Banner advertisements. Advertising with “banners” on websites was all the rage in the late 1990s and was considered by many as the best way to reach potential customers online. Some of the enthusiasm about banner advertisements has faded, but pitching products with banner ads has endured.
Banners ads, even elaborate ones with graphics and movement, are basically simple HTML files inserted as a rectangular graphical form into a web page, and many are easy to create inexpensively. If web page visitors are interested, they will click the ad, which acts as a hyperlink to the e-commerce website that the advertiser wants them to visit.
There are typically eight sizes of banner ads offered, usually as horizontal rectangles although vertical ads and squares are also popular. The size of the ad and its complexity (and sometimes its memory size) helps determine its cost, much like an advertisement placed in a newspaper or magazine.
Ads can be as simple as just text, although that’s not probably the best option in the multimedia world of today’s Web. Usually, text is accompanied by artwork or a graphic of some kind, and creating full-motion ads with video and even audio are increasingly popular. More complex ads will require experienced professional designers skilled at making the banners attractive while conforming to the technical specifications of the website on which the retailer is advertising.
An important consideration when buying banner advertising is being able to measure its effectiveness. One measurement offered by advertisers is “click-through,” which is the percentage of Internet users visiting a web page who click on the ad. Even small click-through rates of 1 or 2 percent are considered effective.
Another measure is the number of “impressions” or “page views” an ad makes. This is simply the number of times a web page containing the ad was viewed, regardless of whether the visitor clicked the ad or not. This is roughly analogous to selling a radio ad based upon the number of listeners, without any real idea if they did or didn’t pay attention to it.
Retailers will want to gauge the effectiveness of their banner ads
by determining their sales achieved from banner advertising compared to the cost. Most banner ad sales firms will be able to provide this information in their sales pitch.
There are many approaches about where to place banner ads. Sometimes, of course, salespeople will come knocking, hoping you will advertise on their websites and detailing their success rates with sales figures, click-through rates and promised impressions.
Alternatively, you can do the knocking and approach websites on which you want to advertise. This approach gives you better control over which websites your banner ads will appear. Often, Internet marketers will represent many different websites, so you may not always know exactly where your ads will appear. This may be off-putting to some who want tight control over their company’s advertising and marketing messages.
If ad budgets are tight, an alternative may be to join a “banner network,” in which you exchange space for websites’ banners and other links with other website operators. Joining some of these networks is free (if you agree to their terms and conditions), but most charge fees. It’s important to keep in mind that you can lose some control of your advertising and marketing messages as you may not be aware of all the sites on which you are advertising.
There are many types of banner networks in business, so you need to research them carefully and make sure you are getting the best value for your marketing dollar. Two of the largest and best-known ad banner sites are FastClick (http://www.fastclick.com) and Tribalfusion (http://www.tribalfusion.com). We use both of these networks and we highly recommend them for advertising with us or to sign up for advertising on your content website.
E-mail Marketing. E-mail marketing has gotten a bad name, and who can really blame weary consumers from turning a deaf ear to e-mailed marketing pitches when they receive hundreds and even more than a thousand utterly useless spam messages each day.
Still, using e-mail to market products and services and communicate with customers can be effective when used responsibly and ethically.
First of all, it’s inexpensive, as you can send simple text messages to many customers for just pennies. Second, it’s effective if you can tailor the message to your customers’ wants and needs, don’t inundate them with marketing pitches, provide a degree of customization and personalization so they feel like valued customers, and provide an opportunity to easily join or leave your mailing lists.
One easy and ethical way to gather the e-mail addresses of interested customers is to let them request more information about your products and services through your website. Creating a simple website form that will direct messages to your e-mail account is matter of some basic HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) skills.
Perhaps you can provide them something useful in exchange for their e-mail address, which can go a long way toward promoting good will with your customers.
Say, for example, you have a website specializing in sales of high-quality yarn. When customers give you their e-mail addresses requesting information, you can have them receive your free e-mailed newsletter, where you offer tips on choosing the right yarn for different types of crocheting, crocheting tips, etc-maybe even an offer code giving them the opportunity to receive $2 off their next purchase if they are a repeat valued customer.
This type of pro-active marketing is a great way to keep valued customers coming back to shop at your website.
Another tried-and-true method is acquiring e-mail lists from reputable list brokers. If you choose a targeted list wisely, you gain access to an excellent database of potential customers who are likely to be interested in your products and services and will not mind if you contact them via e-mail.
For more sophisticated e-mail marketing campaigns, you may want to consider an e-mail marketing service that has set up shop on the Internet. Many offer many products and services, such as e-mail lists, bulk-mailing software, message customization, and ways to track customer response and ROI (return on investment).
If you plan to engage in direct e-mail marketing (sometimes called “permission marketing”), make sure you have a structure in place to allow your customers to “opt-in” (sign up to receive e-mailed marketing message) or “opt-out” (send a message to stop receiving marketing messages). When you don’t give customers options, this is the equivalent of spam. And in today’s Internet marketplace, gaining a reputation as a “spammer” can go a long way toward ruining your Internet presence and credibility.
Networking. Whether it’s called networking, word-of-mouth or some trendy buzzword, such as “leveraging” or “viral marketing,” getting the word out about your products and services with every human contact you make has been one of the most effective marketing tools long before e-commerce.
When you operate an e-commerce website, the key entity you own is your domain name, which is effectively your company name. And the best way to succeed in your business is to attract as many potential customers to your website as possible by continually spreading the domain name, your address on the Web, in any ethical way possible.
If, for example, you’re the proud owner of FunnyWidgets.com (not a real website), you will want to get this domain name in front of as many customers as possible.
First of all, you can include this web address on all your business cards and as part of your signature at the bottom of all your e-mail messages. Just think of all the times business cards are passed on and messages are forwarded, creating countless opportunities for your Web address to be noticed at little cost.
If you attend trade shows, look at all the companies that give away freebies, such as T-shirts and pens and refrigerator magnets, imprinted with their web addresses. Doing the same will give potential customers an item that will get the FunnyWidgets.com address before them every time they use the item.
Press releases are another inexpensive and effective marketing tool-if they are targeted to the appropriate newspapers and magazines. A press release about your new products sent to Widgets & Gizmos Quarterly magazine, for example, might lead to a call from a writer seeking more information and an article-and plenty of free publicity to your target audience-about your products and company.
Even though you are operating in the online sphere, don’t forget traditional forms of advertising. Print, television and radio ads have often proven effective in attracting website visitors. Even billboards can draw in visitors as passing motorists make a mental note of a catchy website name and are curious to see what it’s all about.
Back in the online world, there are other ways to promote your website, although you’ll want to be careful not to antagonize Internet users weary from blatant marketing pitches where they don’t belong. Posting information, along with your website address, in newsgroups and mailing lists can draw in visitors if you are providing information newsgroups and mailing list subscribers want and not just blindly spamming them.
Another online marketing technique is to approach websites with products and services related to yours and offer to publish links to their websites if they will reciprocate. Driving web visitors from you website to theirs and vice versa is often a great way to boost sales for all involved.