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Traditional marketing vs Internet marketing - the key difference

Many small business owners have a hard time getting their head around Internet Marketing. This is because, being "real world" marketers, they believe marketing involves telling people about a product or service. But there are major differences between Internet Marketing and traditional marketing, especially in the way we inform others about the availability of a product or service. What is the difference? In its simplest form, it is the difference between a newspaper ad and a yellow page style directory listing. What follows is an extremely simplified version of the concept of Internet (inbound) marketing.

Newspaper ad
In the real world we place newspaper ads to create awareness about our product or service. We place an ad in a newspaper which is then distributed to the public. A percentage of people will see the ad, and a minuscule percentage of those who see the ad will respond. To increase the results, or return on investment of our newspaper ad, we can do many things. We could change the primary message. We could change images. We could change offers. We can, given the right circumstances, cause that newspaper ad to produce a higher return on investment. What we cannot change is the saturation percentage of a particular market.

Newspaper advertising prices are based on the saturation of a particular market, normally designated by a number called readership. In other words, if the newspaper goes to 50,000 people, readership is 50,000 people. We base our investment on a number of factors, but the primary factor is the number of readers, which increases the chances that our ad will be seen by a higher number of people.

Yellow page style directories
Yellow pages style directories serve as a directory, a listing, of a specific number of businesses in a very specific category. The return on investment can be much higher, for a very important reason. Only interested parties see the advertisement. This is because they must physically look up the advertisement in that directory.

So while newspaper advertising goes to many people who may not be interested in our product or service, yellow pages style directories and other forms of directory listings normally hit only interested parties.

The Difference
This in a sense is the primary difference between traditional marketing and Internet Marketing. Regardless of the form of traditional, outbound marketing we're using, we are using an approach that delivers a message to the public at large. Therefore the return on investment will often be much smaller. However in the Internet environment our message it will only be seen by interested parties because the Internet is search engine driven. In other words the searcher must enter a search term that leads them to our message.

An Internet search engine, regardless of the form it takes, serves as an indexing system for what can be found on the Internet falling under that broad search term entered by the searcher.

If you only understand that much you'll begin to understand the basic concepts of Internet Marketing. It is not important to deliver a message to uninterested parties, but only to those who have already demonstrated an interest in that product or service. The search engines do this naturally.

In the real world we would always attempt to get our ad as close to the beginning of a section in the Yellow Pages as we could thereby increasing the number of people who saw our message. This is extremely important in regards to Internet Marketing as studies show that even though the search engines serve up millions of listings, very few people go beyond page three of search engine results. It is important to show up at the top of those results of course. This can be done in many ways.

If you really know your target audience, you should know generally where they are looking and hopefully you will know how they are searching. This allows you to build a strategy utilizing those two pieces of information that will get you in front of your target audience before your competition.

The question in regards to creating successful results on the Internet is: how do we do that? The answer will be different for every business. It will depend on your target audience, their primary interests, their search habits and will be greatly influenced by the selection of specific tools they use to find information on the Internet. In short, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question (though many people would have you believe otherwise), as every target market's needs and every product or service designed to fill those needs will be completely unique.