A brilliant idea alone doesn't guarantee success; you need to market your product to establish a brand identity. The American Marketing Association (Web site) defines marketing as "the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives."
Creating a marketing campaign can be daunting, but the Internet can make it a lot easier. Numerous marketing firms not only offer their services online, they'll also show you how to use the Web to help quell your fear of marketing.
You'll discover countless ways to tout your wares on the Web. Fortunately, the easiest and most widely available--direct e-mail, banner ads, and search-engine submissions--are also the most effective. These are some of the services available at GotMarketing and LinkBuddies, two marketing sites whose offerings are reasonably priced--if not free--and easy to use.
GotMarketings key products are Campaigner and InfoWatch. Campaigner, a direct e-mail marketing service, makes mass mailings a snap. This opt-in or permission-based mailing facility uses your contact list for distribution; it's not a spam-generating service that blasts thousands of e-mails to unsuspecting recipients. You could use your own e-mail client to do mailings, but that becomes tedious and tiring as the volume rises. And your client software isn't designed for e-mail marketing, so you won't get any statistical feedback indicating your campaign's effectiveness.
Campaigner uses a browser-based interface, so you don't need any additional software. You can upload your mailing lists from a variety of sources, including Microsoft Outlook, Excel, or comma-delimited text files. Later, you can merge additional lists with your master list; Campaigner detects and eliminates duplicates. Using the same browser interface, you create your message and select a format: text, HTML, or AOL. You can even select different formats for different recipients. Finally, you set the date and time you want to launch your campaign.
With your campaign off and running, Campaigner logs statistics for tracking replies, failed deliveries, and removal requests. Reports, available in real time, include information on click-through rates for live links within your messages.
If your mailing list doesn't exceed 99 addresses, you can try Campaigner free. Above that, prices are based on the number of addresses, with a minimum of US$99 (US$150 for 1,000 addresses, US$500 for 5,000, and US$1,000 for 10,000).
GotMarketing's InfoWatch is a Web-clipping tool that searches sites for mentions of your company, your products, your competitors--or even you. You decide where to search and what to look for. When InfoWatch finds something that matches your specifications, you get an e-mail notification, as well as access to a full report. It's a great way to monitor your efforts and keep tabs on your competition.
LinkBuddies' marketing services concentrate on Web advertising, with four free ad-exchange programs, as well as inexpensive paid promotions.
The idea behind an ad exchange is simple. You submit your ads, indicating the appropriate categories for your products and services, and the service places them on other exchange members' sites. In return, you agree to host other members' ads. You just have to paste a few lines of HTML into your pages, and the exchange's servers dish up the ads. The frequency with which your ads appear depends on the success of ads running on your site; the more click-throughs you generate for others, the more placements you get.
LinkBuddies offers four types of ads: banners, buttons, boxes, and text. The first three are all graphical advertisements, diminishing in size from banner to button. You can determine how many of each type you want to appear on your pages. The service also lists about 150 Web-site types on which to place your ads. You can even receive e-mail reports on your ads' click-through rates.
LinkBuddies ensures offensive ads don't appear on your site. But if you don't want to risk uncertainty, you can skip the exchange and simply buy ad placements from iBoost, LinkBuddies' parent company. At press time, you could get 5,000 banner impressions for US$40 a month, or 50,000 text-link impressions for US$20. iBoost also offers packages that include ad placements and search-engine submission, starting at US$19.95 per month.