Doing business on the Internet doesn't mean ignoring offline methods of steering traffic to your business. In addition to using banner ads, e-mail and other online marketing tools, savvy e-business owners are adding broadcast, print and other media to the ways they advertise and promote their e-commerce sites.
"Make your Web site part of your overall marketing plan," urges John Ferguson, president of Baron Consulting Group Inc., an Internet marketing and design firm in Scottsdale, Arizona. "Unless it's an Internet-only product, you shouldn't rely on your Web site to provide all your marketing."
Mixing offline with online marketing is more than a matter of including your URL on your business card. There are a number of tricks to making sure your offline marketing efforts turn into real online sales. For starters, you need to make sure your URL is on all the printed material of your company. This includes letterhead, brochures, press releases, invoices and statements.
If you accomplish even this basic integration of online and offline marketing, you'll be ahead of many e-businesses. If you doubt that, just check the next few dozen print magazine advertisements you see for dot-com companies. A surprising number neglect to include their URLs even in these seemingly essential places.
Take a look at the URL you put in printed materials. While your precise domain name isn't a make-or-break difference for purely online marketing -- since even hard-to-remember domains are easy to bookmark with a click -- having a memorable domain name is important for offline marketing.
That's doubly true with broadcast advertising. To be effective when presented in a TV or radio ad, a domain name should be short, accurate and describe your offering. Anything over several letters or including anything at the end other than ".com" will not be remembered. When e-business owners think of TV advertising, they probably envision some high-profile dot-com start-up, flush with cash from a stock offering, buying 60 seconds during the Super Bowl for a cost several times their own company's annual sales volume.
But there's more to TV ads than the Super Bowl. You can cost-effectively advertise on cable and local TV and radio shows that are relevant to your product category, such as cooking shows for a cookware e-business and so forth. Broadcast advertising isn't as important for narrowly targeted e-businesses as it is for traditional marketers, but if you indulge in it with discretion, it can be a valuable part of your marketing mix.
Don't forget to promote your site by seeking publicity from offline media. It's free, and, because editorial endorsements carry far more weight than advertisements, they're more effective than paid announcements. Send press releases to publications alerting them to news about your e-business. Newsworthy events may include celebrity appearances, product announcements and news on awards you've won.
Be sure to include in your press release full contact information; dates, times and locations of all newsworthy events; and, most of all, your Web site. Try to send your release to a specific editor in the proper department of the publication. Look through directories such as Bacon's Publicity Checker to get contact information. Give the publication plenty of time to react to your news and plan its possible coverage.
Limiting yourself to online promotion makes about as much sense as a retail merchant limiting promotion to in-store signage. If you can promote your site using even a rudimentary mix of marketing methods, you'll have a good edge in attracting attention and customers.
Mark Henricks, author of Business Plans Made Easy (Entrepreneur Press) and Mastering Home Networking (Sybex Inc.), writes on business and technology issues.