Magazine article International Trade Forum

Linking the Internet to Your Marketing Strategy

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Linking the Internet to Your Marketing Strategy

Article excerpt

To reach global markets through Internet businesses need to adopt a sound business strategy, coupled with flexibility to question traditional practices. This is the real challenge for businesses using the Internet, no matter where they are located.

Many entrepreneurs and trade support institutions in developing countries understand the opportunities of Internet, but face day-to-day limitations in expanding their business. Yet even with slow Internet access, it is perfectly feasible to be present on the Net with a small investment, such as a US$ 50 modem (9.8 kilobytes), an analog telephone line and a 486 (old) personal computer. Even poor telecommunication lines can be overcome by direct satellite communication at very reasonable cost. But once the Internet is installed, what should you do?

Professional presence, not Internet tourism

During business information training seminars, sessions with business executives and trade promotion officers and "cybercafes" linked to international conferences, ITC has found repeatedly that non-specialist managers confuse home and business use of the Internet. "Surfing" the Net is the approach of a tourist, especially when one has not organized "bookmarks" or does not make good use of search engines. To attract visitors and create regular Internet contacts, one needs to analyze strengths and opportunities and communicate them effectively on the web, both for business partners and clients. This implies a professional approach.

A business plan will help determine the total cost of getting a professional presence on Internet, including the technical, financial and personnel resources required. One also needs to select a good Internet Service Provider. Their number is growing rapidly, enabling even the most remote areas of Laos or Zimbabwe to have full Internet connections (see pages 23 and 29 for tips about Internet Service Providers).

Once entrepreneurs are connected, they may fear that a lack of technology will keep them from creating their own web page, or effectively retrieving information. This is not true: many technical and management tools are freely accessible on the Internet, including free operating systems (LINUX) and server languages (APACHE).

Successful marketing

Most important, however, is to have a competitive product or service to promote. One must also be ready to build a relevant, global trade promotion strategy adapted to this new communication medium. The key is to construct a sound, well-designed and well-marketed site. The site should project a good image of the organization, and encourage trust between partners. Building an Internet presence is part of an overall business strategy, not a one-time exercise of getting a consultant to design a set of web pages.

In other words, the basic "4Ps" marketing rule of success applies to the Internet. The Product (or service) must be competitive in quality and originality, with proper protection against piracy. The Price must be competitive. Promotion translates as good visibility on Internet, inspired by other good sites, with effective promotion on search engines, using advertising banners. Place: for goods, one needs a parallel delivery system through freight forwarders and express mail services; for services, one needs to have secure downloading processes.

Looking ahead

Internet traffic is roughly doubling every year. …

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