By: Ginger Marks

As I ponder this question, as I am sure you are too, there are many thoughts that whip around in our minds. Students of marketing are no longer only being taught the standard marketing strategy. The shift to online marketing has gained such strength that those that had never considered the Internet a viable choice are now including it as an important part of all their marketing efforts. One of the reasons for that shift is the vast amount of monies that are saved on printing costs vs. online set up fees.

In the past business owners had no choice but to pay out the hefty fees necessary to print hundreds of copies for their ad runs only to find that the ad campaign failed or had at most a small response rate. If they were tracking the response then they had to go back to the board and create a new ad campaign and print and mail that doubling their initial investment. On the contrary, once the website has been created the expense of changing the look or feel of your campaign is minor.

Both online and offline the length of time that it takes a browser to become a buyer may not be much different. But how do you turn a browser into a buyer? As marketing professionals and students alike know very well, it takes seven to ten contacts with a customer before they become the sought after buyer. Familiarity is the key. You have to build trust and that only comes with time. After the sale that trust must continue to increase or the new buyer may not come back and certainly won't refer their friends and family to you. However, I am getting ahead of myself. We'll save this discussion for another time.

Some of you may think that your business is different. You don't have a product that would benefit from an online presence. Perhaps you think that traditional marketing is the only way to go. I would like to offer an example if you will indulge me. Let's say you own a bakery. We'll call it My Little Taste of Italy. You are located in a small town in southern California and have a loyal, local, customer base. As you sell perishable goods how can you possibly benefit from an internet presence? I will now show you just how viable the internet is for a business such as this.

Our first step is to put together a web presence. This will take some marketing dollars that you may feel are better spent in the local market but realize we are now talking global marketing. As you know very well, as your market area increases so does your potential customer base. When putting together your website you will need to optimize your web presence with every available means. So what you need to consider are not only your keyword density but what keywords you should use. This is done by checking out the competition. Look at the words like, bakery, Italy, Italian, and perhaps some of your product line biscotti, rosettes, cakes, cookies, muffins, brownies, and any combination of those words. After checking out the competition you will know whether you should continue to use these as your keywords or look for more specific ones.

Once your site is complete and your online presence is there you need to begin your marketing efforts. One thing that you should do is to link the offline with the online markets. Perhaps you can send a custom postcard to make your offline market aware of the convenience of online ordering. Continuing to mix the two marketing arenas is always a wise investment. As I have heard it said many times before, putting all your eggs in one basket is asking for trouble.

There are specific steps you should take to optimize your web presence. Having a website is just the beginning. Lead generation, customer acquisition, 1st transaction, subsequent sales, delivery of content, and back-end sales marketing efforts should be interlinked both online and offline. If you are not doing this you risk leaving sales unrealized and money on the proverbial table.

It is well known in marketing arenas that spending minimum amounts of money to obtain leads will result in minimum, low quality leads. So what I am suggesting you do is to narrow your lead base by qualifying your buyer. If a customer is really interested in what you have to offer they WILL take the time to learn all they can about you. One of the things the bakery we used as our model, My Little Taste of Italy, does is to network effectively both online and off. You are your best salesman, let others know you are there and if your product is as good as you believe it is your customers will come back again and again.

Besides networking what else does My Little Taste of Italy do? They have products of the highest quality, yet if others don't know they exist how are they ever going to win new business. Let's see what else they do to further promote their goodies? One idea they might try is adding a little something extra in outgoing packages. Why would they spend hard earned income giving away goods for free? If they truly have the best products around, then giving out samples can only increase the chance of customers trying something different in their next order. The more they try the more they will buy. That is why samples have been such a profitable investment in any business effort over the years.

Another point I would like to make here is presentation is priceless. No matter how good your product is you want to wow your customers. Make sure when your customers receive their packages they are satiated with all of their senses. Remember the eye is the window to the soul and the presentation is as important as the offering. For this reason the bakery we have chosen as our example, My Little Taste of Italy, packages with care each and every outgoing shipment.

Now you have your product and packaging, your web presence and a few customers. Let's see what we can do to increase the customer base. Article marketing has been proven to be an effective tool. Use the media, whether offline or on to grow your business. Be sure the information is such that the media will even care. A holiday is a good time to send out an article or press release to announce an event, new product, or business expansion that you are promoting. Again we turn to the bakery. One thing that My Little Taste of Italy could do is put together care packages for the soldiers stationed overseas. That would be a good idea for promoting their business while serving the community. The media loves the holiday angle. One of the benefits is that any coverage you gain by making the media aware of your efforts costs you only the time and effort to put the information in-front of them if you have the ability and talent to write an effective press release or article. Your press release communicates a newsworthy story and should not be a blatant ad. Once crafted, you will need to disseminate it to the right audience if you expect it to be picked up; this is where a press release copywriter becomes invaluable. The amount of money you will invest to have a skilled press release writer send your release out is one of the wisest investments you will make. In addition, once you get picked up by one media source the possibility of being picked up by another greatly increases.

While you continue to market your business in non-traditional ways and traditional alike you should always remember that with marketing the terms are always changing. What I mean by that is look at the telemarketers, email marketing, and such. With the ever changing tide of laws governing how we can market and what we can do to avoid spamming our marketing efforts should never be stagnant or single focused. In other words, use several types of marketing, not just a single email campaign. Varying your efforts guarantees you won't suffer huge losses in revenue if what you are doing is affected by these changes.

About the Author:

Ginger Marks & Kim Emerson are co-owners of Nibroc Marketing Solutions ( Ginger is the author of "Presentational Skills for the Next Generation", available through her company website at ( My Little Taste of Italy can be found at

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