Eight From Eight By Eight

(Direct Newsline) It’s unclear how many of Amy Africa’s eight recommendations for online marketing were actually absorbed by her audience at the Direct Marketing Association’s Fast Forward event. Africa started her session by expressing her disdain for the list industry, whose offline, paper-focused orientation she likened to an afghan blanket: “comfortable, colorful and out of date.”

She followed up by announcing that she had not wanted to speak, but ultimately did so as a personal favor to MeritDirect CEO Ralph Drybrough, before launching into a quick-and-dirty lesson on posture, body language and what the position of audience members’ feet said about their willingness — or lack thereof — to receive her wisdom.

This confrontational opening could not have won her too many fans. But Africa, chief marketing imagin-8-tor of Web marketing consulting firm Eight By Eight, met her audience head-on with a breakneck-speed presentation of eight points about online marketing that are well worth considering.

To the list industry in particular, she cautioned that clients in the online space expected data far fresher than afforded by traditional files — even those with monthly hotlines. For a marketer looking to build a relationship through digital channels, online interaction information begins to decay from the moment it happens.

An overview of her other eight points follows.

1. Search inquiries should lead to microsites and targeted Web sites that address the specific request. Merchandise offered should be the result of analytics, as opposed to gut instincts. And marketers should be using a variety of search strategies, including pay per click, organic and listings in alternate, industry or topic-specific search engines.

2. There is a wide variety of tactics that integrate online and offline contact marketers aren’t using. These include circulation-combining tools, which are overlooked because software programs that would facilitate them aren’t commercially available. They also include tracking metrics such as the number of clicks within a site before a prospect makes a purchase. Combine the data, and use it to inform marketing decisions back and forth across the virtual and real worlds. But also know that the mechanics of marketing online and offline are quite different, from the breadth of products offered to the sales cycle times.

3. E-mail blasts at randomly chosen targets are passé. Trigger-based e-mail efforts done in reaction to customer or prospect behavior are what work. Make good use of EBOPPS, EBOSI and EBOTAS — e-mails based on past purchases, selected interests and target audiences. Be aware of the factors that influence your response rates such as time of day and e-mail format. Remember that e-mails aren’t meant to be read, they are meant to inspire an action — specifically, a click to a desired (on the part of the marketer) behavior.

4. Get help obtaining e-mail addresses. As Africa put it, “the company with the most viable names wins.” Use e-mail appends, and remember to include source lookups.

5. Forge third-party agreements. These shouldn’t be confused with affiliate programs. These do include banners, swaps, e-mail introductions for complementary offerings and mentions in offline media.

6. Develop user profiling programs. There’s a lot more information available online than offline — not just in terms of page views but in terms of people as well. The more information a user has about its customer, the more streamlined the site it can show. “If you don’t ever buy a pink shirt, online I should never show you a pink shirt,” said Africa.

7. All markets are not alike, and should not be presented with Web sites that treat them as if they were. The needs of the education, government, business-to-business and consumer audiences are radically different. So too should be the sites that present to them.

8. Take advantage of metrics, metrics, metrics. Know the average audience user session (AAUS) length. Track page views, user paths within a site, which pages surfers come in through, which pages are the last ones viewed before they leave, what the main referring URLs and Web sites are, and which key words are used, both to access your site, and within internal site searches. Know where and when prospects abandon shopping carts, and where within the sales funnel they drop out.

And above all, remember that within a good, well-designed site, 60% of the people visiting it will leave.

But if the audience was shaken out of its post-lunch digestive doldrums by her confrontational style, it was hopefully also invigorated by her presentation.