Now Is the Time to Integrate

The Internet juggernaut has already revolutionized marketing, yet some B2B marketers remain behind in fully migrating to Internet marketing. With growing evidence that the Internet is fast becoming a primary means of business communications, now’s the time to take full advantage of the Internet’s marketing power.

Some of the compelling reasons for making the move to Internet marketing today are:

  • It is 60 to 65 percent cheaper than traditional direct marketing, according to The Yankee Group.

  • It can be modified in real time
  • It can enable true one-to-one relationship marketing when used properly.

Each of these three reasons should make Internet marketing irresistible to every B2B marketer. First, the cost differential between traditional direct mail and email, email newsletter advertising, and even banner advertising is substantial. This means interactive media could present an increasingly attractive replacement for traditional media. However, it may not be wise to completely abandon traditional media just yet. Direct mail still provides a level of targeting and segmentation that cannot, as of yet, be equaled by interactive media. But that, too, will be changing.

Second, the concept of real-time campaign adjustment is a marketer’s dream. The immediacy of email offers you the ability to read results almost instantly and make changes to email copy and lists very rapidly. In most cases, newsletter ad copy and banner ad creative can be modified within days, and web pages can be adjusted on the fly. These benefits allow the marketer to fine tune campaigns on a moment’s notice.

Third, the Internet really does fulfill the promise of one-to-one relationship marketing. Of course, it is no less important to have a database behind the scenes with interactive marketing as with traditional direct marketing. But the technology and capability is available to move from prospecting to relationship-building.

How Do You Get There?

The good news is you don’t have to toss out all the traditional direct marketing tactics you now use; rather, you should apply the same principles while you transition your programs to increasingly include the Internet as a means of communication.

One of the easiest ways is to incorporate email into your media mix. Industry statistics suggest that email marketing is rapidly gaining acceptance. The Internet Advertising Bureau says spending on email marketing doubled from Q2 to Q3 in 1999, with over $1 billion spent in Q3 alone. eMarketer predicts that email-marketing expenditures will increase to $4.6 billion by the end of 2003.

Take advantage of this trend. Make every effort to capture email addresses when you do any sort of promotion. On reply forms or questionnaires, always ask the question, “May we communicate with you via email?” to ensure appropriate email usage. It is essential to employ email as a “permission-only medium” rather than risk the negative feedback spam creates.

Consider testing email head-to-head against traditional direct mail to determine its cost-effectiveness in lead generation. Combine the two media for maximum impact: When you have email addresses available, use email as an adjunct to traditional mail, either prior to a direct-mail campaign, or as a follow-up to a direct-mail piece. Use email to reach both respondents and nonrespondents to the direct mail.

Use a Web Response Path

Another simple way to integrate the Internet into your marketing program is to establish a web response path for all direct marketing campaigns. Always provide a URL in addition to such traditional response paths as reply cards, inbound fax, and inbound phone. It generally proves valuable to drive respondents to a specific jump page with a web response form, rather than to a web site, so you can track response by campaign and capture lead information.

Too many Internet marketers still drive response straight to a corporate web site’s home page. While that exposes prospects to the company, it also “leaks leads.” If your objective is to capture the lead, use the traditional direct marketing tactic of driving the lead through a specific response path that you can control and measure.

There are numerous other ways to integrate Internet and traditional direct marketing: Offer prospects online fulfillment. Service your resellers and customers via extranets. Test online seminars against traditional in-person seminars. Use direct mail to push prospects to a promotional “mini-site” to take advantage of an offer.

The reason to pursue online activity aggressively is due to the reality that the Internet is reshaping the way businesses market and sell. This isn’t a temporary fad – it is the beginning of a permanent shift in the way businesses do business. Highly personalized Internet experiences will drive the future of marketing communications. To stay ahead of that curve, don’t miss the marketing opportunity of a lifetime. Integrate the Internet into all of your marketing activities now.

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