In one of my articles a few months ago, I stated that the Internet offered the greatest marketing potential of any invention that I was aware of. To reach our customers, we've used word of mouth, the printed word, telephone, radio, television, facsimile- and now the Internet. And, its potential seems ever greater as each day passes.
I'm excited to be able to have "the whole world" read my marketing materials and to then print them immediately at their desktop. However, this most important tool is not just replacing- or making easier- the receipt of what would be printed materials. It is the search capabilities and the database access that allows a customer to identify me as a source, to find me, to study products and services and to involve me in their needs- all done because I have done a good design "on the web" and have been discovered by the user.
In addition, we have the opportunity to be referenced through "hyperlinks" from other websites. What a powerful tool for partnering and for leading users to the best sources. I find this truly exciting to be reviewing a particular source when, all of a sudden, there is a reference and hyperlink to a previously unknown source that has just the information I needed.
So, is this tremendous marketing development going to replace the word of mouth, printed word, radio, television, or facsimile? Should we abandon our efforts through these other media, and put our faith and new developments in our websites and other aspects of the Internet? My opinion: not in my lifetime!
As the number of nodes on the Internet continues to increase geometrically, the difficulty in distinguishing one's visibility is also going to increase geometrically. Marketers will have to increasingly rely on the old standbys to stimulate the user to initiate the website visit.
Just call up one of the Internet search engines and look for federal laboratories or some other reasonably narrow subject. You're likely to find hundreds, if not thousands, of references. Now what do you do? None of us will go much past that first page of 10 hyperlinks before we give up and then call a trusted colleague- or search a magazine- or attend a conference.
Once again life isn't simple and answers aren't clear-cut. The marketing tool of the Internet will be (if not already) an extremely valuable resource, and it's going to radically change many aspects of the overall process. But it's also going to increase the competition for the user's attention.
If an organization is to produce momentum and loyalty, then the personal relationships will still be necessary. The marketer is still going to have to knock on doors, and make sales calls, and advertise to position the message above the rest of the crowd, and be smarter and work harder than the competition. If you believe that "sterile" marketing is coming- so you don't have to get your hands dirty- then get ready to deal with the surfers who just ride the waves.
Sure you'll get lots of hits, but will you get the orders?
I would appreciate comments; contact me at Technology Transfer Business magazine: phone: 703-848-2800, ext. 151; fax: 703-848-2353; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
prepared for the September, 1996 Issue of the Federal Laboratory Consortium NewsLink
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