August 5, 2010
Before I decided on the title for this article I wrote down a list of options: how to engage an audience, how to affect change, and how to alter perceptions and change attitudes. All of which are valid, and all of which are important to you as a business owner or marketing manager.
The trouble is, most busy, results-oriented business owners and managers want quick, simple answers to complex marketing questions that involve psychological and sociological issues. Buying a mobile phone, makeup, or a car is more complicated than which option provides the most features at the cheapest cost. Even if that was someone’s intent, it’s a purchasing strategy that is defeated by the myriad of confusing and conflicting feature packages offered: you can get this with that, but not that with this, unless you get the other thing you don’t want, and of course whatever you do want costs a lot more. To clarify the situation you can always consult the specifications with the help of an engineer to explain them to you, or you could read some user-generated consumer reports that were probably written by some paid shill or someone with way too much time on their hands. As a last resort you could just buy the one that comes in the nicest color.
What gets lost in all the paradox of choice, technological hype, and fad-marketing confusion is no matter what you sell, tanks or toilet paper, it’s people who buy it, even if those people work for mega corporations that order in container-load quantities. People are frustrating after all, it’s hard enough negotiating where to go for dinner with your friends, so what chance do you have of convincing strangers to part with their hard earned cash. As a result blogs and newsletters present a steady diet of search engine optimization, social networking, and link building tactics with some mobile marketing thrown-in. It’s not that these things aren’t important marketing tactics, it’s just that they are tactics not strategy, and in order for companies to maximize their marketing impact and sales, they must implement a broader more complete marketing approach that deals with the issues that trigger buying decisions and customer loyalty.
A System’s Approach To Web Marketing Development
There are three reasons why people use the Web: access, content, and communication. These are the critical elements needed to build a Web-based business. The Web has become vital to business because that’s where the customers are, both business-to-consumer and business-to-business. The Web is important because it provides access to a huge international audience. And the reason the audience is there is because the Web is the largest depository of content the world has ever known. All of which wouldn’t be of much value if it was all hidden away in some gargantuan library instead of being easily, and for the most part, freely accessible to send and receive; making it the most efficient communication environment ever devised. From a system’s perspective the Web provides input, process, output, and feedback, a classic business system’s model.
We can all get a little carried away with the latest marketing trends and technological solutions but when all is said and done a Web business strategy must be based on delivering content in the form of text, images, audio and video in informative, entertaining, and above all memorable presentations that influence perception and trigger action.
Everyone understands businesses have to make money in order to survive, but all too often companies waste valuable resources following trendy techno-fads that don’t deliver meaningful, memorable content that influences market behavior, creates brand awareness, delivers service support, promotes positive public relations, generates leads, or increases sales.
Confessions of a Social Networking Misanthrope
There are two basic financial website models, sites that provide niche content that use advertising as their revenue source, and sites that provide content about the products and services they sell. If you’re in the business of selling eyeballs to advertisers you want as much website traffic as possible; but if you’re in the business of selling merchandise or expertise, you really only want interested traffic. In other words, if you sell anything other than advertising you only want traffic that might actually buy what you sell.
Of course there are hybrid sites that want it both ways, they sell a service and provide a blog that contains advertising in order to support the effort. The trouble is the advertising bleeds off a lot of traffic, the very thing the content was intended to attract in order for the company to prove its expertise and thus gain new clients. And with today’s sophisticated behavioral advertising these ads can be sending
visitors to indirect competitors even if direct competitors have been restricted. Even if the advertising is totally non-competitive, it is still a distraction drawing people away from your ultimate objective of gaining new customers.
This notion of distraction has even led to a new trend that supports putting all hyperlinks at the end of a presentation rather than spreading them throughout, which has been the norm and often recommended practice. The current thinking on inline hypertext links is that they are distracting and get in the way of the message so they should be relegated to the bottom of the page and used for reference purposes only.
Advertising sites want traffic, and any traffic will do; product and service sites want an interested audience. When all is said and done it’s not traffic that website businesses want, it’s awareness, engagement, and leads.
You Have To Influence Your Audience
It may not be trendy, and it sure isn’t easy, but if you want to make a pile of dough, you have to influence your audience, you have to change perception, alter attitudes, target emotions, and facilitate positive change.
I know, I know, you only sell shoes or the thing that fits inside the thing that turns the other thing that you don’t sell, but all that doesn’t matter because whatever you sell you can make a difference if you stop worrying about traffic and the latest social networking fad du jour.
And that statistical analysis that arrives in your in-box only tells you what happened, not why; it presents only a sterile snap shot of history, it doesn’t foretell the future; otherwise we’d all be driving flying cars, wearing Dick Tracey watches, and have so much free-time they’d have to legalize polygamy just to keep us busy.
Successful companies change the way we think and ultimately the way we act, and it usually revolves around the consistent communication of a simple idea or concept. Ever heard of a company called Apple? Wasn’t it the firm that all the Wall Street stat-geeks and techno-wizards told us just couldn’t compete and was going to go broke not so long ago; so much for blind statistical analysis.
When Apple first introduced the Mac they talked about a computer that was “convivial,” meaning enjoyable due to its ease of use and quality of design. And with that guiding principle Apple has changed how we design things, how we communicate, how we listen to music, how we view video, and they’re on their way to changing how we read books, newspapers, and magazines. Apple has not just influenced its audience; it has changed society. Oh yah, they’re now the computer company with the largest market capitalization, and it’s all because they stuck to their core philosophy and message, and presented it in clever, meaningful, memorable marketing campaigns.
Business Websites are Communication Platforms
Poor communication is worse than no communication at all. Poor communication kills trust and credibility. You may be the greatest expert in widget technology or software engineering but if you’re a poor communicator or are represented by ineffectual media, videos, and websites, then you’re doing your business a disservice. If you want to make a lot of money you have to change attitudes, alter perceptions, and influence people, and you can only do that if you communicate effectively.
Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design and marketing firm that specializes in Web-video Marketing Campaigns and Video Websites. Visit www.mrpwebmedia.com/ads, www.136words.com, and www.sonicpersonality.com. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (905) 764-1246.