A global educational resource for e-business and Internet marketing strategies
e-Business North American Tour
The Foundation Phase
e-Business World Tours
Phase 3: The Innovation Phase
15. The Community Stage
The Internet has the power to bring people with common interests and needs together from around the world. Companies can help to build these communities of interest by taking several approaches:
The objective of building these communities could be to build your brand image in the marketplace and to improve your top of mind awareness with clients. This could result in greater sales in the future. This stage tends to be fairly time consuming to implement and it does not tend to generate immediate returns on your investment. Therefore, for most companies, it may make sense to implement the Community Stage much later, focusing instead on stages that generate a quicker ROI.
Examples of community building in the Health and Health Care industry include the following:
16. The Outbound Stage
The problem with most Web marketing strategies is that they are what I refer to as an Inbound strategy. They are a bunch of pages sitting there waiting for somebody to find them. The Outbound Stage turns this model around, focusing on tactics that enable you to proactively reach out to prospects and customers rather than waiting for them to come to you. For example:
There are several examples of Outbound strategies in action in the Health and
industry. One such example is from HIMSS which sends out an e-News e-mail
message every week or two. A sample portion of the e-mail is listed in the table
17. The Viral Marketing Stage
In the real world, companies rely on Word of Mouth to help spread the word about their offerings. In fact, a study by O'Reilly and Trish revealed that "direct contact with peers and colleagues" was the number one source of information that was used to make future purchase decisions. To capitalize on this, some companies even offer people money if they refer a friend and it results in a sale.
Viral Marketing involves the use of e-mail and the Web to capitalize on the power of the Internet to spread the word about any topic rapidly and exponentially around the globe. More powerful than Word of Mouth in the real world becomes Word of e-Mail or Word of Web.
But different than the real world, these techniques are not simply of a commercial nature. There must be something of value that makes it worth a person's while to forward it to someone else. This could be in the form of a free giveaway, a funny video clip, an animation, a free game or a free screen saver.
You must then somehow transition from the distribution of this free gift or clip into a benefit to your company. This could be in the form of exposure that will improve your brand or in the form of traffic that is generated to your web site.
Examples of e-mail viral marketing tactics (i.e., word of e-mail) include forward to a friend options that are appearing on many web pages and the proliferation of free greeting card services. An example of a web viral marketing strategy (i.e., word of Web) would be the syndication of your web content to hundreds of other web sites, exponentially increasing your exposure.
In the Health and Health Care industry, a simple example of a viral marketing strategy was found at the Kids Health web site which allows users to e-mail pages to a friend.
18. The Personalization Stage
The panacea of one-on-one marketing in the real world (as opposed to mass marketing) has been an elusive goal. The costs incurred in the real world make it difficult to achieve a return on investment. The Internet however, provides an ideal infrastructure for building cost effective one-on-one relationships.
The Personalization Stage involves the customization of web pages for individual stakeholders such as customers, prospects, employees and channel partners. Rather than having one identical web page that is read by thousands of people, you can create thousands of web pages, each customized to meet the needs of an individual person. Personalized pages could be created on the public Web for your prospects and customers, on your extranet for your large customers or channel partners, or on your intranet for your employees.
These personalized pages may be much more useful to your stakeholders because they contain information that is directly relevant to them, but they purposefully omit information that is not relevant to them. This could allow you to more effectively meet your sales, marketing, branding, customer support, employee support and communications objectives.
Personalized web pages can be created in a number of different ways:
In the Health and Health Care industry, an example of an extensive personalization strategy was found at Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada web site. This web site allows you to register as a user. It then asks you a number of questions related to the type of content you want to view. Furthermore during every logged in visit to the web site, if you see an article you like, you have the option of adding a link to it from your personalized page.
19. The Knowledge Management Stage
The Knowledge Management Stage involves the leveraging of information that the company already possesses, but may not explicitly know about. This could include the use of data mining techniques to search for buying patterns, and then using that knowledge to improve the company's marketing strategy. It could also incorporate a dynamic analysis of customer buying patterns to immediately make targeted purchase suggestions.
A good example of effective knowledge management can be found at the CDNow web site. When a customer selects a CD for purchase, the site can instantly make knowledgeable recommendations about other CDs that this person is likely to enjoy.
This objective could be achieved by analyzing past purchases from all customers and spotting purchase trends, or, it could be achieved by categorizing all of the music by its inherent characteristics and recommending very similar music to the customer.
Safeway in the UK implemented a powerful knowledge management strategy. They gave users a Palm device that they could use to place their orders for groceries. Rather than having to type in their entire list from scratch though, Safeway used their loyalty card database to automatically build the initial shopping list for the customer. Since the database contained years of purchases from that actual customer, it was a great start for building each customer's initial shopping list.
In the Health and Health Care industry, a simple example of a knowledge management strategy was found at HealthRecordsOnline.com.
20. The Targeted Traffic Generation Stage
The objective of the Targeted Traffic Generation Stage is to increase the number of qualified visitors to your web site and to improve the stickiness of your site (the length of time users spend there). Notice the use of the words "targeted" and "qualified". Rather than just generating Web traffic, the focus is on attracting the target market that is most likely to buy from you or help you achieve your other e-business objectives.
Generating traffic to your web site involves getting what I call Webwired:
By conducting several searches on Yahoo! and Google it quickly became apparent which vendors in this industry are doing a good job of getting visibility (at least at the time that these searches were originally conducted). This should result in high levels of web site traffic for these companies. For example:
Generating traffic to your web site also involves getting what I call Realwired:
In the Health and Health Care industry, here are some examples of companies that are getting Realwired:
There are also several different tactics that you can use to increase your targeted web site traffic, especially in a B2B (Business to Business) environment:
Various approaches can also be taken to improve the stickiness of your site. In the past, GM had a contest on their web site that rewarded users that spent the most time there. Visitors were provided with a trip-o-meter at the web site that kept track of the number of GM web pages that they visited and the length of time that was spent there. The higher their trip-o-meter reading, the more chance they had of winning a special prize.
Another approach that can be used to increase stickiness and help you to further meet your e-business objectives is referred to as circular linking. This simply means that you think of your web site as having no end to it. An error that many webmasters make is to think of their web site as a series of pages that help to achieve a specific task, at which time the task is completed and so is the visit.
For example, at the end of many e-commerce transactions, the visitor is informed of the likely delivery time, thanked for their order, and then in effect, not given any other options (other than simply a navigation bar). In other words, the final e-commerce transaction screen says "thanks for your order and we hope to see you back again soon." This is basically telling the visitor that it is now time to leave.
Rather than taking this approach, the end of the e-commerce transaction should naturally lead to another task. Now that the purchase is complete, you could ask the visitor if they would like to subscribe to your weekly newsletter. And once that is complete, you may then want to ask them if they would be willing to tell a friend about their purchase or the newsletter. And after that, you may want to ask them if they would be willing to become your channel partner. In other words, at the end of every transaction is a link to the next logical transaction.
By using circular linking, a visit to your web site becomes more like a being on a bus ride that never stops. It only slows down a little at certain bus stops. And the bus driver never yells out the name of the stop, users have to consciously decide to end the trip, and jump off when they're ready.
In the Health and Health Care industry, some companies have taken an interesting approach to try to increase the traffic to their site. For example, the Oxygen.com Health web site has quizzes, information, chat rooms, a newsletter and even an area where you can log your weight to monitor changes. If that's not enough to keep you around, the parent web site, Oxygen.com, also has other sections on Career, Family & Pregnancy, Lifestyle, Relationships & Sex, and Self-discovery.
In this industry, some companies have also taken an interesting approach to try to increase the stickiness of their site. For example, the Internet Healthcare Strategies web site has an article posted on how Health and Health Care web sites can improve the stickiness of their site. Of course, they charge $6.95 US for a copy of the article if you're not already a member!
21. The Customer Relationship Stage
The Customer Relationship Stage involves taking steps to convert casual Web visitors into registered customers – not necessarily to the point of actually buying something, but even just registering for something that might be a precursor to them buying something in the future.
After a sale is made, this stage involves managing those customer relationships (CRM, or customer relationship management) and building long term sales and profits. This involves a focus on determining which customer can deliver long term profitability.