Mark Twain once said, “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.” He would have been astounded to know that, 100 years later, advertising would become a billion-dollar industry. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that in 2006 alone, $16.9 billion was spent on online advertising. This global phenomenon has leveled the playing field for small and large businesses alike. No longer do massive media agencies control the flow of information, generate awareness, and produce ads for struggling start-ups or thriving corporations. Anyone can reach an international audience, millions of potential customers, with a quick, catchy YouTube video. This has forever changed the angle at which businesses conduct marketing campaigns, product development, pricing strategies, advertising promotions, distribution channels, and specialized customer targeting. The only way for businesses to differentiate themselves from the competition is to embrace e-marketing (internet marketing) and utilize its techniques.

Internet marketing is essential for a business to thrive in today’s fast-paced economy, especially when it has to compete with more than 500 million websites. With 1.5 billion pieces of on the web, 1.5 million YouTube videos, and more than 200 million tweets every day, it’s necessary for businesses to keep track of their current customers’, as well as their future customers’, data. In 2008, The New York Times and comScore published a report of the amount of data collected by online-based companies. It was found that the potential for collecting any one user’s data was up to 2,500 times per month. With these kinds of statistics, companies can quickly customize and alter online advertisements, according to market demands, to give the customer an interactive experience. Marketing research can also pinpoint customers to their exact location with geolocation software and offer other products based on their specific city, zip code, or neighborhood. Experts of this method are Google and Facebook, who use Double Click and Edge Rank, respectively, to provide a more relevant and appealing advertisement to the user. This type of internet marketing, called niche marketing, has become increasingly popular among search engines and social networks.

Effective marketing must captivate an internet user from awareness to eventual retention. Investing in banner advertising is the most common form of e-marketing today. In order to attract potential customers from large crowds, banner ads are usually found in frequently visited Web sites as small pictures or messages. They will employ a slew of tricks, such as flashing animations, quirky video clips, or spectacular offers to lure a browsing user into its site. Despite its popularity, the click-through rates on these advertisements are extremely low. What’s the reasoning? Well, 57% of users are worried they’ll receive spam from advertisers and 31% fear that their behavior will be tracked if they click on the ad.

Another popular marketing tactic is e-mail campaigns. Recent studies have found that an average person spends 19% of their time online viewing and replying to e-mails. So, this medium becomes a reliable way for businesses to communicate with their customers through e-newsletters and/or deliver promotions to potential clients. It allows them to network with people on a global scale and endorse other features on their Web site, such as a company blog or their official social media content. Still, relevance is crucial when 45% of consumers today are unsubscribing from these newsletters because of unnecessary content. It’s also critical to understand and know who your recepient is. An experiment by two marketing professors demonstrated the effectiveness of personalized e-mails as a marketing practice. They found a huge deviation in the response rates of e-mails that were addressed anonymously to a company, versus an e-mail personally addressed to the senior executives (4.5% and 16.3% respectively).

One of the fastest growing, if not fastest, advertising opportunities today are found in social media. It may have taken the radio 38 years to reach 50 million users, or the television 13 years, but Facebook alone has managed to add over 200 million users in less than 12 months. Statistics say that Facebook accounts for 1 out of every 7 minutes spent online around the world, and that social networks and blogs in the U.S. reach nearly 80% of American internet users. That’s about 200 million people! In order to reach out to every potential customer possible, businesses must incorporate social media into their marketing strategies, whether they include Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram— the list goes on. However, social media doesn’t guarantee a golden ticket to increased sales. A business must be dynamic in engaging with their customers and providing useful content for them.

Regardless of the marketing strategy, a company’s greatest challenge remains gaining a customer’s trust. Many internet users are disillusioned by the amount of scams and promotion deceptions found in unethical marketing. Since it takes time to earn trust, many customers prefer buying from reputable companies, even if the cost is higher. Branding becomes a customer preference and smaller businesses must spend more from their advertising budget to promote their sites. A serious limitation to marketers is that the consumers cannot physically try the product, so they must focus their entire attention on the advertisements and product description to entice the consumer. The marketer must also take into account that while creating a flashy Facebook profile is an important step, they must drive users to that company page somehow.

E-marketing has changed the entire scope, and created new bounds, for a business’ potential reach. One company may have a clear goal of scoring new sales leads, resulting in a massive e-mail campaign or countless hours improving their SEO. Another may pursue increased brand awareness, leading to public discussions on their social media pages. Where it used to take weeks to publish a catalog, it now takes seconds to post a tweet or send an e-mail. The only difference now between a struggling start-up and the next booming enterprise and is, as Mark Twain said, “the right kind of advertising.”

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