“Marketing is not an attitude, it is a mind-set”, I read somewhere recently. An attitude changes with the change of experience, a mind-set implants itself within the mind and becomes a powerful incentive to adopt a particular behaviour over and over again.

Marketing is used to identify the customer, to create, communicate, and deliver value to customers. Internet marketing has the web as its vehicle – a virtual space that knows no borders and connects users from all over the world.

From looking at the simple statistics, no other medium is as global as the web. The worldwide number of internet users surpassed two billion in 2010. The Malta Communication Authority says that 72 per cent of Maltese have access to the internet. As for actual online purchase statistics, close to 50 per cent of Maltese purchased a product online in the past six months. Items that top the local purchasing list are the same as the world’s top items purchased online – such as flights, books and videos.

The statistics also show that 54 per cent of Maltese that buy products online also purchase their products from sellers from other EU countries. The market place has become truly global and its challenges have increased for small and medium sized businesses that want to keep their customers.

Marketers are now aware that any business can increase its online sales and profits by driving more visitors to its website. But targeting the right customers, at the right moment, and turning leads into sales, is still the secret of well-trained and experienced experts in internet marketing. With a bit of understanding of the way that the internet jungle works, however, a planned, organised internet marketing campaign does not need to cost a great deal of money.

When you define an internet marketing strategy, you start with defining that ‘mental space’ that a company or a brand should occupy in the minds of the target audience – otherwise known as brand positioning. You also profile the customer, answering that golden question – who is my ideal web customer and how do I position my offering with that customer in mind?

After you have identified your audience, you will need to identify your website goals and strategies. Mapping the goals of your website will answer 101 questions that will help you improve your website visibility:

Is your website built in such a way as to make the best use of ‘organic’ SEO (search engine optimisation) techniques for website optimisation? What is your current search engine placement?

Is your content optimised to attract the right crowd?

Do you have an internet advertisement budget? A coordinated effort across several sites is usually the most effective way to structure a digital marketing campaign.

Where are you going to promote your product or service?

Have you identified complementary websites that can help you cross-promote your products reinforcing your message?

In internet marketing jargon, the efforts that an online business make to attract visitors to its website are called ‘traffic generation efforts’; and the strategies that a business adopts to convert more visitors into buyers are called ‘website conversion strategies’.

The traffic generation efforts are the results of web based tools and techniques that get your website on the first couple of pages of search engine results (such as those of Google and Yahoo). However, these will drive the traffic to your website but not necessarily convert the visitors into buyers. Web site conversion strategies, on the other hand, are all the efforts an internet marketing expert takes to persuade a visitor to the website to take action.

Conversion rates are an important measuring tool. For example, a metric could show that for every 1,000 visitors, 10 sales are completed – translating into a sales conversion rate of one per cent. Close monitoring of your conversion rates will quickly tell you what marketing efforts are working and what internet marketing techniques you need to employ to improve your conversions.

Some internet marketing tips that any business can benefit from include the publishing of articles to get your name and website link broadcast to the web. Keep your articles interesting so that people will want to find out more about your products and services.

You should use pay per click adverts (where you as the advertiser pay for the amount of clicks on your advert and not for how many people see it). You could use either Google or Yahoo ads.

Utilise social media marketing. From Twitter to Facebook, social media sites give access to large groups of targeted audiences.

(Ms Pantovic is head of international business development at Alert Communications, a local web development company.)


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