Marketing is a dynamic industry that is constantly changing as time moves forward. We're past the point of being limited to newspaper, radio and television as the primary outlets and the audience is somewhat different than we might perceive as well.
Bigger than prime-time TV
We've known about the importance of the Internet as a marketing medium for quite some time. It has been stressed time and again that your website is the front door to your business for a majority of consumers.
But beyond keeping websites up-to-date with timely information, easy navigation, and a clean design, I'm not sure we ever realized the importance of using the Internet as an advertising medium – until now.
According to a report recently issued by Broadcast Cable Financial Management Association, combined advertising dollars spent on Google and Yahoo in 2004 nearly equal the $6.2 billion collected by prime-time advertising on ABC, NBC, and CBS.
There's more. According to eMarketer, a company that provides e-business research, statistics and demographics, Internet ad spending is expected to grow an additional 21 percent this year. Internet media spending is already larger than outdoor, TV syndication and national newspapers, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
A woman's world
Today, females make up about 52 percent of the online population, which is about the same percentage as in the general population. But by 2008, there will be about 10 million more women than men online (if only this could be true for single men at local pubs).
When you factor that in with how women are spending their day, their importance to your marketing plan becomes clear.
A recent study by eMarketer asked women to rank the amount of time they spend on certain activities each day. It's hard to believe that time on the Internet ranks fourth, trailing only working, sleeping and spending time with family. That news is staggering for all companies to consider when developing and maintaining a web presence, especially if your business has a product or service predominantly targeted at females.
With more women than ever in the workforce, the Internet has become a girl's best friend when gift-shopping for holidays, anniversaries and birthdays. It has become increasing important in the past several years for e-retailers to provide an atmosphere online that mirrors what women enjoy about shopping offline in the stores.
For instance, one thing we all know women enjoy shopping for is their own clothes. They like the process of finding the perfect top to go with the skirt they just found at the last store. But a lot of online apparel shops just show a row of skirts and you have to click to a completely different page to find a row of blouses.
Some companies are catching on. OldNavy.com has under its Women’s section, a "Wear to Work" link that mixes and matches blouses with skirts and slacks so you can envision exactly what your outfit might look like.
The service industry is not to be forgotten when providing a web presence that meets a woman’s needs either.
The effect locally
What does this mean to a local business that is continually trying to stretch its marketing budget?
The news that by 2008 there will be about 10 million more women online than men is important. While the prevailing thought used to be that females were watching daytime television and reading magazines like Redbook and Good Housekeeping, surveys repeatedly show that companies must reach out to this critical consumer base in other ways – especially online.
When considering how to spend your marketing dollars, ask yourself if your website or other online presence needs some tweaking that would allow it to better serve the female population that is skyrocketing online.
Internet advertising is a trickier subject to gauge locally, according to RJ Michaels own web guru, Donovan Cronkhite.
"The companies that are spending big bucks on Yahoo and Google and pushing their numbers into unexpected levels are other large media," Cronkhite said. "The music industry, the movie industry, and last but certainly not least, the online gaming industry, have completely revolutionized how they market to consumers."
That's not to say that Internet advertising isn't a viable and potentially rewarding endeavor.
"When you look at click-through rates, the numbers initially aren't impressive," Cronkhite said, saying they might fall somewhere in the .02 to .05 percent range.
He said if you were to take a similar approach to analyzing the effectiveness of say outdoor advertising, which is generally deemed effective in the Jackson market, the numbers are comparable.
"Think about how many people drive by or see your billboard over the course of the four-week period it's up, and then ask yourself how many people stopped in or called because of the billboard," he said. "They’re both mediums where you have to look at the goal being awareness."