September 4, 2012

DartboardEven more than traditional marketing, internet marketing is both a science and an art. The tricky part is that the science is one that’s constantly evolving since the entire internet is rapidly evolving and therefore all things and activities related to it must rapid evolve as well.

The original measurement of internet marketing success was measuring the number of people who viewed a particular webpage; this is known as “getting eyeballs”. Companies were well funded and purchased for multi-million dollar pay-outs to their owners on the basis of the number of eyeballs that could be documented. For example, there was a time when e-mail providers were able to command $400 per subscriber on the theory that the subscribers would somehow be monetized in the years ahead via a stream of ad revenue.

Of course, we now have different models of generating revenue that vary from pay per click (or PPC) advertising to affiliate commission payments. The key thing is that the models are evolving; the only model that bears resemblance to conventional ideas of marketing from years past is that of payment of commissions on actual sales. This is, of course, the only model that actually assures that there is pay for performance that matters, as opposed to pay for performance that may or may not matter.

Consider, for example, a campaign that yields 1 million visitors to a website. That’s pretty good, in many views. However, suppose that only 10 of these visitors actually buy something. If that something is a six-figure item such as a luxury car then it may be worthwhile. On the other hand, if it’s a bag of peanuts then the campaign has been, in the words of Shakespeare, much sound and fury signifying nothing.

It’s a fact that much of marketing is done in ignorance. People don’t know what works until it actually works, and unlike scientific experiments the conditions in which marketing is done are always changing. Sure, you can run two promotional pieces to demographically identical audiences at the same time and track the results. In theory, this will tell you which piece works better; it’s scientific in a way.

But how do you know that you’ve controlled for all of the variables? You don’t, since the real world is always infinitely more complex than a lab environment. What you’re really doing is playing the odds, much like a professional gambler. That’s why marketing is and will always be more an art than a science.

That being said, one should use scientific methods such as split tests when possible since it’s a far better approach than throwing darts. Add to that the seasoned judgment of a marketing pro who’s produced real-world results that matter time and again, and you might have a good chance of making money.





Sean McPheat

Managing Director

The Internet Marketing Academy

(Image PhotoMorgue)

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