Two weeks ago I talked about some of the traditional advertising
options that can be of value to the Internet Entrepreneur. The
advantage with traditional advertising is that it is easily
quantifiable. That is, although it may differ for specific cases, in
general an advertiser can reasonably determine what the
cost/benefit ratio will be of a specific ad. If you did not have a
chance to read this article it is available at:
As I stated in my previous newsletter, I am not a professional
marketer and I consequently cannot provided you with a lot of
the educated wisdom. I have been around the block a few times
however and I have consequently learnt a bit through direct
experience (or more likely inexperience). One of the things I
have observed is that some of the most successful marketers
were not professionals either. At least not when they started.
Michael Dell of Dell Computers comes to mind. Their success is
often due to their use of alternative marketing and advertising
Probably the most common reason alternative advertising is tried
is because of money, or the lack of it. Many of these alternative
options have existed for a long time and are quite mainstream. It
is just that they can be easily overlooked by none professional
Just as a point of information that I suspect most of you already
know. Advertising is the process of promoting your product or
service so that as many potential customers as possible know
about it. Sales is the process of convincing a potential customer
to actually purchase your product or service. Marketing is the
process of creating the necessary conditions to sell your product
or service. Marketing consequently includes both advertising
and sales as well as a lot of product research.
Advertising cannot be done independently of marketing. You
must know who your potential customers are, what they want,
what you can offer and most importantly, where you can find
them. Assuming you do, getting your message to them is a
As I stated, traditional advertising is relatively easy to quantify
by a professional marketer. If you run an ad during the Stanley
Cup playoffs for Baseball Gloves (Hockey season is over), you
can expect it to be seen by X number of sports enthusiasts of
which Y play baseball and Z are in need of a new glove. If the
ad costs you $A dollars and Z times the cost of the glove = A + a
margin, then you have run a successful ad. In this scenario if the
return is greater than the cost it is worthwhile.
This model works great for a lot of established businesses. When
there are two advertisers trying to reach the same customer (a
basket ball manufacturer for example) they will bid up the price
they are willing to pay for the ad almost to the break even point.
Traditional advertising is market driven like everything else and
those advertisers with the most experience and information can
benefit the most.
This is why a lot of new Internet startups are going to run into
trouble. They do not have the past experience to be able to bid
for traditional advertising within a few percentage points of a
profit. With a lot of cash and little experience, they are
overpaying for their advertising and will not recoup the cost
through sales. You can only pay for brand awareness to a point.
Eventually you must convert your advertising into a positive
For many of us it is not a problem. We don't have the money to
buy Stanley Cup, FA Cup or World Series ads whether it makes
sense or not. Alternative advertising can often minimize the cost,
but not necessarily the risk. The reason is that since alternative
ads are not so easy to quantify, they may produce an even
smaller return than their cost justifies. This was the problem with
So what other advertising options are available to the poor
starving Netprenuer or the not so poor but savvy Internet
marketers that do not want to overpay? I could be flippant and
say that if we all new about them it would not be alternative
advertising. Or if I were that good I would be as rich as Michael
Dell. Having read this far I suspect that many of you expect to
get some suggestions so here goes.
1. Banner Exchange. I don't mean with banner swap sites but
with serious symbiotic sites. If you manufacture Baseball Gloves
why not exchange banners with a site that sells Basketballs.
They are often the same customers. Look for related none
competitive sites and offer to swap 50,000 impressions on your
site for 50,000 on theirs.
2. Bundling. In computer software (which I know something
about) we can often bundle our software with another product
such as a computer. In these cases we usually do not make any
money but can reach a large number of potential customers. If
we can justify the cost of the product against the potential
income when a user upgrades, then it can make a lot of sense.
Our free product "IMS Web Dwarf" is used for precisely this
reason and works very well for us. The hardware manufacturer
and other distributors benefit by being able to add value to their
product at little or no price. We benefit from the advertising and
brand awareness that we receive.
3. Coupons. If you cannot reasonably offer a free product or
service, why not offer a discount coupon. They can be easily
bundled with another product. If the added value of the coupon
is not enough for the distributor, try exchanging coupons with
another manufacturer as you did with the Banners. A 15% off
coupon for a basketball with every baseball glove sold and a
15% off baseball glove coupon with every basketball sold.
4. Flyers. I suppose these are the real world equivalent of Spam.
For better or worse they are more easily tolerated but the
question is still how do you distribute them. You could mail
them. A bulk stamp after all is almost equivalent to a click on a
banner ad. I won't suggest that you could walk around a parking
lot putting them under the windshield wiper of cars parked near
your competitor's storefront. I won't because I would not have
the nerve to do it, but maybe that is why I am not as rich as
These are just a few suggestions. There are of course many
more. The ones that are most appropriate for you will depend
upon the product or service you are offering. Keep in mind that
your product or service will appeal to a special demographic of
people. You can use that to barter with other advertisers that are
also looking for a similar demographic.
In the final analysis, alternative advertising means looking for
channels and ideas that are not common. Be creative but
remember that your time is also an expense.
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