Making Online Interaction Pay Off

Are you leveraging your online presence to maximize your marketing spend across media? Do your TV, radio, and print ads; catalogs; marketing collateral; press releases; and packaging all send your audience online? Regardless of where you advertise, in today’s wired world, you can best connect with your consumers and other important constituents online.

Your online offering should extend your product and enhance your ability to engage with consumers. As Web sites have evolved beyond brochureware, this has become even more important. Online interaction ultimately aims to generate sales, extend your brand, and spread the word about your product. Your online presence, be it your Web site, landing page, microsite, or dedicated area within a third-party site, should invite interaction.

How companies implement this interaction varies. For example:

  • Kraft created a content-rich destination site, where consumers can get recipes and other product information. It’s a top-five site in its category, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

  • Pontiac’s Solstice sponsorship of “The Apprentice” increased traffic to Pontiac.com over 180 percent, according to Hitwise. According to Pontiac, the first 1,000 cars with special badging sold in 41 minutes. Further, 212,000 viewers signed up for 20,000 certificates to be one of the first purchasers.
  • Yoo-hoo positioned a press release about a missing delivery truck as an APB. It used a link in the release to drive users to its Web site, enabling it to build traffic and its list.

As these examples illustrate, incorporating a reference to your online presence in your offline promotion can drive significant numbers of users online. These examples all ultimately drove customers to corporate sites facilitating customer interaction.

But plastering your URL on every marketing piece can blind customers to it. To maximize the outcome, go beyond that. For example:

  • Incorporate the online engagement into your campaign pre-planning. Before executing your promotion, think about how you want consumers to connect with your company and what you want to achieve from this interaction. To increase the effect, think how your call to action will work so it’s more than just a URL.

  • Give customers a reason to visit online. Make sure your call to action has a payoff for visitors. This can take a variety of forms, including coupons, recipes, contests, quizzes, expert advice, and insider circles.
  • Create memorable URLs. Use words and names that are easy to spell and remember. Since customers may use search engines to locate the site, make sure the site, landing pages, or special section is search friendly. In the Solstice example, the search volume for “pontiac solstice” and “pontiac” increased the week after “The Apprentice” aired.
  • Build customer relationships for the future. Consider how you want to interact with consumers long term. This will influence how you engage with them on your site. Do you want to continue a dialogue via email newsletters, or do you want them to purchase in a retail location? Make sure your online image is consistent with your offline brand.

Thought of in this way, your online presence becomes the centerpiece for driving customer interaction. To this end, consider how site traffic can augment corporate value:

  • Build your house file by asking for customer email addresses and other relevant information. Remember, each additional piece of information can depress response.

  • Enhance your brand by giving users a positive experience. For example, Burger King’s Coq Roq site enables user interaction.
  • Increase product sales, either on your site or offline. Capturing customer information can enable you to cross-sell related products.
  • Drive customer referrals and word of mouth by offering users a positive experience.

To assess the effect of these promotions:

  • Measure incremental traffic, registrations, and sales during the promotion. This is easier to accomplish if the promotion has a unique URL or you’re using coupons to drive customers to retail. Some media formats may be easier to track than others. You could use a URL such as www.printmedia.mycompany.com to track print. A/B testing can yield insights as well. Your aim is to measure incremental usage.

  • Track all related costs for the promotion. If you incorporate the online reference into your upfront planning, the offline creative costs should be minimal. To ensure the online presence is tailored to the offline advertising, you may need to create a microsite or tailored section of your Web site. These costs should be attributed to this promotion.
  • Determine return on investment (ROI).
    ROI = value of incremental sales or traffic/promotion cost

By extending your offline promotions online, you’ll increase your marketing’s effectiveness. This enables you to engage your consumers in a more direct, measurable way. Regardless of whether customers buy from your site or an offline retailer, connecting with them online enables you to build a relationship that increases sales and builds your brand.

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