What is Online Marketing?
When I first came into contact with the term Online Marketing or Internet Marketing, I was eager to find out more. While there are books that touch upon this subject, I was disappointed how little information was provided online and how incomplete the information was. On the internet, Online Marketing is often coined as ‘tools, strategy or methods to promote a business online’. That’s like defining Marketing as creative ways to hand out flyers, making TV and Radio Commercials and printing stuff on Billboards. In this article I won’t focus on one perfect definition of Online Marketing, but rather go into detail what Online Marketing really is, how it relates to Marketing in general and the seven elements Online Marketing, which you can master in order to achieve Online Marketing success.
From Marketing to Online Marketing
To find one clear definition of Marketing has been a doubtful task. However, after years of debates, it is clear that Marketing revolves around providing value to the customer. Kotler and others have constantly built their definition this core principle.
When using this definition of marketing, Online marketing simply becomes the process of online communication in order to provide value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling said product or service. When searching for the term Online Marketing however, Wikipedia redirects to Online advertising, which is only one of the many elements of the whole Online Marketing process.
To make it easier to understand the world of Online Marketing, I’ve decided to define seven elements which can be used to achieve Online Marketing success.
1. Email Marketing
What it is: Email marketing is a way for companies and brands to communicate to different groups of people by sending emails. Emails are sent to potential and/or current customers with the intention of enhancing the relationship.
Making a case: One of the biggest Online media trends is the devaluation of email. According to many studies, Internet experts have called email dead and no longer relevant. As one of Erik Qualman’s Social Media Revolutions videos once quoted “Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passe” and “Some Universities have stopped distributing e-mail accounts”. There is however one big wrinkle to these theories. It all started with email! Email is the backbone of the internet. The very first online communication was an email, dating back to 1971. What do you need in order to create an Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account? An email account. Having an Google+ or YouTube account means you have Gmail*.
The take away: We can surely say that email marketing is everything but dead, just the most underrated aspect of Online Marketing. According to many Online Marketers, their email list is their most priced possession, as it is not only customised for them, but it is also their own private network of potential customers.
What it is: A website is your own personal space on the world wide web. In this space, companies and brands provide information about their corporate identity, brand awareness, news or use it as portal to different brand pages.
Making a case: Like email, websites have recently received a hit and are considered less valuable than they once were. Also very similar however, is the fact that a website is owned by you, meaning that you own all the content and have your own space Online. Having a website also means that it by fully customised according to the needs of (potential) customers. A website also provides a platform that sets the stage for customers, where their behaviour towards a brand can be monitored and measured.
The take away: The biggest mistake made by many businesses is that they often build websites that provide little or no value for its visitors. Websites therefore should have a clear goal which has to be directly communicated with the visitors, preferably through the design and navigation of the website, but also off line. With the growing amount of different devices, the importance of responsive website has increasingly grown and some larger companies have repackaged their websites into interactive mobile apps.
What it is: A blog can be viewed as a personalised or simplified version of a website, which is more focussed on opinions, in depth and up to date information. Blog are often regularly updated with new content.
Making a case: In addition to a website, a blog provides several elements which can take your Online Marketing to the next step. Firstly, the internet revolves around good content, better yet amazing content. With most websites keeping a certain structure which visitors are used to, blogs are more fluent and more interactive. A blog can not only be used to provide customers additional information about products and services, but also serves as a traffic driver to your website.
The take away: Many larger brands use blogs to create a platform for their clients to exchange information, find more details on a product or a service, or even provide third party content. For smaller business and non-profit organisation a blog also provides a more personal platform where they can engage through providing valuable information.
What it is: Search Engine Optimisation is the process of optimising your Website, Blog or content in general to approve your ranking in search results.
Making a case: Over the past decade Search Engine Optimisation have evolved into a more complexed than ever method to improve your website rankings Online. While it is easy to say that one most create relevant and quality content, websites have to be optimised both on and off the site, in order to improve their authority online.
The take away: For search engines, especially Google, authority has become more and more important. With the growing urge of Google to personalise search results, SEO has increasingly become network influenced. As a result, Search Engine Optimisation has became much more about off site optimisation then ever before.
5. Social Media
What it is: Social media can best be described as media platforms that provide the opportunity for people to interact by creating and sharing information. The development of Social Media stems from the rise of Web 2.0, where the success of website and applications relies on User-Generated Content.
Making a case: As earned media keeps getting more important and Social Media makes it easier than ever for customers to provide praise or publicly criticise companies online, there is a growing importance in online service and care. This means that organisations can no longer solely focus on broadcasting their message, but also have to listen to what the customer wants. This does not take away the fact that Social Media is a strong promotional tool to create communities, conversations and conversions, making it easier to reach more and more people online.
The take away: The world of Social Media has merely begun. We however, can expand Social Media towards Social Technology, where we don’t use Social platforms solely for promotion or marketing, but as a technology to improve organisational processes and even their vision as well.
What is it: Analytics are data patterns based on recorded information, in this case statistics of online behaviour of visitors of your website or blog, your social media fan base or your email readers.
Making a case: The biggest advantage which Online Marketing has over traditional marketing is that everything is measurable online. Furthermore, there many different tools which provide ways to gather data by companies themselves. For the first time in Marketing history, companies can actually monitor, analyse and measure their brands success, and even measure conversion to potential clients and even different sales.
The take away: When comparing online analytics to TV ratings and Radio Listeners, it is easy to conclude that online analytics are much more transparent. Of course, they are far from being both complete and standardised, and many companies have yet to figure out how to use these analytics, finding themselves in a statistics overload. However, using online analytics properly opens up a world never before seen.
7. Online Advertising
What is it: The term Online Advertising stands on itself. Google Adwords, Facebook Advertising, but also any other form of advertising online fits in the category, from web banners up to complete background advertisements or paid listings.
Making a case: For many online marketers, Online Advertising still plays the biggest role in Online Marketing. While online experts have been pushing to make the internet a more social, human space, the fact remains that online advertising has a better reputation when it comes to direct results.
The take away: Online Advertising is here to stay. While rumours about its success, the two biggest current online powerhouses (Google and Facebook) have built their business model around the concept of advertising.
Online Marketing and brand DNA
With an academic background in Urban Development and Planning, I personally believe sustainable development is only possible through development based on the current DNA of city. The concept of DNA for sustainable development however also applies to the world of business. Multiple authors have recognized the importance of understanding the role Product, Process and People within an organisation in creating Online success. Not matching your company’s operations toward your online aspiration remains the biggest sin in Online Marketing.
* Not convinced? Lets take a closer look. In 2012, on avergage, only 16% of your Facebook fans saw a post in their newsfeed organically. For many companies this percentage has dropped under the 10% as Facebook uses their Advertising platform to provide companies with more reach. In most industries, between 20-40% of emails sent are opened. Aside from that, due to the growing amount of inbox space, people often don’t delete their mail. As a result, previous mails will remain in their inbox and will show up in their search results even a year after the mail was send, upping the SEO value of an email, if distributed correctly.