How to build an effective internet sales process – Internet Advertising 101 (Part 1)

by Jeremy Powers on November 30, 2010

Congratulations on your decision to make use of internet advertising.  The Internet Advertising 101 series will provide you with a foundational understanding of marketing on the internet.

Before you buy your first banner ad, let’s take some time to explore how an effective internet marketing campaign works.

Internet Advertising – Selling online is not rocket science

Selling online is no less (and no more) complicated than selling in-person.  However, there is less opportunity to adjust the presentation in-process.  Like it or not, selling online is less forgiving of the unprepared.  Let’s compare “live” selling with internet selling, using the traditional sales process as our foundation.  For our example, we will map the process of two companies selling custom t-shirts.

Figure #1 – Sales Process – “Live” vs. Internet

The Sales Process - Online vs. Offline

First, notice both in-store and online sales include each of the nine stages of the sales process.  The trouble is, there is little room for lack of planning and foresight in the online environment.

How do customers buy from Susie?

Susie needs quality merchandise, fair pricing, clean presentation, and a quick and safe purchasing environment.  Susie’s process is also dependent on other variables.  Where is her store located?  How experienced and friendly is her staff?  What are peak hours for foot-traffic?

Susie’s entire operation is dependent on knowing where, when, and how her targeted customers like to shop.  Many of the people entering the store will buy, and those who do not buy did not cost her much.

How do customers buy from Bill?

Bill’s sales process is similar to Susie’s.  He also needs quality merchandise, fair pricing, clean presentation, and a quick and safe purchasing environment.  Bill’s other concerns include balancing organic search, social marketing, and online advertising.  For now, we are focusing on online advertising.

Bill has adopted a pay-per-click model of internet advertising.  Every time a prospect clicks on Bill’s ad, Bill gets charged for the ad.  This means Bill does not want most people to click on his advertisement.  He only wants people who are ready to buy custom t-shirts to click on his advertisement.  More specifically, Bill wants prospects who are ready to buy the type of custom t-shirt he sells.

Once a prospect clicks on Bill’s advertisement, the customer is directed to a web page specifically designed to guide the prospect toward buying products from Bill.  This is a landing page.  The landing page includes a specific “call to action” Bill would like his prospects to take.  Bill wants to “convert” his prospects to customers by convincing them to take action.  There are many types of conversion.  For our example, Bill is asking the prospect to “convert” by agreeing to add t-shirts to their online shopping cart.

The final step for Bill is processing the transaction.  Unfortunately, many businesses fail to recognize this is a crucial moment for online shoppers.  In a traditional retail environment, stepping into a “check-out” lane is a sign of commitment, and very few shoppers decide to put items back during the check-out process.  In the online environment, there is no social pressure preventing a prospect from backing out.  Until the billing information is entered and the terms of service are agreed to, there is still a decent risk the sale will be lost.  The transaction step needs to be quick and worry-free.

How is selling online different?

For me, as a former “big business” brand marketer, selling online is not substantially different than selling in brick-and-mortar stores.  You identify what you want to sell and who you want to sell it to.  Then you make it easy and enjoyable to buy.  Lastly, you start marketing in ways that align with your target market.  For you, however, selling online might require more planning and clarity of communication than your usual conversational process.

If you are struggling with where to begin, start with your current customers.  How are your current customers alike?  Write these similarities down, and you will have a long list.  That list represents the attributes of your target market.

Buying an advertisement that reaches customers in your target market who are ready to part with their money for your product (or service) is the next step.  We will cover how to buy an online advertisement in part 2 of the Internet Advertising 101 series.

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