by Jay Conrad Levinson
A website is an island. Advertising is a bridge to that island. Large and small businesses online are discovering that truth in a hurry - or else. Advertising is not what it used to be. The internet has changed its purpose and its strength. Rather than making advertising in the traditional media weaker, the net has made it stronger. That's why all guerrillas must be aware of the new power of advertising.
The first thing to know, and this should come as good news, is that advertising no longer has to make the sale.
Not very long ago, advertising's main goal was to make the sale, though there are many other goals. But that has changed dramatically with the growth of dotcom companies all over the internet. Today, the goal of much advertising is not to make the sale but to direct people to websites.
That does not diminish the power of advertising. Instead, it increases it. With many, if not most, guerrilla-run companies establishing webturf, advertising's newest function is to motivate people to visit a website where they can get far more information than can be delivered by standard media advertising.
Advertising has become the first step in a permission marketing campaign. It invites dialogue and interactivity with prospects and customers by directing people to websites, by offering free brochures, by generating the kind of action that leads to permission to receive marketing messages. Once people grant that permission, which they do at a website or by simply calling to request a brochure -- printed or electronic --- that's when serious guerrilla marketing attempts to close the sale.
That means the prime obligation of advertising is to motivate an easy-to-take-action. This should come as good news because it places less of an onus on advertising than ever before. Motivating the action of getting person to click to your website is a whole lot simpler than motivating a person to part with his or her hard-earned money and risk spending it the wrong way.
Not only is it easier to motivate action, but that action is becoming even easier as being online is now endemic. Over 100 million people are now online, though America Online's chief, Steve Case, pegs the number as being closer to 200 million.
It's not always a whole lot of fun to visit your store or order from your toll-free number, but it is fairly enjoyable to click over to a website and take a gander at what is being offered and how you can benefit. There is a risk when somebody responds to advertising with an order. There is no risk at all if they check your website. Advertising seems to grease the skids to the sale. It takes far less time to learn about you online than to cruise around a mall or drive to a location further away than their computer.
That means advertising can be short, concise, to the point. It no longer has to curry the favor of prospects with long copy, involved graphics or detailed explanations. The internet can do that for you, allowing you to save on advertising costs. Advertising your website works in all the media -- from TV to radio, from magazines to newspaper, from direct mail to billboards. It doesn't take a lot of time or verbiage to get them to spend a few moments checking how your website can improve their lives.
As all guerrillas know, the name of the game in marketing is creating relationships. It's tough to accomplish this with an ad. It's pretty easy with a website, which initiates dialogue by inviting it, by making it as easy as clicking a mouse.
Advertising has always been a method designed to change human behavior by getting people to purchase your product or service. The internet has changed that. Now, advertising merely has to deflect human behavior, to divert curiosity from an ad or commercial to a website.
There is little question that the online fire burns brightly. There is no question that advertising fuels the online flame.
During the telecast of Super Bowl played in l999, I was fairly amazed to see four commercials for dotcom companies. Today, I am even more amazed when I watch a sporting event telecast that does not have a whole gaggle of dotcom commercials.
The big and the small players online are learning from hard experience that they are invisible when they are online. Sure, their site might come up from a search engine or a link from a cooperating company, but the majority of people get their information offline -- and that's where guerrillas marketing their sites. Offline and regularly.
It's true that standard media advertising is interruption marketing, interrupting people in their perusing of the newspaper or magazine, in their viewing of a TV show or listening to the radio. Interruption marketing is crucial, however, as the first step in gaining permission from people to receive your marketing materials. And it is equally crucial in luring them to your website.
The top five products that internet users actually prefer to buy online differ from men to women. The top five to men are computer software, computer hardware, pornography, books and music. The top five to women are computer software, greeting cards, music, books and computer hardware. As Adweek magazine says, women are from Hallmark; men are from Bob's Digital House of Porn.
Many so-called experts believe that the growth of the internet signals the demise of advertising. This particular expert believes just the opposite. Advertising now can loom as important as ever, as necessary as ever, and more mandatory for a proper marketing mix than at any time in history.
The larger the internet grows, the more important the role of advertising and the greater its power. Advertisers must no longer have to move a person from total apathy to purchase readiness with their advertising. Now, all they have to do is move a person from total apathy to mild curiosity. From that point, moving that person to purchase readiness is the job of the website.
Jay Conrad Levinson is probably the most respected marketer in the world. He is the inventor of "Guerrilla Marketing" and is responsible for some of the most outrageous marketing campaigns in history -- including the "Marlboro Man" -- the most successful ad campaign in history. In his latest book, "Put Your Internet Marketing on Steroids" Jay reveals how you can use marketing steroids legally to make your business insanely profitable.