A search of the internet will reveal various definitions of the term Internet Marketing. Wikipedia defines Internet Marketing, also known as Online Marketing or eMarketing, as “a form of marketing and advertising which uses the internet to deliver promotional marketing messages to customers. It includes email marketing, search engine marketing, social media marketing, many types of display advertising and mobile marketing”
Another website, www.weidmanconsulting.com, defines it as “a set of activities that enable the acquisition of targeted Web traffic and the conversion of Web visitors”
Although technically correct, such definitions, which are couched in technical jargon, do not, I feel, convey the essence of internet marketing to the laymen. And in my view it is for the laymen to understand because it is the layman that can reap the most benefit from the power of Internet Marketing.
A More Meaningful Definition of Internet Marketing
I prefer the following definition of Internet Marketing and Internet Marketers…”Internet Marketing refers to the marketing and selling of goods and services using the internet as the medium of sales and distribution.” Accordingly, “Internet Marketers harness the power of the web to find unique and personal ways to interact with customers online. They plan, organise and implement internet wide strategies and, most importantly, never stop learning, growing or adapting themselves.”
Several points emerge from this definition which I will expand on in this post.
The first and probably most obvious thing to point out is that Internet Marketing is not a game, but it is about doing serious business online. However, being serious does not mean it cannot fun. In fact I would go as far as to say, for a variety of reasons, Internet Marketing it is the most exciting way to make money.
An internet business is no different to a conventional business in that fundamentally it needs customers and has to provide those customers with a satisfactory product or service in order to survive. As an online business you need to understand your market and competition, as you would if you ran a conventional business.
Other similarities between an online and an offline business are:
1. Both types of business need a visible presence or place of trade where customers can find it – in a conventional business this is normally a shop, office or industrial estate. On the internet this will usually be a website.
2. Both need a means of communication – traditionally businesses used telephone and direct postal mail whilst online trading relies on email, although email lends itself to both and is now used extensively by traditional businesses.
3. Both types of business need to advertise – the use of print, radio and television advertising is what we associate with traditional offline business. These mediums are very expensive and require up-front investment. Online advertising, on the other hand, is less costly and mostly operates on a “pay as you use” basis, making it less risky and easier to test, and modify and improve as you go.
Online advertising tools also make it easier to conduct market research and can lead to more exposure for the business when advertising campaigns go “viral.”
However, the beauty of Internet Marketing lies not in its similarities with conventional businesses, rather in their differences. It is these differences that have made it possible for ordinary people to harness the power of the internet to improve their lives beyond measure.
The effect of the internet in shrinking the world into a global village by rendering distance an irrelevance and time zones little more than an inconvenience is what has made Internet Marketing possible today. The result has been that anyone of average health and intelligence, regardless of where they are located in the world, and provided they have access to a computer and the internet, can go into business for themselves with very little start-up costs.
Affiliate Marketing – The Easiest Way to Start an Online Business
For anyone wishing to take advantage of this opportunity and start their own online business, there are two ways in which this can be done. You can either sell your own products or sell someone else’s products and get paid a commission. If you sell your own products you are classed as a “merchant” and if you sell someone else’s products you are said to be an “affiliate.”
Now, because most people do not have the time or resources to create their own products, the majority of internet marketers start as affiliates with some becoming product creators and merchants later when they have established themselves as online marketers. Affiliate Marketing is a way of making money by promoting the products or services of another person or company (the merchant) in return for a commission on every sale that is made as a result of your efforts. You are in reality acting as a middleman or woman. This is usually done by you sending as many as possible prospective clients (known as prospects) to the merchant’s website with the expectation that some of these prospects will purchase the product that the merchant is selling. When one of your prospects buys the merchant’s product, you receive a commission. Apart from the very low start-up cost, the other major benefits of starting out as an affiliate is that one does not have to worry about all the other aspects of owning and selling a product or service, such as product development, marketing and after sales support. This is all taken care of by the merchant.
If you are wondering how all this works, well there are special techniques and technologies that have been developed to track all visitors to a merchant’s site such that he or she can tell which affiliate supplied the visitor that bought a particular product.
To become an affiliate for a particular product or service, you first have to register as a promoter of that product or service with the company or seller of the product. After you register, you are given a unique “affiliate link” which effectively is a unique ID that recognises you as the supplier of any visitor to the seller’s website supplied by you. You place your affiliate link on your own website or other websites where you may decide to advertise the product, so that when visitors click on the advert, they are taken to the merchant’s site via your affiliate link with your unique ID attached and if any of those visitors buy the merchant’s product when they land on his site, you get paid your commission. Therefore, the aim is to send as many prospects as possible to the merchant’s site via your affiliate link in an effort to maximise the number that will be converted to customers by buying the merchant’s product.
Behind this very simple description of affiliate marketing lies a whole world of information, strategies, techniques, performance measures, glossary of terms, networks, forums and much more, all geared towards increasing the effectiveness of Internet Marketers in converting prospects to customers. The more important of these are covered in greater depth on this web site.
Internet Marketing Core Principles
I will conclude this introductory post on Internet Marketing, by highlighting something that may seem obvious, but should always be at the forefront of one’s thinking as an Internet Marketer.
1. Because Internet Marketing is an activity that is primarily conducted online through the use of internet technologies, almost every aspect of it is digital, which means that most of the time we are dealing with electronic information. Therefore, a key feature of internet marketing, and something which makes it very exciting, is the blistering pace of change. Therefore, one has to be responsive and keep learning to keep up with events.
2. Customers online are not faceless. It is very easy to develop digital blindness and forget that behind all the clicks and numbers are actual people looking to satisfy their needs, no different to the customers you see shopping in your local high street. The key to success therefore is to treat your online customers as you would if you had a shop in your local high street.
3. Trust is very important in online marketing and competition is no less than in other forms of business. Therefore, you need to find ways to engage your readers and stand out from your crowd. And, just as customers are not faceless, they also want to know who they are buying from when shopping online. Therefore the best way to achieve trust amongst potential customers is to market yourself as well as your products or services. Giving customers exactly what they want when they want it helps to build credibility and loyal customers.