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Monday, December 11, 2000

Product promotion on the Web
by Sumesh Raizada

Thirty years ago, when American defence department developed the Internet for secret communication between its installations, nobody would have dreamt that this invention would revolutionise the whole world later. Today, the Internet is the medium for news, entertainment, education, career and a lot more. It may therefore be rightly termed as the phenomenon, of the people, for the people and by the people.

It is estimated that in India alone, there are more then five million Net users. The Net has cut across all geographical and social barriers, has caught the attention of manufacturers, professionals, educational institutions, and even retailers who are vying to establish themselves on the World Wide Web. Almost every minute, at least two new Web sites are launched and through million of such sites, there exists a potential for business and e-commerce transaction throughout the world. In countries like the USA and UK a sizable proportion of business is done through the Net, whether it is shopping through grocery store, operating bank accounts, purchasing books or consumer goods.


In India, a recent survey estimates that during the current financial year, e-commerce will do nearly Rs 3000 crore of business. Companies are now realising the marketing potential that this medium offers. While circulation of advertisement in the newspaper or magazine may be limited, there is no end to readership of e-magazine or e-mailers. Similarly, with persons getting hooked on to the Internet for a substantial duration of time, TV viewership is getting reduced proportionately. Almost all manufacturing or selling organisations are out on the Internet for promoting and expediting sale of their produce or services through Web sites. The products may range from cosmetics, music albums, garments, television and cars. Besides, several service or utility organisations, like banks, travel agencies, job consultants, even scrap dealers, are promoting their services through the Web. Merely having a Web site is not sufficient, as there are hundreds of other similar sites that exist on the Web vying with each other to get attention of the prospect for affecting their business.

These Web sites employ several methods to attract surfers on to their pages. Portals or ISPs are also engaged in the publicity of Web sites to maximise viewership among browsers, and thereby have an edge over competitors. They do it by placing advertisement on other Web sites, as done successfully by amazon.com, or through offering discounts or gifts to those who utilise their Web site services, or by sending news letters through e-mail to respective clients. Most organisations hire professionals or consultants who sell their products, services and Web sites on the Internet.

These persons may also be employed on the company rolls as Web marketing executives. The task of these professionals is primarily to promote and monitor the sale of product or services on the Web. They work in close coordination with the Web designing team as well as sales department. These personnel are responsible for managing and executing the companyís Web sites, track the site, manage it and analyse the performance.

Companies have realised that merely having an attractive product is not enough. It has to be successful also. Web marketing professionals do market research and prepare strategy so to make a site or advertisement a commercial success.

They are required to study the prospective customerís Web browsing patterns, the Web page features that makes a customer open or close the site, selection of a particular mode of publicity as per the companyís policies and financial feasibility. They also monitor the activities and features of their competitorís products and sites. They ensure that most prospective customers view their product or services on the Web.

They are involved in the optimisation and selection of search engines, monitoring and updating strategies to make the Web contents more useful, analysing the customer search and browsing behaviour, and preparing report on the progress or result achieved. They work with content providers and ensure that content gets updated in a productive manner. These professionals also interact with outside parties and ensure that applicable Web standard is met. They also suggest discounts and gifts that have to be offered on many of the promotional products and services mentioned on the site.

These professionals select the most visited sites, portals or search engines for placement of their advertisement, create and distribute banner advertisements, assess and reschedule it. They work in close liaison with the Web designers or animators in deciding the layout and contents of the Web pages. Web marketing person is responsible for selecting the affiliate program and linking options for their Web site.

They are also involved in the preparation of newsletter or announcement of incentives, to be e-mailed to the prospective clients. These professionals are also required to analyse, monitor and adjust the advertisement and activities of the affiliates. Besides above, Web marketing professionals are involved in the copy writing of advertisement for their site on other media, say newspaper or television.

They execute the task of effective public relations on the Web and answer the customer queries through e-mail or chatting. This helps in promoting and increasing traffic to the site and enhancing business. Web marketing executive also ensures that money or time invested for generating the customer traffic remains within the budget and does not exceed disproportionately.

These professionals need to be dynamic and good communicator. They are required to issue press releases about new products or services being offered and companyís policies. They are also quite often, required to prepare e-mail list of prospective clients and send direct mailers to them. They have to analyse various statistical software, the viewership count and prospects-to-buyer conversion rate. They have to execute the tedious task of selecting the name for the Web site so that it gets maximum attention among the viewers and also among the search engines.

Ideally, a person going in for Web marketing career should be an MBA in marketing with proficiency in the Internet-related computer programs. He should have exposure to HTML, Java, PhotoShop and illustrator. Candidates with experience in market research or communication with relevant experience in Windows, Unix, and other languages may also work as Web marketing professionals. They need to have strong interpersonal and communication skills and must be excellent in managing projects. The person going in for this career should be highly interactive and must be aware of the industry and market in which he operates.

The earnings of these professionals are enormous, considering the vital job they perform.

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