So: what is online marketing?

A question I am frequently asked is “what is online marketing?” – and as usual I find it easier at times to invert the question and define what it is not.

It is not about design – although design is one of the relevant, assumed skills in any online marketer.  Pure designers in my experience are only interested in designing to impress other designers.  If your online marketing is design heavy it will commit innumerable usability and user experience errors and ultimately not give the visitor to your site exactly what it is that they want.

It is not just about programming either: once again a certain level of technical expertise is assumed to be inherent in any competent online marketer, but again programmers are interested primarily in impressing other programmers – not in making a site answer the needs of it’s visitors.

It is also most definitely not offline marketing: in fact it is more divergent from offline marketing than it is from design or programming.  Offline marketers are raised in an environment where what is important is shouting at their target market – finding ways to break down the perceptual barriers we all raise to keep the noise and clutter from offline marketers away from our cognition.  It is interruption marketing, demanding that you pay attention to it now and stop what you are doing and undertake the call to action that is being shouted at you.  I like to characterise it as the megaphone monologue.

Online marketing is the diametric opposite of offline marketing: it is permission marketing: someone who comes to your site is the most likely to buy your product or engage with your organisation that they will ever be.  Think about what they have done: they have consciously sought you out on the net and are explicitly willing to engage with you right now.  If you emphatically don’t annoy them, and remove all barriers to them completing their call to action then they are likely to do something to your benefit: buy your product, sign up to your newsletter or whatever it is you want them to do.

However – to be effective online marketers need to a degree to remove their egos from the equation: they need to ask what it is their target audience wants – not what they think will impress their boss or other designers or programmers.  And this ego-removal is extremly hard to acheive for people whose previous success has been due to them creating towering works of ego.

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