Internet marketing is not rocket science. If you do the basics well and avoid some common errors, you will probably succeed. Here are the top mistakes b-to-b marketers make online.
&149; Not setting clear goals. Ask yourself and your team: Why are we online? What do we want to accomplish? The answers may be pretty simple: Make more sales; cut down on the education process; accumulate and qualify leads; reduce customer support costs; attract new job applicants. All these are worthwhile reasons to go online. Once you have identified your goals, create the marketing messages that help your customers quickly and easily realize why they should do business with you.
&149; Not clearly stating how visitors will benefit by using your Web site. Create a two-line position statement that tells people what business you are in, how they will benefit from your products and services and how you differ from competitors.
&149; Not integrating the Web site with the real-world operations. People use the Web as part of their buying process. They go online to source vendors, check product specifications and prices and check references. But if they are buying a multimillion-dollar system, they still want face time with a salesperson. You need to think about what information needs to be online, what information your employees transmit and how to use the Web to complete the next step in the transaction.
&149; Not thinking through the operations. There are hundreds of questions you need to consider and address that affect the very basic mechanics of running a business. How will you accept money? How will you respond to requests for proposal and requests for quote? How do sales to government buyers differ online? How will you ship goods to the U.S. and abroad?
&149; Not responding to e-mail. According to surveys by The Wall Street Journal and others, most large companies don't read or respond to their e-mail. You can make customers for life simply by being courteous and reading your mail. If you get large volumes of e-mail, be sure to include mailboxes for each department or division so the mail is routed properly and can be handled in a timely manner. At the very least, create an autoresponder (an automated e-mail process that sends a pre-written letter) that acknowledges receipt and says when the sender can expect to hear back from the company.
&149; Not benchmarking each activity. The Web is the most accountable marketing tool around. You can measure everything: test headlines, prices, colors, pictures, font sizes, calls to action. The first step is to measure your activities to date: how many visitors, how many sales, how much profit, how much money spent.
Next, begin testing a new offer. See how the numbers compare with the original.
Now test other variables. You'll see what works and what doesn't. Direct marketers have known that a small change can lead to a phenomenal return. Test everything.
&149; Not knowing whether to do it yourself or outsource. Should you hire a company to design your Web site, or do it in-house? The answer depends on your resources. If you are a large company with talented technology and marketing departments, you could do it in-house. If you are smaller and aren't technically inclined, hire a respected marketing company. But remember to check it out thoroughly.
&149; Not learning from companies outside your industry. While it is true that no outside consultant knows your business as well as you do, it is also possible to study other companies and industries to see what works for them.
&149; Expecting to be an overnight sensation. Sure, the Net is growing fast, but that doesn't mean you are going to double your business overnight. You need to set realistic goals, which will vary for each company and industry.
&149; Not being flexible. The Internet truly does move quickly, from one business plan to another, from one gimmick to another. You need to be able to adapt to the latest trends while staying true to your business plan's long-term objectives.
Daniel Janal is an Internet marketing consultant, speaker and author of "Dan Janal's Guide to Marketing on the Internet."