Branding on the Internet

I’ve blogged about how direct response marketers often disdain branding, believing it is not necessary.

To them, the offer is king. Make an enticing offer and back it up with benefits, testimonials bonuses and a great guarantee. Then get that package into the hands of a targeted list of known buyers of similar products and you have the making of a direct response empire.

Thousands of folks are attempting this very formula on the Internet today, and a few are making a darn good living with it. There’s one more aspect to the business model. It’s called the “back end”. That’s where they attempt to sell their first-time customers more related stuff as often as you can. That usually means until the customer get sick and tired of more offers hyping more mediocre ebooks and study courses and they cancel their email association with the marketer.

As a somewhat skeptical student of their methods, I’ve been deluged with email notices, newsletters, RRS feeds and “viral” give-aways promoting these products. And though almost to a person they will tell you they are building relationships with their customers, these “marketers” are really only selling whatever they believe they can foist upon their customer base before those customers become non-customers.

Their concept of building relationships is starting their email with…”Hi Martin, I hope your day is going well. I think the offer below will double your income in a month. Learn the secrets and earn big bucks with this new…” Gag!

But I think things are changing.

Several Internet marketing “gurus” seem to have retrenched and have reconsidered the value of branding as a tool for building and maintaining relationships.

Rich Schefren, one of the most astute Internet coaches around, has been preaching for over a year that Internet marketers need to quit being opportunists. If an Internet marketer is to be more than a “freelance gunslinger”, he/she must build a business that stands for something their customers desire. And branding is one of the major tools to do that through recognition of market needs and desires, company core values attuned to those desires, and a desire and presentation that reflect both. An on-line brand needs to be as strong, as consistent, as unique as a brand for a glass-and-mortar business. 

Now another voice is being heard. Ben Mack, a veteran brand planner with several large ad agencies, has written Think Two Products Ahead. Though not primarily directed at Internet marketers, he launched the book to Internet marketers using some of their favorite devices and methods. Ben deplores the lack of appreciation of branding by small companies. He advocates determining what he calls “brand essence”, which is similar to the “intersection” of “company strengths” and “what customers value” presented by LePla and Parker in their really practical book, Integrated Branding.

Ben describes a process that small businesses, including Internet marketers, can use to develop a brand. It’s practical and fairly easy for a business person to do because Ben has made it his goal to “take the mystery out of branding”.

So for those Internet marketers reading this blog, I suggest paying some attention to establishing long-ranging relationships with your customers through the simple idea of matching your core competencies with customer needs and desires, and do it consistently through branding.

Martin Jelsema

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