Volume 43, Issue 7 - July 2008

Online Bylines

Building an Online “Billboard”
E-media Strategies for Online Success

by Scott Orth

Optimizing your website and building links is essential for long-term success. Driving quality visits from pay-per-click is important too, and allows great flexibility in your marketing endeavors. But what else can you do to increase traffic to your website and turn visitors into customers?

E-media, short for “electronic media,” is the Internet’s equivalent to traditional, offline media. For instance, you might have a billboard along Interstate 90 near your hometown. You may also engage in online banner ads, the Internet’s billboard counterpart.

You may send postcards, coupons or other advertisements through the mail. The E-media parallel? E-mail marketing. Not just e-mail—but a professionally designed, strategically scheduled group of e-mails designed to turn prospects into customers. 

What about television advertising, one of the last traditional marketing methods not yet seized by Internet giants like Google? Though not quite the same in its focus or how it’s targeted, online video advertising is working to become television media’s equal. 

The obvious question, then, is why are these important and how can you use them for your business? 

Banners
Similar to a traditional print, billboard or flyer ad, a banner ad is a graphical, sometimes even animated, advertisement placed anywhere on an advertising website or directory. The biggest difference is that the online banner ad has the added benefit of linking a visitor directly to your website with a simple click.

You can build your own banners with various computer art programs, find free banner programs like www.abcbanners.com or have a professional web developer create one for you. Fees for professional banner creation can range anywhere between $50 and $1,000, depending on who builds it and the complexity of the banner itself.

Deciding where to place a banner can be tricky, and will take some research to determine which sites will likely deliver the best value. A banner can be placed on any site that accepts them, but fees will vary greatly. Some sites charge based on views, or how many times your banner was displayed. Others charge for clicks, similar to a pay-per-click campaign (see April 2008 USGlass, page 12).

But will you have success from banner advertising? Banners are wonderful for gaining brand awareness and driving traffic to your site. The cost per visitor is also, typically, quite low. However, conversion rates on most banner ads are poor at best. It may be worth testing with a small budget.

E-mail
E-mail marketing is considered a form of direct marketing (traditionally an offline marketing term). As most of you are aware, e-mail is the electronic equivalent to paper mail. The big difference, from a marketing perspective, is that CanSpam laws prohibit the use of e-mail for mass, unsolicited marketing. So what does this mean?

E-mail marketing should only be used to market to current or previous customers, or those that have given their consent to be sent e-mails from your company. Never buy a list or send mass e-mails to another company’s address list. 

The ability to build a prospect list, communicate to them quickly and regularly, and track the exact ROI are among the top benefits of this form of marketing. In many cases, it will cost less than $0.10 per recipient, far less than the paper, printing and mailing costs of traditional mail. 

There are some additional costs involved, however. For instance, you will need a professional e-mail marketing program, typically in the form of an online subscription. These programs manage your growing address list and help create professional, graphical e-mails designed to entice customers to buy from or contact you. Fees for these services can range anywhere from $5 to more than $1,000 per month. They will also charge a per-e-mail fee, usually between $0.02 to $0.20, depending on the number of e-mails sent. Companies such as www.ConstantContact.com may be a good place to start, with plans as low as $15 per month. 

Video Ads
One of the newest media channels to gain popularity is that of online video ads. Videos are used in many different ways, from advertising on sites similar to banner ads, viral marketing—such as posting a comical video on YouTube—or for building customer retention as a communication tool on your website. However it makes sense for your business, video ads should become a part of your next marketing plan.

Take a minute to visit www.YouTube.com and you’ll see how popular video is online. Pick just about any video, whether it’s a commercial, how-to or music video. Notice how many thousands of times each video has been watched. Now imagine if you could utilize this type of mass exposure to drive traffic to your site, or use it on your site to communicate with an engaged audience and build retention.

For the glass industry, I highly recommend how-to and/or explanation videos on your website. For example, place a how-to video on your site if you sell to residential installers. Help them understand how to install your product the right way. Or place an explanation video on your site if you sell to consumers. Show the care and pride your team takes in installing a new product. The possibilities are endless.

Cost for production and placement are so wide spread it would be impossible to estimate, but I recommend looking at your own marketing plan to decide how video might work best in your company. You can produce a video on your own, hire a local company or go all the way with a national production company. Either way, uploading a video to the web and linking to it is simple and inexpensive—and can boost your online presence beyond even your biggest competitors. 

Scott Orth is the director of Internet marketing services at GTS in, Portland, Ore. He can be reached at scotto@gtsservices.com. Mr. Orth’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

USG
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