Don’t build your Web site in a vacuum

Thursdays in the Park T-Shirts

Thursdays in the Park Web site
T-shirts, the Web site and other strategies featured
common visual elements. These examples were
produced prior to the 2004 branding initiative.
While this plan used a logo, you do not need a
department or project logo to create a
consistent message.

This is the fifth in a series of posts that discuss Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and other Web marketing strategies. This week we'll go beyond the Web.

Coordinate your online presence with your other marketing strategies

Today at lunch I saw a post on Pownce from a fellow looking for someone to design a t-shirt. I've designed t-shirts in the past, and while I wasn't volunteering, I did suggest that he provide more information—so any designers might get a better sense of the project. He wrote back that he wanted something that would be eye-catching, abstract (perhaps like graffiti), highly readable, and that his company colors were white, green and dark gray/black. I wrote back asking more questions about goals, target markets, how the t-shirts would be distributed, quantities, printing methods, PMS colors, his other marketing strategies, etc.

As a marketer I wanted to know how the t-shirts would fit into his overall marketing plan, something the designer would need to know as well. As it turns out many of the questions I asked were similar to questions one should address when building a Web site. As those who've read my Planning your Web site tutorial know, I feel the first steps in planning a Web site involve establishing clear goals and defining one's target audience. What I haven't yet discussed is how your Web site fits into your other marketing strategies.

Marketing Goals

Whether your site showcases your research in advanced robotics or is meant to sell dog-shaped robotic toys, you have marketing goals. Such goals could include:

  • Establishing your personal or organizational brand
  • Getting invited to speak at conferences
  • Having your book published
  • Acquiring research funding
  • Attracting an audience for your lecture/symposium
  • Selling your product or service
  • Recruiting students or faculty
  • Driving traffic to your Web site in order to share information, disseminate knowledge, and of course, to further those other goals!
Marketing Strategies

When we think of marketing we often think of things like advertising, junk direct mail, telemarketing, e-mail (opt-in and/or spam) and the Web. In addition to these common techniques, a well-thought out marketing campaign may also include: media relations, trade shows/conferences, newsletters, flyers, posters, sidewalk chalk, promotional items (t-shirts, pens, etc.), social media networking, viral marketing (word of mouth 2.0), promotional videos, etc. Which techniques one uses will depend on goals, target audience and budgets, but in most cases a combination of strategies will be more effective than just one. Naturally one of those strategies will involve a Web site.

For most of us, our Web site is our most visible and prominent marketing strategy. It's available online 24/7 for anyone who wants to visit. While it takes time to plan and build, it can be edited, expanded and delivered in it's new improved state without the high cost of things like printing, video, buying advertising space and mailing. In an age when we are trying to reduce paper consumption and cost, the Web is ideal.

But our audience isn't surfing the Web all day. They're often out in the real world driving past billboards, reading magazines, chatting with friends and so forth. If we want to reach them, we have to reach out to them, not just wait for them to come to us. Just as we use e-vites and printed cards to invite people to our parties, so can we use other strategies to promote our goals in conjunction with our site.

Marketing Plan Example: Thursdays in the Park

In the summers of 2002 and 2003, Case held a series of concerts in the Turning Point Garden called Thursdays in the Park. Our goal was to provide an activity where faculty, staff and students could come together and to bring members of the Greater Cleveland community to campus. University Circle, Inc. (UCI) later expanded on this idea with Wade Oval Wednesdays.

In an effort to reach out to both the on- and off-campus communities we put together a marketing plan that included:

  • Listings on the Case Web Event Calendar and UCI online and printed calendars
  • Space ads (print and online banner ads) in the Free Times and Scene Magazine (local entertainment weeklies)
  • Announcements on WRUW (Case's radio station)
  • Street banners along Euclid Avenue
  • Posters and flyers on kiosks and bulletin boards across campus
  • T-shirts (worn by staff, available for sale, and thrown out to the audience by the performers)
  • Listings on the Web sites of the various bands
  • News releases sent to local media outlets such as The Plain Dealer (who then featured us in the events section of their Friday Magazine
  • Audience surveys to determine how they heard about the concerts
  • E-mail to select audiences, such as local alumni, and those who had signed up for our mailing list
  • Word of mouth
  • Thursdays in the Park Web site

Our media plan focused on outlets that Clevelanders regularly use to learn about concerts, as well as those typically used to reach the university audience. Having a plan in place also meant that we could choose visual elements and colors that would provide a consistent image across our print and online presence.

Later as each concert series progressed we learned from our surveys that attendees discovered the concerts through a wide variety of our marketing channels. This in turn helped us to fine-tune our strategy in the second year. And while some channels, such as space ads, couldn't hold all of the information about the concert series, all of them (except the banners) did have room to list the Web site. By publicizing the event in these different ways we were able to reach a wider audience, draw a respectful crowd and also direct them to the site—where they could get directions, see photos from past performances and find other pertinent information.

Conclusion

While your Web site is likely the backbone of your marketing strategy, there are many methods you can use to augment it. These efforts will be most effective if they can be coordinated to focus on a common goal and deliver a consistent message. In future entries I'll review some of these strategies in greater detail and discuss how members of your team can work together and/or with University Marketing and Communications to coordinate how these strategies can fit together.

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23 Comments »
  1. I've seen how on-line marketing can appear so tempting because of its cost efficiency that some businesses go down that route exclusively. For some — the 'net savvy — that's fine and they'll probably do really from it. But for companies that lack the 'net smarts, it's a harder proposition. While not essential, it's usually wise to have a marketing mix; which could well be a coordinated or staggered on-line and off-line campaign. But there's also the end result to consider, too. I know of businesses who conduct themselves very well on the web, yet they have no formal — or even informal — method for measuring their activities on the web. In fact, they don't even make use of the traffic statistics to their websites in their marketing reports, which is both bizarre and worrying. The future of marketing isn't the web. The web is just another part of the overall marketing mix. Right now, it's a differentiator for some, but that's likely to change over time, when more (most?) businesses find themselves on-line, too. As an added benefit of providing web services (yes, that's a very deliberate generic phrase) to my clients, I'm able to go beyond "just" web design & development and instead offer web applications to help out with some of the boring collaborative stuff they do. Sometimes, these back office applications can meld with their regular front-end services, adding more value to what they offer their clients in the process. As a result, you're able to bolster your case to prospective clients — using you business for web design, development and beyond...

    Comment by Wayne Smallman — October 31, 2007 @5:39 am

  2. Absolutely! It's been my experience that most companies (around Cleveland anyway) take an "If you build it they will come" approach. And then try to build it as cheaply as possible. I don't know how many times I've handed off a project and, after discussing strategy and a 'phase 2' (or whatever buzzword you like) marketing effort hearing "Thanks, we'll take it from here." And it just sits there. I've seen so many good ideas either grow stagnant or just wither and die because everyone thinks their website is going to run itself and the visitors are just lining up

    Comment by Brendan Cullen — October 31, 2007 @10:06 am

  3. @ brendan "It's been my experience that most companies (around Cleveland anyway) take an "If you build it they will come" approach." that is everywhere if you are talking about small to mid size businesses interested in marketing. it is something you should expect and not complain about and make it work to some sort of ADVANTAGE. that is the exact attitude that got those business owners to the point where they could afford to pay a firm or an individual to design and execute their marketing strategy.

    Comment by ryan — October 31, 2007 @12:36 pm

  4. Heidi, Great article: I can't emphasize enough how much I agree with the idea of creating a well-rounded marketing plan for websites. I really try my best to teach that to my clients as well. Awesome blog you've got here, I'm glad I found it. Thanks, - Mason

    Comment by Mason Hipp — November 1, 2007 @8:31 am

  5. @Ryan: Perhaps I could have worded my comment better, but most of the projects I was referencing were not through agency/freelance work, they were internal (i.e. from one department in a company to another). And while yes, I guess I was complaining a bit (I was trying more to agree with Heidi's post than whine about my past failures), what makes you think I'm not working on turning these misfires into advantages for myself? ;)

    Comment by Brendan Cullen — November 1, 2007 @10:27 am

  6. Thanks for the great comments everyone. Wayne brings up a great point about measuring success. Some media are harder to measure than others. Customers may not tell you they bought a widget because of the ad they saw. But if you see widget sales increase right after the ad runs, you can see that you've had an impact. For "Thursdays in the Park" we were able to gauge our success through the surveys, attendance and our Web stats. Our first concert was June 6th 2002. If I recall correctly our print ads would have hit the papers the Wednesday beforehand and Media coverage would have picked up after the first few concerts, after people had a chance to review them. As it happens I still have the stats from June 2002 online. If you scroll down to the daily report you'll see that it took a few weeks for the momentum to build, but that there were also spikes on Thursdays. While this is partially because that was the day the concerts were held, it also correlates to the distribution of the weekly newspapers which came out on Wednesday nights. Brendan's point about "If you build it they will come" does seem far too common. I think people think of the Web as some sort of magic bullet. But while the Web is powerful it can't fully replace all the tried and true methods of the old days (pre 1993) it can only augment them. Whether you're using a billboard, a magazine ad, or a Web site it's only useful if the right people see it. Ryan, you Brendan and Wayne are all right to consider that opportunities are to be had from this. I know a fellow in Mumbai who is working with clients and their PR firms to make sure that their Web strategies are in sync with their other strategies. It seems like a great niche. Glad to see that we're all on the same page here!

    Comment by Heidi Cool — November 1, 2007 @11:25 am

  7. You are so right! The "Thursdays In The Park" marketing plan is a fantastic example that provides an excellent blueprint for those looking to be successful. Great post!

    Comment by Internet Marketing Blog — November 3, 2007 @5:18 am

  8. What I sometimes do is make a few articles and set them on auto submit and it really helps keeping the website a live during the work days.

    Comment by AION — November 11, 2007 @6:42 am

  9. hello, this was a great article hope to see more.

    Comment by website reviews — November 14, 2007 @6:04 am

  10. The future of marketing isn't the web. The web is just another part of the overall marketing mix.

    Right now, it's a differentiator for some, but that's likely to change over time, when more (most?) businesses find themselves on-line, too.

    Comment by PeopleRecords.com — November 21, 2007 @9:26 am

  11. It is so often the case that one is only strong in one area. This is why so many beautiful websites are outranked by well seo'd websites. Its a pity the two can't get together.

    Comment by Interactive Marketing — November 26, 2007 @8:24 am

  12. Brendan's point about "If you build it they will come" does seem far too common. I think people think of the Web as some sort of magic bullet. But while the Web is powerful it can't fully replace all the tried and true methods of the old days (pre 1993) it can only augment them. Whether you're using a billboard, a magazine ad, or a Web site it's only useful if the right people see it.
    Thanks
    Paul Vice

    Comment by Paul — January 23, 2008 @8:53 am

  13. Great article - thought provoking. I agree that marketing needs to be strategically co-ordinated to get the best response, both on and off-line.

    Comment by Alison — February 1, 2008 @3:21 pm

  14. Now, I know what must I do. Thanks for the article. This is very useful for me.

    Comment by JobFreelance.info — February 2, 2008 @3:08 pm

  15. I can't believe how many folks expect to get business just by launching a website without having a marketing plan or some sort.

    Comment by Brian Petti — March 25, 2008 @10:07 pm

  16. Creating a web site without developing a web site marketing plan is the same as planning for failure. A web site marketing plan is essential not only just to survive but to continue to thrive and expand your business. You should spend 80% of your time marketing your web site. It's the life blood of your online business.

    Comment by Mary Skyers — April 28, 2008 @2:45 pm

  17. Most of us probably create a web site first before we plan to market it. However just like a business plan, you should prepare your marketing strategy ahead of time. What's the benefit of doing this? The further you plan ahead the easier will all the pieces of your web site fall into place.

    Comment by Patricia Lacey — April 28, 2008 @2:52 pm

  18. For many of us, finding the time and commitment to complete a marketing plan for our Web sites is difficult. There are so many other obligations vying for our attention it is tempting to push planning to the back burner. Giving into that temptation, however, means putting your business at a disadvantage. Your marketing plan is the compass by which you navigate. As opportunities arise or your business environment changes, the objective and strategies in your marketing plan will point you toward the best action. Without a marketing plan, you risk becoming unfocused in your marketing and are only guessing what might be best for your business.

    Comment by Paul Brown — April 28, 2008 @3:07 pm

  19. A successful marketing campaign is very important after completing a website. There are millions upon millions of websites launched weekly and the presence of your website is vital. Create a marketing campaign, focusing directly on your target audience and launch excellent content, from articles, videos, podcasts, ebooks, presentations and submit this content on social media sites such as Digg to increase your presence and website brand. Business cards and T-shirts are excellent methods of marketing. Traffic generation is important and create eye-catching content to address your target audience. Best of luck, I enjoyed this post. Keep up the great work.

    Comment by James King — May 3, 2008 @7:23 am

  20. I never thought to advertise locally for my main flagship website. You gave me some great ideas thank you for sharing this.

    Comment by Stephanie Dow — May 11, 2008 @7:05 pm

  21. Interesting article. I do agree with the comments about "building a website and they will come". Surely you need to ensure that you will have sufficient traffic BEFORE you start designing your site!

    Comment by Sanjeev Bhadresa — October 27, 2008 @10:45 pm

  22. Great article. A succesful website is a powerful tool for any business and the key is knowing how to BUILD an optimized site to attract visitors, how to WRITE to sell effectively and turn your visitors into leads, and how to NETWORK your site on the web to maximize your website's potential. I have written a blog with tips on how to make any website into a real success story. You can read my blog here: http://startasuccessfulbusinessonline.blogspot.com

    Comment by kev — November 12, 2008 @4:52 pm

  23. There are millions upon millions of websites launched weekly and the presence of your website is vital.

    Comment by brown leather jacket — February 25, 2010 @1:17 pm

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