Q Thoughts

Online Marketing for Retailers and Manufacturers

by Jay Habegger

I’m often asked by manufacturers and retailers who are just getting their online marketing program started where they should be focusing their efforts. To be sure, the number of techniques available to online marketers has exploded. Some of the options that are currently commanding the most attention, such as Facebook and Twitter, didn’t even exist a few years ago.

Regardless of the latest media buzz, my answer about where a company should invest in improving their online program is virtually always the same: a program I call Go-WEST.

In a nutshell, the Go-WEST program consists of the following elements:

1. Google Analytics
2. Website
3. Email List
4. Search Program
5. re-Targeting

The components of the Go-WEST program aren’t the most glamorous, but they do get results and, let you know when you’re getting results. Although the number of Twitter followers might give you bragging rights, nobody wants to hear about the size of your customer/prospect email list.

The key themes of the Go-WEST components are measurement (Google Analytics) so you know what is going on and then to capture the lowest hanging fruit for your online marketing effort by making sure that people who are pre-disposed toward your message can easily find you and that you can easily reach them.

Google Analytics

This simple tool allows you to embed very simple tags at the bottom of each of the pages of your website and then have a simple interface to see what the traffic is to each page and the site as a whole in the form of unique visitors or page views.

This is essential information to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and where you should be investing more resources.


The first WEST component, Website, doesn’t warrant much attention in this day and age as the need for an informative website is almost self-evident. This will serve as the anchor to which all of the other Go-WEST components drive prospects and customers to and it creates the platform for organic search.

By making sure each page is tagged in Google Analytics you’ll also be able to measure the results of all of the Go-WEST components in driving activity on your web site.

Customer & Prospect Email List

The second Go-WEST item, a robust and well maintained customer and prospect email list, is one of the most valuable online marketing assets. So, I’m always surprised when I find organizations give this short attention. Manufacturers are often guilty of this because the conventional wisdom is one of selling through the channel and then allowing the channel to educate consumers.

Given that the typical path to purchase for a consumer is to research online and buy off-line and that a good portion of that research is likely to occur on the manufacturer’s web site, a manufacturer can’t afford to be complacent about maintaining an email list from product registrations and other sources which you can use to quickly educate a sympathetic ear about a new product or drive in-channel activity in a particular region.

Response rates to in-house lists, measured either on an open basis, click basis or conversion basis are usually superior to any other email program. In this age of Social Networking email is still the most effective common denominator. Building and maintaining a quality email list should be at the heart of every online marketing program.

Search Program

The email program allows you to reach customers and prospects once they’ve already bought from you, or have become interested enough to register their email with you. The search program allows you to reach new prospects. If email is bottom-of-the-funnel activity against people that already have an interest, the search program is top-of-the-funnel activity to get people interested.

Fitting in with the online path-to-purchase (research on line, price compare online and buy off-line) also requires the online marketer to embrace the “search and research” starting point for most web interactions. Put another way, most purchase decisions start at a Google search box.

A reasonably informative website with highly relevant content will be picked up by Google and other search engines as part of their normal web crawling. However, your desired audience might use search terms that aren’t prevalent on your site or you might be trying to conquest market share from a competitor that has more relevant web pages.

Thus, Step #3 in the Go-WEST program is to establish search word accounts with Google and the other major search engines, such as Yahoo and MSN. These are straight-forward to set-up and you pay on a per click (CPC) basis, ie you only get charged when somebody clicks on your keyword ad. Since the creative is all text it is also easy to create.


This is the most exotic component of the Go-WEST program, the one the fewest companies are doing and the one that people usually know the least about. Only in the last few years, with the advent of ad exchanges and now DSP’s (Demand Side Platforms) has it been possible for a modest traffic website to re-target at scale with success.

The idea is pretty straight-forward, even if the technology to make it possible is anything but. When a visitor comes to your website, javascript code given to you by your re-targeting provider, a company such as OwnerIQ, and placed on your website sends one or more cookies to the visitor’s browser. The javascript code is very similar to the code for deploying Google Analytics. Now, when your site visitor leaves your site and travels around the web visiting ad-supported websites they are going to see display ads (banner ads) with your message on them. This is possible because many of the sites that depend on advertising will sell their ad slots in real-time to the advertiser willing to pay the most for them. Because the user has already been to your site they have already pre-qualified themselves as being interested in your offering and re-targeting allows you to reach them again to cement a message by being the top bidder for a particular ad slot.

Being the top bidder shouldn’t scare you because unless your website traffic is enormous you probably aren’t going to have all that many opportunities and it doesn’t cost that much to be a top bidder (as little as $2 CPM in some cases).

Web companies, such as big etailers, who depend on online conversions for a living, have been using re-targeting for years. What’s new is that re-targeting has only recently become available through companies such as OwnerIQ to companies with more modest traffic.

Manufacturers can use re-targeting to take advantage of the path-to-purchase and message consumers about their products after they’ve visited the manufacturer’s website. These consumers have already invested time in going to your website and learning about your offerings, re-targeting offers a way to continue influencing them after they leave your website.

A Solid Foundation

The Go-WEST program – Google Analytics, Website, Email, Search & re-Targeting – offers a solid online marketing effort. All of the components in the program can become very sophisticated, but a marketer can start off simply and be up and running without too much hassle.

Once the program starts producing results an assessment of what’s working well and what isn’t will tell you where more resources should be allocated. For example, the email program might produce the most immediate results which may lead to the conclusion to direct the re-targeting program and the website toward driving more email sign-ups.

As a foundation, this program also creates a jumping off point for social networking strategies and using some of the latest techniques. But, you won’t go wrong by Going WEST.

Categories:Posts from 2010


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