Websites: Marketing

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Web Site Series, Essay 02: Marketing

This is the second article in a six-part series on web sites–what to know, how to make your web presence successful, and other points to consider.

I will be discussing for the first time ever, my real-life Creative Brief I send to all potential clients. This is proprietary information, so please don’t copy anything I say without asking and/or providing credit.

1. What position/image would you like your company/service/brand to hold in the minds of consumers? Are there resource, budget, or time limitations that may affect this goal?

Image we discussed in the first article. Position means “Global leader in collegiate helper-monkey sales.” or “Best place in Tampa for Cuban sandwiches.”

As a writer, your ideal position could be anything from “Consistent number one best-seller of robot cowboy love stories” to “Fresh new voice in contemporary literary fiction.”

Resource constraints mean how much time you have to market appropriately. Will you have time to send out newsletters or update your website daily or go on extended book tours or give radio and TV interviews etc etc? Only you can know how much personal time for marketing your schedule will allow.

Budget constraints means how much money you can throw at the project. Even if you have to free time to spare, cold hard cash can get your links plastered all over the Internet, your web site as number one in the search engines, your promo postcard in every mailbox, your book trailer on every TV station, your book cover wallpapering every bus, train and metro around the globe, etc.

Time limitations means what kind of time frame you’re dealing with to make all this happen. If you wrote a text book that’ll be available in multiple editions for the next ten years, then you’ve got a maximum of ten years, depending on your goals. If you wrote a category romance that will be on the shelves from February 1 through February 28, end of story, then you have exactly four weeks once your release day hits.

And depending on your goals, you may very well want all or most of the marketing done prior to release day. So look at the calendar and determine exactly how much time you truly have.

2. Briefly describe your short-term marketing strategy. How will this web site help to meet your goals? How will you determine the success of this web site? Please indicate benchmarks.

Short-term marketing strategy might mean, “I will post announcements on my blog, web site, newsletter, and email loops.” Or it might mean, “I have a direct mail piece going out on Monday with links to the new web site.” Or it might mean, “I’ve scheduled a Super Bowl ad.” Whatever. But if you want the web site to coordinate and complement those efforts, share the details with the designer.

Also share how you envision the web site helping meet your goals. This hearkens back to our previous discussion on determining the number one point of the web site. If your primary goal is to collect email addresses, then the newsletter (and ease of sign up) should be promoted heavily. If your primary goal is to spread news of a new release, then that book cover and title and so on should be prominently featured. Etc.

“Benchmarks” are frozen moments in time used to determine the relative success or failure of a particular marketing endeavor. For example, if your web site gets 50 unique visitors per day prior to creating a MySpace account and 100 unique visitors per day after linking to your web site from your brand new MySpace account, then it’s a fair bet that your MySpace account brought you about 50 new faces. If you keep an eye on the numbers, benchmarking every Monday, and discover by the end of the month that your visitors once again hover around 50, then it’s a fair bet that although your MySpace account brought initial traffic, it did not significantly increase repeat web visitors over time. (This could be due to the quality of your MySpace “friends”, the quality of your web site content, the fickle nature of the gods, etc. Topic of another essay. *g)

3. Are you interested in additional services of website statistics and monitoring, as well as search engine submission and help with optimizing search engine ranking?

Statistics software and web conversion tools help to analyze traffic patterns, visitor interaction on the web site, and which marketing efforts are paying off. I highly, highly, highly recommend using at least the most basic of tracking software. StatCounter has a free version that tracks a limited amount of data.

4. What is the single primary focus of this campaign? Are there specific objectives corresponding with this goal?

In other words, you’re creating/redesigning a web site. Why?

Possible answers: to establish a web presence, to increase legitimacy, to disseminate information, new product introduction (new book), increase sales, retain existing customers, improve author image, improve brand images, increase web site patronage, garner reader feedback, increase book/blog buzz, or attract new readers.

5. Are there any other planned or implemented marketing campaigns intended to integrate with this one?

Often times, a single web site isn’t the only marketing tool.

In the corporate world, there may be other web sites, brochures, direct mail pieces, commercial advertising, promotional gifts, event sponsorship, sales, coupons, sampling, contests, rebates, press releases corresponding to launch, endorsements, loyalty/frequency programs, etc.

Many of those possibilities apply to writers as well. Authors may also do book signings, interviews, workshops, keynote speeches, conference panels, guest blogs, and so on.

6. Do you have an existing or planned marketing strategy to coordinate with and/or promote this new web site or re-design? If so, please describe.

This is a different question than the above, in that it refers to promotion of the new web site, rather than promotion of the specific product/book/author/etc.

The web site address may be listed on business cards, stationery, letterhead, pens, radio, TV commercials, banner ads, book trailers, email signatures, blog posts, media kits, etc.

7. What are your readers’ current perceptions of and attitudes toward the author, book(s) or brand? What factors influence the decision making process?

For example, say you’re Stephen King. Readers’ current perception might be “contemporary horror writer”. If this is the sort of story they enjoy, your books might well be auto-buys. But lets say you’re still Stephen King, but you’ve decided to write a romance. Suddenly, your novel no longer fits with reader perceptions, and you will need to acknowledge and address this issue.

Okay, now say you’re not Stephen King, and as far as you know, nobody other than your mother auto-buys your books. You need to carefully consider what particular factors would cause a potential reader to decide “I’ll take it” over “Ehh, not for me.” And then capitalize on those attributes by highlighting and promoting them.

Do you have a killer cover blurb? Five star reviews from respected sources? A cover to die for? A tantalizing excerpt? Whatever it is, make it prominent. Give readers a reason to buy!

NEXT: User Interaction

This article first began as an August 29, 2007 writer blog post.