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Some tips on using online tactics to keep your marketing message visible while saving costs

You don't have to be a member of the Federal Reserve Board to know that marketers are hunkering down and selecting only the fastest, cheapest ways to acquire and retain customers as budgets evaporate. Online tactics offer low-cost, high-yield options. Here are a few things to consider before embracing these tactics:

Blogging: The human face of corporations and businesses doesn't matter without a point of view. You've got to get customers to click, read and believe. This demands content that's more “textured” than the usual offerings to effectively bring them back, buy something or talk up your brand.

SEO: Seven of 10 searchers click on the natural results first. But if you're not on the first page, you're toast. Getting to that page requires huge investments of skill, tools and dedicated players. This is a good investment bet, though improvement is incremental and sometimes glacial due to intense competition and almost constant gaming both by search engines and optimizers.

PPC: Play-per-click search advertising is the fastest and easiest thing you can do. With even modest budgets, you can incrementally improve traffic and results. Even from a standing start, PPC advertising can quickly have a positive ROI on your business.

Social networking: This is the most hyped and least understood marketing tool. Reaching out to large numbers of customers linked to each other in social forums using the images, language and customs they prefer and expect makes good sense. Some brands have amassed large numbers of “friends”; others have distributed information and coupons, prompted interaction and feedback, run contests, collected data or even sold some merchandise. At relatively modest costs, social networks are a great experimental tool and marketing test lab.

E-mail: In site of widespread hatred of spam and the near ubiquitous deployment of increasingly sophisticated spam filters, outbound opt-in e-mail is the most cost-effective and reliable tool you can use. E-mail works. Determinants of success are a clean opt-in list, a credible “from” line and a motivating “subject” line with an actionable offer inside. Shorter copy with minimal graphics and clearly marked calls to action work best. Bet the farm on e-mail.

Affiliate marketing: This approach offers the prospect of everyone helping everyone else. Though in reality it's about finding the right balance between greed and self-interest. The 80/20 rule applies—a minority of sites will yield the biggest payoffs. Setting up an effective affiliate network takes at least 90 days and requires dedicated staff and expertise. If you start now, it might begin to pay out in 2009.

Daniel Flamberg is managing partner at Booster Rocket (www.boosterrocket.net), a provider of lead-generation services. He can be reach at dflamberg@hotmail.com.

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