Depending on whom you ask, the term Internet marketing can mean a variety of things. At one time, Internet marketing consisted mostly of having a website or placing banner ads on other websites. On the other end of the spectrum, there are loads of companies telling you that you can make a fortune overnight on the Internet and who try to sell you some form of "Internet marketing program".
Today, Internet marketing, or online marketing, is evolving into a broader mix of components a company can use as a means of increasing sales - even if your business is done completely online, partly online, or completely offline. The decision to use Internet marketing as part of a company's overall marketing strategy is strictly up to the company of course, but as a rule, Internet marketing is becoming an increasingly important part of nearly every company's marketing mix. For some online businesses, it is the only form of marketing being practiced.
Internet Marketing Objectives
Essentially, Internet marketing is using the Internet to do one or more of the following:
Communicate a company's message about itself, its products, or its services online.
Conduct research as to the nature (demographics, preferences, and needs) of existing and potential customers.
Sell goods, services, or advertising space over the Internet.
Internet Marketing Components
Components of Internet marketing (or online marketing) may include:
Setting up a website , consisting of text, images and possibly audio and video elements used to convey the company's message online, to inform existing and potential customers of the features and benefits of the company's products and/or services. The website may or may not include the ability to capture leads from potential customers or directly sell a product or service online. Websites can be the Internet equivalents of offline brochures or mail order catalogs and they are a great way to establish your business identity.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which is marketing a website online via search engines, either by improving the site's natural (organic) ranking through search engine optimization (SEO), buying pay-per-click (PPC) ads or purchasing pay-for-inclusion (PFI) listings in website directories, which are similar to offline yellow page listings.
Email marketing, which is a method of distributing information about a product or service or for soliciting feedback from customers about a product or service through Email. Email addresses of customers and prospective customers may be collected or purchased. Various methods are used, such as the regular distribution of newsletters or mass mailing of offers related to the company's product or services. Email marketing is essentially the online equivalent of direct mail marketing.
Banner advertising, which is the placement of ads on a website for a fee. The offline equivalent of this form of online marketing would be traditional ads in newspapers or magazines.
Online press releases, which involve placing a newsworthy story about a company, its website, its people, and/or its products/services with on online wire service.
Blog marketing, which is the act of posting comments, expressing opinions or making announcements in a discussion forum and can be accomplished either by hosting your own blog or by posting comments and/or URLs in other blogs related to your product or service online.
Article marketing, which involves writing articles related to your business and having them published online on syndicated article sites. These articles then have a tendency to spread around the Internet since the article services permit re-publication provided that all of the links in the article are maintained. Article marketing can result in a traffic boost for your website, and the distribution of syndicated articles can promote your brand to a wide audience.
Social media marketing, which can involve social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and social bookmarking sites like Digg.
Internet Marketing and Home Business
Of all of the components of Internet marketing, prospective customers and clients expect a business to have a website. In fact, not having one could raise a red flag to a prospect. Online usage has become so pervasive today, many prospects might easily choose to do business with a company that they can get up-to-date information on 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Even a business that only has very local customers, such as a single location restaurant or shoe store can benefit from having a website and engaging in online marketing. And, those businesses whose customers are not restricted to a geographical area might have a difficult time finding an alternate method of attracting customers that offers the reasonably low expense and worldwide reach of a Web presence.
Because of the "virtual" nature of most home businesses, websites, if not an absolute necessity, can certainly provide benefits to a home business operator. Since most home-based businesses don't have a physical location, a website provides an inexpensive means for prospects to get to know what you do or what you sell and can even be a "storefront" for selling goods and services directly.
The Internet has greatly enabled home businesses to prosper because of the reasonably low cost to start and maintain a web presence. Therefore, Internet marketing should be part of your business plan and your marketing strategy.