audience. To develop a solid internet marketing strategy, a company needs to think about far more than just paying for ads or selling its products and services on a website.
You may also see internet marketing referred to as “digital marketing”. This can be confusing as they do not actually mean the same thing, though they are related. Knowing the difference between these terms is important when developing an internet marketing strategy. Digital marketing refers to any marketing methods that use digital platforms, devices, and channels. You do not necessarily have to be using internet marketing to use digital marketing, though online marketing is considered a type of digital marketing.
Digital marketing is really a term that includes many types of marketing, not just the internet. For example, you could run a marketing campaign that relies on text messages. Technology is involved in this type of marketing and text messaging is considered a digital platform but the internet is not involved.
You could also advertise on a mobile game or app. These games may be linked to the internet (people might need to be on WIFI to use them, for example) but they are separate from the internet at the same time and so this type of advertising would not be considered online marketing. Traditional TV ads are also considered a method of digital marketing. To sum up: internet marketing is a type of digital marketing but digital marketing isn’t necessarily internet marketing.
Why Internet Marketing Is Important
Why go through all the trouble of developing an online marketing strategy? Many companies have successfully started up and maintained a business without the internet as it is a fairly recent invention compared to newspapers, television, the radio, etc. The internet revolutionized the world at large and internet marketing has revolutionized the world of marketing. It is now extremely difficult to build up a brand without at least some form of internet presence (a website and email at the bare minimum). But why is this?
One of the first types of big online marketing strategies was affiliate marketing. This is a type of marketing where a company has “affiliates” that help them to advertise their product. This is, in some ways, similar to word-of-mouth marketing but the affiliate receives a kickback from the company for spreading the word about the product.
The way it works is fairly simple. An affiliate will advertise for the company using online methods, typically by posting blog articles about the company and its products or services and by posting links to the company website or to specific products on their website or blog page. They might also have unique affiliate codes that people can use to sign up for an account on the company’s website. Both the website links and the affiliate codes are tied to a specific affiliate.
When a potential customer clicks a link from the affiliate’s website or uses their code to make an account, the company can see where their lead came from. If that potential customer then ends up purchasing something from the company, the affiliate receives something in return for the lead. This is typically a percentage of the sale but can also be free products, discounts, or “points” that can be redeemed for products.
This changed the whole face of marketing. Companies were now purposefully targeting customers who had an established online presence and community of people who were paying attention to them and then using these customers to market their products for them. Affiliate marketing is still used and there are many companies whose entire business is based around helping people become affiliates for other companies. It can be a very profitable venture for the affiliates while also boosting product sales for the companies.
People are quickly becoming online creatures and they are relying on the internet more and more when it comes to making decisions about what products to buy or where to go for services they need. If you are looking for a massage therapist, for example, you can easily type “massage therapist near me” into a search engine and be able to instantly view dozens of results. You can then narrow these results down by viewing websites to see what services these massage therapists offer and look up reviews left online by customers.
The massage therapist you end up choosing might also have an online scheduler you can use in order to make an appointment, no phone call or waiting necessary. The internet makes things faster in many ways and it offers more information than you would be able to get elsewhere.
In the past, if you were wanting to buy a pair of shoes and weren’t sure how durable they were, for example, the only way to truly get a review about them was to speak to someone who had already purchased the same type of shoes and used them. Nowadays, you can review hundreds of reviews about those shoes and use the experience of multiple people in order to make a more informed decision. Internet marketing is important because the internet is what people are using more and more to make decisions about what products and services to purchase.
Advantages of Internet Marketing
The main goal of any marketing strategy is to sell products and services. One pro to internet marketing is that there are many low-cost ways of utilizing it. Influencer advertising and affiliate marketing are two of those low-cost ways. Giving up a small percentage of your profits only after a purchase has been made or sending a few free products to a YouTuber don’t end up costing your company a lot in the long run.
Having a low-budget web series based around your product is another fun and inexpensive way to get the word out about your product. These types of advertising are also available to consumers 24/7 and can reach people all around the world, unlike localized TV ads or billboards. Essentially, internet marketing allows you to reach more people quickly while paying less.
Types of Internet Marketing Strategies
So you’ve decided you need to develop an internet marketing strategy. Now what? You need to decide what types of online marketing and marketing approaches you want to use. There are many and not all types suit all companies so it is important to do your research and try out many methods before settling on a solid plan.
One type of internet marketing is affiliate marketing, as mentioned above. Another type of internet marketing is influencer marketing. This is a relatively new method of marketing and can be extremely successful if used correctly. This method is used in tandem with other methods of online marketing such as content marketing and social media marketing as it doesn’t work as a stand-alone marketing strategy.
Influencer marketing is a lot like celebrity endorsements online instead of movie stars, the people teaming up with the company are YouTube stars, popular bloggers, Instagram users, etc. People who have large online presences, who make videos, post pictures, or write blogs, can be very influential when it comes to the choices their followers make in regard to purchasing products.
One reason this is such a popular method is also because influencers can be nearly anyone from anywhere. Influential people exist everywhere and if you find the right ones, you can easily use them to help you build your brand. If you are a budding fashion designer, there are fashion bloggers, Instagram models and photographers, etc. out there who would be happy to work with you. If you sell hand-made figurines, there are people who would love to showcase them to their followers for you.
As far as methods go, non-linear marketing can be a great strategy to incorporate into your online marketing plan. Non-linear marketing is defined as being a strategy where you have your brand participate in a potential customer’s life and therefore create recognition and preference for the brand. What does this look like?
One very famous example of non-linear online marketing was one Burger King used. While marketing their Tender Crisp chicken sandwich, they created a website where you could go and give commands to a chicken mascot. People could go on the site and make the mascot do things such as moon walking or lifting weights. It quickly went viral and sales of the sandwich rapidly increased by the week.
There are many other examples of large companies using non-linear marketing. Essentially, you get the customer to interact with the brand in ways that are fun and exciting. Playing games on apps created as marketing campaigns, for example, can be very entertaining. The customer doesn’t have to pay for anything and they are choosing to interact with the advertising method because it’s fun and they don’t necessarily have to purchase anything from the company in order to enjoy the game.
However, the next time they are looking to purchase whatever it is your company sells, they will already have an association in their head between your company and those good feelings that come from entertaining games or viral websites and videos.
Whatever methods you use in your marketing strategy, you may want to incorporate data-driven marketing in with them. Data-driven marketing is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: you use research and data to spot market trends, see what your target customer’s needs are, and look at historical data to help anticipate what customers might move on to next.
One example of this is using demographic data in order to send more personalized and reliable marketing messages to your target audience. This can be done in many ways, such as a cable company sending fliers to people who have recently moved that include a link to a unique version of their website that is made up specifically for those who have moved homes and are looking for new service providers.
You can also look at the behavior of customers and send email campaigns in relation to that behavior. Customers will do things such as create accounts on websites and then not end up purchasing any products. They may also fill their online cart and then not continue on to actually buy the things they’ve placed in the cart. An email campaign related to this would trigger an email to go out to these customers after a certain amount of time. You could send an email if they haven’t logged in or purchased anything within a couple of days offering to chat with them about the product needs or send a discount code to entice them into finishing that online shopping trip. Your campaign is more personalized based on what the customer does.
Move Forward with Online Marketing
Internet marketing strategies are as varied as any traditional marketing strategy. Not all companies can utilize marketing through popular YouTubers successfully just like not all companies can utilize radio ads successfully. What methods you ultimately use will depend on your specific company, your target audience, and what your product or service is. It’s clear that internet marketing is important and that is not going to change any time soon. Now that you know the answer to “What is an internet marketing strategy?”, it’s time to get out there and start developing one so that you can join the future of marketing.