A Three-Step Internet Plan
for Improving Profits
By Brent Sampson
few years ago, we all received our monthly bank statements in the
mail and the information was 20-30 days old. Nowadays, anyone can
access his or her monthly bank statement at any time – just by
visiting his or her bank’s Web site. There is a reason why banks are
relegating paper statements to the analog dustbin of history:
money. Monthly statements printed on “dead trees” cost the bank
dollars per customer, compared with just a few cents to distribute
that same information electronically. This translates to millions
of dollars in savings each year! This is just one way companies are
using the Internet to increase their margins and thereby improve
some tips for using the resources available online to make your
company more streamlined and profitable.
paperless wherever possible: Going “green” is one of today’s
hottest business trends, but even before concerns about global
warming made companies see the photosynthesis, the Internet was
paving the way for a less paper-dependent economy. Now the changes
are so drastic they are literally depressing businesses that until
recently were largely dependent upon paper – the U.S. Postal service
and print publications, just to name two. Postal rates continue to
increase and print magazine revenue continues to decline as
businesses rely more on e-mail and online marketing to communicate
with clients and acquire new ones.
Following in the footsteps of the banking industry and others, most
businesses can experience an immediate increase in margins by
invoicing their customers and vendors via e-mail or through their
own secure Web sites. A natural extension of invoicing customers or
clients is accepting payments through the Internet via secure
servers. Most consumers are confident in placing small orders
through the Internet already – purchasing books on Amazon, for
example – and as the fastest-growing online vertical, travel, can
attest, those price points are climbing as customer confidence
wake of such trends, savvy business owners are encouraging their
customers and clients to use the Internet not only as a source of
information, but as a convenient place to actually place an order.
The number of website “storefronts” grows every year and many
businesses are moving away from physical storefront launches in
preference to virtual storefronts. Of course, receipts are then
e-mailed to the consumer rather than printed out, another example of
consumer or potential client visits a business Web site, the goal of
that business should be to share information, but also to “convert”
the visitor. This can be done either by influencing a purchase, or
acquiring some basic customer information such as an e-mail or phone
number. Such tactics pave the way for another paperless endeavor:
e-mail marketing rather than direct mail through the post office.
like “converting” the visitor come full circle when businesses add
online advertising in addition to the more traditional, “paper”
variety of magazines and newspapers.
Analyze, adapt and improve online advertising efforts: With
online advertising through Google, Yahoo, MSN and other players in
the pay-per-click search engine marketing industries, businesses
usually reap a higher ROI (return on investment) than through more
traditional offline advertising. Additionally, online efforts are
rewarded with valuable statistics that allow the advertiser to
analyze, adapt and improve their efforts.
instance, online advertising is often measured in
“cost-per-conversion” or CPC. The advertiser pays when the ad
converts into action, typically measured when a user “clicks” on the
ad to see more information about the business. At that point, it is
up to the business to “convert” that user, either by acquiring a
telephone number or e-mail address, which would constitute a “lead,”
or by invoking a genuine purchase, which would constitute a paying
number of times someone clicks on the online ad compared with the
number of times someone becomes a “lead” or a “customer” provides
the business with the CPC. When an online marketing effort is
properly created, this CPC figure is available for every single ad
in a campaign.
trick to improving profits comes next: The business must analyze the
CPC for each ad and make small, quantifiable changes. Does the CPC
improve or worsen? By continually adapting the language in the ad
and the website conversion page (usually called the “landing page”)
a savvy business can increase the ROI through measurable means.
Leverage and moderate viral marketing: Ultimately, and ideally,
a business may find itself involved in a “viral campaign” when
advertising takes on a life of its own through the Internet.
marketing exists when there is a certain “buzz” about a business,
product or service. As a result of that “buzz,” other Internet users
share the message through social networking sites like MySpace,
Facebook or YouTube. Suddenly, groups of people spread the word
about the business, even though they represent no advertising
are a number of ways to “kick start” a viral campaign. For example,
create a MySpace profile page or an AmazonConnect account and assign
friends with similar interests. Write an article and distribute it
through online article banks. Or better yet, write and publish a
book about the business, product or service. Print-on-demand
technology now allows individuals who never fancied himself/herself
a writer to compose a non-fiction, informative book and sell it to
the masses. Amazon, Google and eBay suddenly become untapped gold
mines of new marketing opportunities or potential clients. All you
need is a book. Too daunting? Start a blog on Blogger or Word
Press; upload a video tour of the business on YouTube; create a
community on Facebook that focuses on the benefits of the business.
The opportunities are endless.
2.0, the reality is finally catching up to the Internet’s potential.
Online is where the customers are. It’s time for small and
medium-sized business to follow suit.
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