NEW DELHI, October 11
Whatever happened to marketing?
With the coming of the Internet, it's just become easier. And tougher.
The Net means marketing can be targeted, and if done right, the response can be phenomenal. Meaning, no more salvos of direct mail - with a return response of less than 5 per cent. No more rude responses to telemarketers on the phone. Use proper database, and your targets will be glad to hear from you. That's the good news.
The bad news? Unlike TV or newspapers, the in-your-face-attitude of traditional advertising and marketing is passť. Targets can just ignore you. If people have to see the ads on TV, they have the power to say no on the Net.
So, direct marketing through the Net should be precise, time-effective, and efficient. "You have to convince your targets that you are worth looking up," says Pankaj Sethi, CEO, Media2India.com. This means using the various tools, such as e-mailers, banner ads, search-engine promotions, in the most effective way possible.
Most companies will find that a combination of several Internet marketing tools works best to reach the right people at the right time with the right messages. The very specificity of the Net, and the lean-forward rather than the lean-back nature of the Internet and computers means that one have to convince the surfer that one's services are worth following up.
And marketers need to use the right tools for the right people. Translated this means segmentation of the user base, and marketing specific to these segments. What will work for the student will not work for the CEO, a truism of direct marketing that the Net has not changed. "What companies need to do is find the elements that are missing, and then fill in the gaps," says Pradeep Kar, chairman of the Bangalore-based Microland.
Hughes Software, which has developed the RightServe software that enables clients to target their advertising realised this early on. What clients needed was very specific databanks that could be targeted and could be of use to the direct marketer, such as profiles of male NRI surfers based on the west coast of the United States. There was no room or demand for generic profiles of NRIs. "What we are doing is to create silos, such as, say NRI from US versus NRI from UAE. What we are looking at is communities and very specific ones at that," says Sanjeev Gadre, business manager, Hughes Software Systems.
And yet, the advent of direct marketing through the Net, though taking off at a bullock cart's pace in the country, is slowly changing the way marketers think. The Internet is exploding. User base is expected to touch 50 to 70 million by the end of the decade. And then there is convergence, with Internet on TV.
Traditional marketers sometimes fear that the Internet will eat away their share of the market. That could be a big mistake. "The key problem in India is that both the offline and online media are seen as separate. A company has one campaign for TV, and another online. What we need to do is integrate, not separate. The Internet should be integral to the marketing mix," says S. Ramakrishnan, co-founder and chief marketing officer, Intercept Consulting, Chennai.
One way is for companies to set up their own Net-sites. For example, when surfers are bombarded with unwanted mail, they tend to resent it, but at the same time, if they have to visit a Net site for a product, it means that they have at least an initial interest in the product. They key is to keep them there, and then convince them to take a decision to buy.
It is here that innovation comes in. The key advantage in marketing through the Internet is that it is cost effective. It also means hundreds of competitors. Only those who can innovate constantly, who adopt new technology as it appears, and thus redeploy the first mover advantage constantly can market effectively on the Net. There is also the need to back up promises with appropriate infrastructure, for at the end of the day, what will count is not the promise but the performance.
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