You want to market your products or services. You think you might want to
use the Internet to do this, but you're not sure how. You're not even sure
if it's going to be worth your time and money.
This document is intended to help people in your position. The Internet is
a big, confusing place with rules and traditions that often seem silly or
counterproductive to the new user. However, if you treat the Internet as a
separate society, and learn to respect the Net's etiquette just as you
would respect the etiquette of a foreign country in which you were doing
business, you and your business will prosper.
The Internet allows you to reach more people with your message for less
money and effort than any other invention in history. It also allows you
to anger that same population with amazing speed and ease. Follow some
very simple rules, and you'll avoid that fate.
* Rule 1: Follow the Net's Golden Rule.
Each of the interconnected computers that comprise the Net is owned by
somebody. The owner of that computer is the only person who can decide how
that computer's time and memory are to be used. (Governments dispute this,
of course.) A very quick way to prove that you don't know what you're
talking about is to argue that you should be allowed to send as many
messages as you like, to whomever you please, because "nobody owns the
Net." The people who own the machines on which the Net runs will dispute
this, and rightly so.
To remain in harmony with the Net, you need to use the Net's resources in
such a way that you would like your resources used. It's much like the
"Golden Rule" of the Christian tradition, in that a society works best
when people treat each other with the respect with which they would like
Every time you send somebody an e-mail, their computer, their Internet
Service Provider's computer and a varying number of computers in between
you and them expend time and memory to get your e-mail to them. The owners
of all these computers allow this to happen because of the implicit
agreement that your computer or your service provider's computer will do
the same thing for their data. This agreement, this implied contract is
the basis of the Net.
Marketing efforts that take this into account will prosper or fail on the
merits of the product and the marketer. Marketing efforts that ignore the
Net's Golden Rule will fail, regardless of the merits of the product or
the brilliance of the advertisement. The majority of Net users will not do
business with net-abusers.
* Rule 1a: Don't "Spam."
A corollary to the Net's Golden Rule is this: Don't ever, ever, ever send
out unsolicited commercial e-mail. It doesn't matter how good your product
is, it doesn't matter how targeted your mailing is, it doesn't matter how
well-intentioned you are. This is known as "spamming," and will cause you
to lose your account on 95 percent or more of the Internet Service
Providers (ISPs) now in existence, will ruin your company's name and
image, will cause you to receive a deluge of complaints and will generally
leave you wishing you'd never thought of the idea. If you take nothing
else away from this document, believe that spamming is a Bad Thing.
"But I do direct postal mail, what's the difference?" you ask.
The correct model for spam isn't direct postal mail. It's the junk fax,
which was made illegal by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.
You're using the recipient's resources -- disk space, computer time, ISP
connect time and personal time -- without their permission to propagate
your advertisement. While the legal status of spam is still uncertain, at
least one judge has called it analogous to trespass.
There is no incremental cost for bulk e-mail -- it's as cheap for your
average user to send 10,000 as it is to send one. If everybody were to
spam their advertisements, the Net would crash and burn as computers
everywhere tried to deliver millions of spammed ads. We're back to the
Net's Golden Rule here.
* Rule 2: Content, Content, Content.
Be honest. How often, unless you're sitting in a lobby somewhere bored out
of your skull, do you read those corporate brochures that litter offices
everywhere? Well, a Web page that does little more than give your
company's name, address, vision statement and product list is the 90s
equivalent of the corporate brochure and will create the same
You need to give Net users a reason to visit your Web page, which should
be the centerpiece of any Net-based marketing effort. A product list isn't
going to excite anybody. You need to provide them with content, so they
come back to your site again and again, cementing a relationship and
placing your brand identity in their field of vision when they decide to
make a purchase.
How do you create content? It depends:
If you sell sporting goods, try setting up a Web page listing all local
amateur athletic leagues with game times, scores, highlights and other
associated information. Offer a small discount to participants in leagues
that provide you with schedules, scores and highlights. People will want
to see their name on the Net, and will think of your company when it comes
time to buy shoes or jerseys.
If you run a record store, create a site for local concert listings and
post record reviews from local amateur reviewers. Offer to your local high
school English teacher the ability to post record reviews written by
composition students. Let site visitors register to win a free CD once a
week -- but they have to visit the site to register, re-registering each
week. Post upcoming album releases, and let people reserve copies online.
Promote small local bands and list their concerts.
If you are a lawyer specializing in a specific field, create a weekly or
monthly e-newsletter, sent out to subscribers for free. Use the newsletter
to keep the subscribers up-to-date on current issues in your field.
Explain how court cases might affect various businesses, and advertise
your ability to determine specific potential liability for each client --
if they come in and visit you.
For every field, there is content that can be created to give Net users a
reason other than your product to visit your site and think about your
company. Be creative, take risks, be "silly." If the e-newsletter fails,
you're out a lot less money than one run of a print newsletter would have
* Rule 3: Know Your Audience.
We can assume that you understand the market for your goods and services.
If you don't, you're dead anyway and the Net isn't going to help you.
However, the average Net user is a bit different than the shopper you're
probably used to serving.
A recent (mid-1997) study by Binary Compass Enterprises suggests that the
online shopper is generally a white (74 percent) male (79 percent) college
graduate (81 percent) with an annual income of $75,000 who spends $126 per
initial purchase online and is 96 percent likely to buy again from the
same online vendor if they received their initial purchase on time. Repeat
customers spend an average of $251 per purchase. (These numbers are
changing, however slowly, as the Net becomes more diverse.)
The Net user is also used to separating the wheat from the chaff, and is
very skeptical of "free" stuff. If you are up-front about your sponsorship
of the content you're creating and about why you're creating it, you will
get a better response than if you try to disguise your commercial motives.
Be honest, be realistic. Tell them you hope your content convinces them to
spend money with you. Reassure them that a purchase isn't a prerequisite
for continuing to receive the content. Promise never, ever, ever to sell
their personal information. In short, build a relationship. In time,
someone who is interested enough in your field to be receiving your
content will want to buy something associated with the field. You'll be
Net users are also used to the ability to instantaneously and effortlessly
make their opinion known. Make sure there's a mechanism (an e-mail address
is fine) for your users to give you their opinion of your content or your
products or services. You'll get good suggestions from people who, if they
like your content, will want to see you succeed.
The Net is still young. Commercial use of the Net is even younger. As a
result, businesses are still experimenting with marketing online. Some of
the things you do will work, others won't. This is OK.
Remember, one of the glories of the Net is that it's still a very cheap
medium of communication. You can go out on a limb without any great risk
to your bottom line. Net-based marketing can even, in some cases, supplant
traditional marketing methods and end up saving you money.
* Author's Note, Copyright Information and Administrivia:
This document is intended to promote responsible commercial use of the
Internet. It may be reposted or forwarded in its entirety only and the
copyright information must be retained.. The author is not responsible for
any damages to individuals, businesses or organizations as a result of any
suggestions made within this document.
Questions, comments or suggestions on this document are welcome at
<m...@mich.com>. If you have a unique Net-based marketing plan, please
Entire contents copyright (c) 1997, John C. Mozena. All rights reserved.