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Frank Remarks: Turtles and the Art of E-Marketing

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A single e-marketing strategy isn't likely to get you the kind of results you need to really build your business. You need to employ multiple online and offline marketing methods, built on each other, to cross the finish line at the head of the pack.
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Many years ago, the great American philosopher and psychologist William James was giving a lecture on the cosmology of the universe. He discussed the various theories, both modern and ancient, of how the universe was structured. Halfway through his presentation, an elderly lady raised her hand, and, after being properly recognized by the speaker, said, "Professor James, I know the truth about the world. After the world was created it was placed on the back of a huge turtle and that's how it's held up."

Not wanting to embarrass his paying guest but knowing such mistakes must be corrected for the sake of learning, he gently asked, "My dear lady, if the world is held up by a turtle, what holds up the turtle?" And she replied, "Another turtle, of course." James countered with, "And what holds up that turtle?"

The elderly lady just smiled and said calmly, "Professor James, you can't trick me. I know what you're saying, but it's turtles all the way down!"

Funny, yes, but also very appropriate to e-marketing. What are the turtles that the universe of e-marketing rests on? (And it does rest on an almost infinite number of turtles.)

The universe of e-marketing can sometimes resemble what William James called a world of "blooming buzzing confusion." Search engine submittals; placement and optimization; keyword purchases; promotional emails; text, HTML, and rich media newsletters; opt-in list building; database email marketing; affiliate marketing; strategic partnerships; link exchanges; banner exchanges; newsgroup and forum postings; community building; web sites; newsletter and e-zine advertising—and the list goes on and on. And these are only the methods we use today. With the advent of the always-on, always-connected Internet to every digital device, we're sure to see marketing strategies and tactics that we haven't even thought of yet.

All of these marketing tools and techniques can create a blooming buzzing confusion to the e-marketer. But this almost infinite variety of tools can all work in concert under a stack of e-marketing turtles to achieve a company's e-business goals and objectives.

So what are the turtles of e-marketing? Well, there are four basic ones. The first turtle is "Positioning," which rests on the back of "Acquiring," which in turn rests on "Retaining," and then on "Monetizing." In addition, these turtles rest on others beneath them—the wide variety of the actual Internet marketing tools available to today's e-marketer.

Let's stack them up and see how to use them to create an e-marketing strategy for your business.


The first big e-marketing turtle your company rests on is positioning. What I mean here is how your business positions itself in the digital marketplace. This includes reviewing how your communications and collateral material—letterhead, business cards, brochures, advertising copy (print, radio, TV)—are integrated into your digital strategy solution. For example, all of your offline collateral materials and activities should include, at the very least, email addresses and a reference to the URL of your web site. You might even consider offering readers, viewers, and listeners the ability to sign up for your informative newsletter or for further information on your company. If you have a printed catalog, you should advertise and promote that fact on your web site.

Positioning also includes reviewing your web site's search engine placement and ranking in the search results. It includes the analysis of site traffic logs, your business positioning, and the communication process you have with site visitors.

This last piece is very important. How do you communicate to your site visitors? In fact, how do you communicate to any visitor who interacts with you through your "digital presence"? I like the term digital presence better than web site because, as many of you know by now, I believe that web sites as they are today will eventually be only one way to access a company over the Internet—and, in fact, a very small way. Have you thought about how you'll communicate with potential customers through Net-enabled devices like handheld computers, PDAs, cell phones, TVs...and eventually the customer's car, refrigerator, and microwave oven?

As you can see, the line of turtles under Positioning can stack up pretty quickly.

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