Just a few years ago, monthly bank statements came in the mail and the information was 20 to 30 days old. Today, banks offer online access to statements with current information at any time through the bank’s Web site. Monthly paper statements cost the bank significantly more than distributing that same information electronically. This is just one example of companies using the Internet to increase their profit margins.
Any company can use online resources to streamline its business and increase profits. Consider the following tips:
Even before concerns about global warming made companies more environmentally conscious, the Internet was paving the way for a less paper-dependent economy. Now the changes are so drastic they are depressing paper-dependent businesses, such as the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Postal Service. Postal rates continue to increase as businesses rely more on e-mail and online marketing to communicate with clients and acquire new ones.
Following in the footsteps of the banking industry, most businesses can experience an immediate increase in profit margins by invoicing their customers and vendors through e-mail or secure Web sites. Some companies also accept payments through the Internet via secure servers, such as PayPal.
In the wake of such trends, savvy business owners are encouraging their customers and clients to use the Internet, not only as a source of information, but also as a convenient way to place an order. The number of Web-site storefronts grows every year and many businesses are moving away from physical storefront launches in preference of virtual ones.
Construction companies, for example, can market their previous jobs to potential clients through online images and video. If a customer is interested, an online form can differentiate a hot lead from a lukewarm one. Online payment systems also allow customers to pay retainers or purchase orders securely over the Internet; receipts then are e-mailed to the customer.
When a consumer or potential client visits a business Web site, the goal of that business should not only be to share information, but also to convert the visitor to a lead or a customer. A successful lead conversion occurs when a Web-site visitor shares some basic contact information, such as a phone number or e-mail address, which the business can use to follow-up. Such tactics pave the way for e-mail or phone marketing rather than direct mail. The Web site might also influence an actual purchase and that becomes the point when a lead or prospect converts to a paying customer.
Analyze, Adapt and Improve
Concepts like converting a visitor come full circle when businesses supplement print advertising with online advertising. With online advertising through the payper- click search-engine marketing industry, businesses can reap a higher return on investment than through more traditional offline advertising. Direct mail, for example, often is considered very successful with a 1 to 2 percent response rate. By comparison, pay-per-click conversions often are in the 5 to 10 percent realm, depending on the strength of the Web site. Additionally, online efforts are rewarded with valuable statistics that allow an advertiser to analyze, adapt and improve its online program.
For instance, online advertising often is measured in cost per conversion, or CPC. The advertiser pays when the ad converts into action, typically measured when a user clicks on the ad to see more information about the business. At that point, it is up to the business to convert that user by acquiring a telephone number or e-mail address or by soliciting a purchase. When an online marketing effort is properly designed, a CPC figure is available for every ad in a campaign.
The real trick to improving profits occurs when a business analyzes the CPC for each ad and makes small, quantifiable changes. Does the CPC improve or worsen? By continually adapting the language in an ad and Web-site conversion page, a savvy business can increase its return on investment.
Leverage and Moderate Viral Marketing
A business may find itself involved in a viral campaign, which occurs when there is a certain buzz about the business or its products or services. As a result of that buzz, other Internet users share the message through social networking sites, like MySpace and Facebook.
There are a number of ways to kickstart a viral campaign. For example, create a MySpace or Facebook profile page for a business. Users with similar interests can become a “friend” and share information about the business with others. Businesses can expand their profile page by posting their company mission, events and company information. Friends can write reviews and share their experiences with the company. The success of the page, however, lies in others spreading the word.
Articles written by company leaders can be distributed through online article banks or published as a book about the business, product or service. Print-ondemand technology now allows individuals to compose nonfiction, informative books and sell them to the masses through online retailers, like Amazon, Google and eBay.
Other options to initiate viral marketing include starting a blog on sites, like Blogger or WordPress, or uploading a video tour of a business on YouTube.
With modern technology advances, reality finally is catching up to the Internet’s potential. The customers are online. It’s time for small and mediumsized businesses to follow suit.
Brent Sampson is the author of Sell Your Book on Amazon and Self-Publishing Simplified. As president and chief executive officer of Outskirts Press, Parker, Colo., Sampson has helped authors with writing, editing, marketing and entrepreneurship. Learn more about Outskirts Press at (888) 672-6657 or www.outskirtspress.com.