If you’re not already advertising online, you’re missing the marketing wave of the present and future.

For virtual and real world businesses, a good website is a necessity today. But there are many other elements to a good online marketing and advertising strategy: driving traffic to your site, giving customers things they want, and tying virtual campaigns in with real-world campaigns.

Start with websites. A good website is more than your company’s Yellow Pages display ad put on a computer; instead, it is a way to connect with your customers on an individual basis, give special rewards to your best ones, and expand on the information you have available in brochures and advertisements.

Marketing and advertising on your website are both easy. You have no production costs and no length limits – only your imagination and the talents of your online staff limit you. Frequent choices for online marketing include things like web-only coupons, opt-in mailing lists, and online-only deals.

How you handle your website marketing programs
is also dependent upon how you track other customer contact. Ideas companies have used include percent-off coupons, one-day sales for your best customers (if you have a customer loyalty program), drives for new customers, and emailed coupons. In addition, your website can make your customers feel personally welcomed.

But your website doesn’t do anything if you don’t get visits. Your search engine optimization (SEO) plan is a critical component of capturing new business. SEO uses an understanding of how search engines and other web technologies bring traffic to your site as a means of maximizing your customer base.

Most virtual companies use SEO to cast a global net over a targeted market. For example, doll collector sites optimize their sites to bring in doll collectors as potential customers. You may want to optimize your site to bring in a local market, if you’re a local company, or you may be ready to go global with a mail-order branch. In either case, your SEO focus is central to your online marketing plan.

Have you ever considered doing a company newsletter? With online technology, you can do an emailed newsletter that avoids postage and printing costs and can easily be sent to three or three hundred thousand customers. A newsletter can do dozens of things: announce sales, let customers know about important news, provide coupons, push new products, ask for feedback, and build personal relationships with your customers, just to name a few.

You can also sponsor a website or web service that is of interest to your customers. This is similar to advertising in a local paper, but offers a mixture of credibile awareness and ‘shop window’ type publicitly.

Suppose you know of a blog that covers your customer base which is global or local and that could drive some good traffic to your site. Approach the owner about a sponsorship, where you pay a fee for a period of time in exchange for banner ads announcing your sponsorship and maybe some talking up by the blog owner.

This is a flexible advertising solution; if you own a small skate-supply shop, sponsorships could include sites covering local skating events, a local skating rink, or the blog of a popular local skating personality. Again, imagination is the most important key to marketing in this case.

Don’t allow yourself to be limited by fixed-media thinking. The Web is filled with opportunities that have scarcely been touched, and most of these offer you, the business owner, unique possibilities for advertising. Let your imagination run wild.

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