Focus on the Customer
Companies are getting more sophisticated in how they use the web and e-mail.
Click on a topic and you are asked to register. Then, when you return to the site, you'll have a custom home page. There are virtual tours and "funclip" web videos, but the overall site is uncluttered and loads quickly. If you need help, a click will trigger a telephone call from a Carnival vacation planner.
Smart companies today want a site that is user-friendly. Gone are the days when graphic designers called the shots, producing sites that featured cutting-edge design but made it difficult for customers to find what they were looking for.
"The way we do sites today, we have someone called an information architect," says Fort Lauderdale's Shannon Denton, vice president for the Southeast U.S. for Avenue A/Razorfish, a web design and marketing company. Denton says that the layout of the important tasks on a web page come first and the graphics are added later.
In addition to a clean, user-oriented web design, other strategies in the forefront of e-marketing include:
Search Engine Optimization. The strategy used to be to attach a few keyword search tags to a web page and hope for the best. That won't work today. Now, a business's rank in a search result is only in part tied to the "natural" ranking -- how well the web page content and key words correspond to the search term. The other ways that websites move to the top of a search ranking are paid placement and paid inclusion.
The basic strategy, however, is to design the site so that it clearly emphasizes the business's most important product or topic. "You need to make sure that you create a site that's optimized for 'natural' results," says Andrew Wetzler, founder and president of MoreVisibility, a Boca Raton search engine marketing company.
For companies that can afford it, paid placement -- also called sponsored results or pay-per-click -- lets a business bid for position in a search ranking. Another tactic, paid inclusion, blurs the lines between editorial content and advertising. With paid inclusion, a business pays a flat fee to make sure that its site is part of the search engine's database.
Selective E-Mail Marketing. "It's more of a retention and upselling tool," says Denton. Businesses are targeting their e-mails to a particular market segment based on previous purchases, expressed interests, geographic location or other demographics.
Buying Demographics. Denton says that the future of e-marketing is to focus on targeting very specific markets. A business might go to its advertising agency or internet marketing firm, for example, and instead of placing a generic ad on MTV.com, it would give the parameters of its market, such as Hispanic teenagers in south Florida between ages 13 and 17, and let the web marketer select a variety of sites that have proven page views from that subset of consumers.
Relevant Upselling. Denton says that when a customer books a cruise, Carnival begins pitching related services. "With an upsell at Carnival, when you go back to the site, they want to sell you a port excursion," he says. At Office Depot's site, search for a printer and the selected page includes links to check out and purchase the needed ink cartridges and cables.