The current world of business is characterized by an unceasing competition cutting across all industries. Business organizations, international companies and multi-national corporations are struggling to gain a competitive advantage over all their rivals in the market. As a result, companies devise wide range of marketing strategies to win new customers, retain existing customers and increase their market share in a bid to gain competitive advantage in the market. One strategy used by marketing departments in most companies is internet marketing. Internet marketing is used to reach existing and potential customers who are also internet users.
Why Organizations Use Internet Marketing
In the modern world, internet users are increasing tremendously (Eley and Tilley, 2009). Therefore, companies find it lucrative to use internet marketing as a marketing strategy so as to reach thousands or even millions of internet users who access the website used by those companies in their marketing. Martin (2010) argues that marketing executives across the world are moving online in their marketing activities such as creating awareness, passing information about the features of products and services, making sales and purchasing orders, promotion, advertising, distribution and after-sales services.
Challenges Associated with Internet Marketing
Despite the growing significance of internet marketing as a marketing strategy, it also poses some difficulties to marketing executives of various companies of the world. Some companies and business firms may lack the capabilities of internet marketing, thus limiting their potential to reach existing and potential customers (Kotler, 2011). This may lead to a reduced competitive advantage and the companies’ rivals who use internet marketing effectively may push such companies out of the market. Critics of internet marketing also hold that internet marketing pose a real danger of creating issues of ethical concern such as dangers to internet security and derailing of moral values, cultures and traditions among the internet users.
Interactive and Internet marketing concepts, principles, issues and applications
Marketing is the process through which an organization uses as a guiding philosophy for all the activities carried out in order to meet the needs of its target market and delivering products and services to its customers. The marketing strategy of an organization is influenced by its market, competitor’s actions and customer needs. In order for the organization to meet its organizational objectives, marketing should be the key focus (Eley and Tilley, 2009). The company management actions should always be guided by the philosophy of the company’s marketing. A company’s marketing strategy should also be customer oriented since customers are the key drivers of every organization’s profitability.
Interactive and Internet marketing are two of the widely used and most successful marketing strategies in the modern competitive business world. It refers to the use of internet and interactive technology-based mechanisms to carry out marketing activities in order to attain marketing goals and objectives (Kotler, 2011). This encompasses the use of internet and digital media such as wireless mobile, cable and satellite media. Companies may use company websites, search engines, banners, direct e-mail and/or other websites’ links to implement its marketing strategies. These strategies are mainly used to provide services to existing customers and obtain new customers. Therefore, internet marketing helps the company to build a good relationship with its customers. In order for a company’s internet marketing strategies to materialize, they should be integrated with traditional marketing alternatives such as print and Television.
In the recent past, interactive media have also emerged as great potential marketing options for various companies (Kotler, 2011). The most common of these media are the social media such as facebook, tweeter, you-tube, Skype and Google+. These interactive media can be used by companies to create awareness about their new products, inform customers of improvements made within the company and advertise the companies’ products to a wider range of customers. For instance, if a Company plans to launch a new product in a new location such as the UK it may opt to create an official facebook page for the company. It can then join a facebook group with members from the UK and ask the members of that group to like the company’s official facebook page. The facebook users who will like the page will then get information about the new product. Some of these users will find the new product suitable for them and start using the new product. Therefore, social media play a very important role in pulling new customers to an organization.
Internet marketing is therefore a crucial concept in marketing which plays four crucial roles: provides support to organizational functions that distribute goods and services to customers, acts as a medium of communication, enhances information management and facilitates the achievement of the organizational and marketing objectives. Since the modern corporate world is very competitive, organizations should be able to access and provide sufficient information (Smith and Chaffey, 2001). A company which plans to increase its market share or expand should get access to relevant information about the industry, market, customers, competitors and new technologies. Good IT management enhances this function, and a good IT management is in turn achieved through effective internet marketing strategies.
It is clear that internet marketing concept is a good marketing strategy for organizations. However, even with an internet marketing strategy integrated with traditional marketing alternatives, some companies still fail to achieve their marketing objectives. In this case, it is not actually the internet marketing concept but the application of such a concept in marketing activities of the companies that lead to the companies’ demise. Some of the myopic factors that make such companies to fail include wrongly defining the business and focusing on production rather than customer needs, technology rather than objectives and selling rather than winning customers (Smith and Chaffey, 2001). Other derailing factors in internet marketing include: inadequate innovation, narrow strategic planning, non-visionary management and prioritizing other functions over marketing. If organizations have to benefit from the concept of internet marketing, then they should focus on its broader applications rather than just using it as a means of selling and communicating. Companies that restrict the function of internet marketing to only promotion and selling often miss the mark and are doomed to fail. On the other hand, non-myopic organizations which use internet marketing to build relationships and provide service delivery stand a greater chance to gain competitive advantage over their rivals in the market.
Benefits and customer usage of Internet and other interactive media
Many customers engage in internet activities frequently in the modern society (Burleson, 2005). Individuals use the internet to perform various activities such as making purchase orders, booking traveling tickets, interacting and developing new ideas through access of information. These activities are of various benefits to the internet users. Each internet user engages the internet for specific purposes; for fun, business, education or socializing. Since these internet users form part of a company’s customer bases, it is therefore prudent for companies to intensify their internet marketing so as to reach this vast growing pool of internet users. Every company’s marketing executives use the internet in marketing nowadays, not because everyone is using it but because it is the best way to reach the customer, and reaching the customer is the best way to market the company and its products.
Internet marketing plays a key role in the marketing activities of organizations. Customers use the internet in various ways, which enables them access information about company’s operations, products and services. This enables the companies to carry out their marketing activities through the internet effectively (Eley and Tilley, 2009). The main objectives of internet marketing are customer acquisition, conversion, retention, and value growth. Internet media enables companies to acquire customers through advertisement and promotion. An organization may opt to advertise or promote its products through its own website or through other websites at a fee. The viewers of those websites can then access information about the company’s products and services. As a result, they may consider using the company’s products and services. The organization may also use interactive channels to convert customers. This involves brand development and providing feedback to customer queries. Once the customers are converted, they can then be retained through e-commerce.
According to Smith and Chaffey (2001), internet marketing is used for three purposes: identifying, anticipating and satisfying. In the identification function, the internet is used to determine customer needs. This enables the company to devise strategies to achieve those needs. The second function of anticipating refers to the development of a channel through which customers can access information. The final function (satisfying customers) involves the use of electronic channels to achieve customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is very important to the business because it leads to customer loyalty and an increased competitive advantage. These functions emphasize internet marketing focus on the customer while at the same time linking the company’s business activities in order to achieve profitability.
The success of internet marketing is also determined by whether a company’s marketing strategy is a business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C). B2B refers to transactions between an organization and its consumers while B2C refers to transactions between one organization and another organization which in this capacity acts as a customer to the organization. Organizations may also provide C2C interactions through the internet as a way of building customer loyalty. Smith and Chaffey (2001) suggest that C2C communications helps organizations by reducing costs that could have been used to reach all of the customers individually through advertisements, personal selling or promotions.
An organization can also use the internet to achieve market penetration, market development, product development and diversification (Smith and Chaffey, 2001). In market penetration, the internet can be used to sell more existing products to existing markets. In this case, the internet is used to advertise products and hence create awareness of the company’s products and the company image among potential customers in existing markets. The internet can also be used to sell existing products to new markets. In this case, the low-cost internet marketing is used to grow the company internationally through internet advertising in global businesses. Product development involves the process of selling new products to existing markets. The internet can be used to deliver these new products and to create awareness about the existence of these new products in the market. Finally, internet marketing helps in diversification (Eley and Tilley, 2009). In this case, new products are developed and sold to new markets with the help of internet marketing.
Online marketing strategies
After understanding the concept of internet marketing as well as the benefits and internet customer usage, we now turn our focus to the various online marketing strategies that organizations use. We will also consider other possible options for organizations in terms of online marketing. Organizations may use a mix of these strategies or just one of them depending on the overall marketing strategies and plans of the organization.
One of the internet marketing strategies used by organizations is e-mail marketing. This is one of the primary tools which companies use to establish a good customer base and build relationships with particular customers. As discussed earlier in this report, the use of internet technology in marketing is a fundamental phenomenon in achieving customer needs and requirements. According to Martin (2010), e-mail is one of the most appropriate online marketing strategies because it enhances direct marketing (creates one on one channel) and is less costly compared to other internet marketing strategies. It is also argued that most people begin their day with email. It is therefore clear that Email is a vital online marketing strategy that can help organizations to establish and maintain sustainable relationships with target markets. The main purpose of e-mail marketing is to communicate with potential and existing customers about an organization’s products, operations and developments. Therefore, online marketing is an effective communication tool.
Another online marketing strategy used by organizations is the display advertising. This technique is also called banners. The main aim of online banners is to enable customers to observe and review a company’s ads easily on display. Display advertising has been gaining fame in the recent past. It is becoming more popular because it works in a direct-response sense. Therefore, it is necessary for companies to consider this mechanism of online marketing as well.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is also another online marketing strategy used by companies to acquire, convert and retain customers. Nowadays the world’s population is using social media aggressively. However, most people don’t quite understand the role of social media in marketing. This marketing strategy is also still undergoing change and transformation. This dynamism affects marketing strategies of most companies (Burleson, 2005). Social media marketing in a clear perspective entails achieving business objectives through the use of selected social media channels to achieve customer satisfaction build customer relationship. C2C interaction as discussed earlier can be well achieved through the use of SMM. Engaging in social media marketing and doing it with enough enthusiasm are two different things. B2C marketers need to create accounts in social media networks such as tweeter and facebook and use it to market their products aggressively. After all, many businesses have created accounts in these sites nowadays. What makes the difference is how a company uses its account to win customers.
The last online marketing strategy in this report is on-line branding. This involves developing a company brand through the internet so as to increase customer and brand loyalty. The basic elements of brand building include: excellent product, target audience, branding objectives, consistent messaging, creative and compelling, relevant content and growing brand development. These elements should be either directly communicated or implied clearly through the internet so as to achieve brand loyalty. In order for companies to be effective in developing a good online branding, the following brand hierarchy is necessary (Burleson, 2005).
Awareness – Familiarity – positive imagery – completed transaction
Whenever this hierarchy is met, a good company and product brand is achieved.
From this report, we have so far realized that internet marketing is a key element for companies to gain competitive advantage in the market. It is clear that the changing world has posed a real threat to firms and organizations through increased market competitions. Each firm or organization is therefore struggling to develop strategies that may enable it gain a competitive advantage or at least survive in the market. One of the strategies that work for most organizations is marketing strategy. This strategy is important because it targets customers who are the key profit drivers for profit-seeking organizations.
If indeed marketing strategy boosts organization’s goals then internet marketing being part of marketing strategy is an effective marketing strategy as well (Eley and Tilley, 2009). However, some organizations still fail even after adopting internet marketing. This is because internet marketing should be used to target customers and link companies’ operations with profitability objectives, a fact which is not considered by some companies. If this is done diligently and with proper planning, then internet marketing will lead to the achievement of marketing and organizational objectives.
From the theories and models of marketing, it is clear that marketing strategies contribute to achievement of organizational goals. Internet marketing is one of the marketing strategies used by most successful companies (Smith and Chaffey, 2001). This report therefore recommends the use of interactive and internet marketing as a marketing strategy to achieve organizational objectives.
Another recommendation in this report is that organizations should use interactive sessions in the social media with a lot of enthusiasm (Eley and Tilley, 2009). This is can be done through posting on pages and groups of the marketing organization regularly on the social media sites such as Facebook, Myspace and Tweeter. Marketing executives should include a clear description of their products on these social media.
Finally, the report also recommends the establishment of a sound marketing department which is dynamic and flexible enough to move at a good pace with the dynamism of the technology-based competitive world. This department should always prioritize customer needs in its online marketing activities.