Aug 15, 2000
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Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was boo.com. Mistakes were made, vast sums of money were lost. And then there wasn't a boo.com.
We like to look on the positive side at MarketingSherpa, and we realise that there's something to be learned from every mistake. So we were over the moon when we got the opportunity to talk cock-ups over coffee with Ian Tester, formerly boo.com's Marketing Strategy Analyst. We asked him what his Top Ten Marketing Tips would be in the light of boo.com's failure, he was more than happy to tell us, and we're more than happy to share them. Here they are in his own words:
1. Make sure that your site is optimised to register effectively across the 10 most popular search engines in every language you operate in. If possible, make this a part of the original technical specification for the site, and devote marketing resource to getting your site up the listings and keeping it there – this is the cheapest, and perhaps the most targeted traffic you will get.
2. Test your site rigorously, with every configuration of browser and platform you can afford – a visitor who can't use your site using the technology of his/her choice is unlikely to return.
3. Before committing large swathes of budget to an online campaign on an untested site, make the site owner prove the site's value with a trial run – even if you have to pay for it. That way you can ensure that visitor numbers or demographic profiles are the match that you think they ought to be before you commit serious budget.
4. Don't even think of advertising unless you have at the very least basic reporting mechanisms on your site – if you can't verify the source of your traffic and the actions that visitors referred from your advertising take on your site, your marketing is likely to be highly 'seat-of-pants' – and waste money.
5. If you can afford it, conduct in-depth usability tests/market research with focus groups early in the development process. If you can't afford it, do it with family/friends instead.
6. Don't ignore affiliate schemes – although they still have relatively little mind share with consumers in Europe, this will change rapidly, and they are an extremely cost-effective way of promoting your site (provided, once again, that you dedicate resource to running a scheme).
7. PR, and satisfied users talking your site up are still some of the most cost-effective weapons in the armoury. Get a good PR agency, and concentrate on the user experience and keeping your users happy.
8. Constantly think of innovative ways to cut the cost of your marketing: for instance, you could run a promotion with a company with similar audience but in a different sector where you each give your customers vouchers for the other site on completion of an action, leading to low-cost, targeted traffic generation and a virtuous traffic circle.
9. Squeeze every pound out of your marketing budget, and don't spend money until you've got the essentials working. Once they are working, keep an eye on how well your campaigns perform regularly – and if a piece of creative is under-performing, pull it and try something more effective as quickly as possible.
10. Make sure your site can handle traffic. Take your bullish concurrent user numbers, double them and then volume-test the site. This is particularly crucial if you are conducting a viral voucher offer or other promotion, which makes it hard to control traffic. And if you are doing a giveaway, make sure the fulfilment can handle it super-efficiently or you'll waste money raising negative brand awareness and site experience.
Ian Tester is now working for the much more successful Emap Digital. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.