MARC HIL MACALUA: "Know your target market by heart"
One question that lingers in the mind of many Philippine marketers--particularly those in small and medium
enterprises--is how to use the Internet to generate sales without busting the company's budget.
The best rule of thumb is to know your target market by heart, says Marc Hil Macalua of MBS Tek Corp., the Philippine contact-center subsidiary of US Autoparts, a US-based car-parts distributor. Macalua explains that Internet presence is a basic requirement for companies that deal with buyers from overseas.
However, he cautions that if the company's customers are the type that requires face-to- face contact, wants to try out the product, and gets intimidated by Internet technology, then marketing through the Internet is not the best option. He says he even discouraged a friend from marketing online after he saw his product lines--they were the kind that catered to typically Internet-averse customers.
In any case, Macalua recommends a three-part strategy for developing a successful Internet presence:
1. Build traffic. Online marketing is a numbers game, so the more visits you get to your site, the higher the likelihood of clinching a sale. To achieve this, Macalua recommends submitting your website-- using appropriate key words--to search engines like Google.com. Also an option is partnering with other websites that can display referral icons and banner ads leading to your website.
He also recommends exploring pay-per-click (PPC) possibilities as a way of promoting your website to become the choice homepage of consumers. The ultimate goal here is either to see the website at the top of the search list, or to make the site synonymous with certain keywords as determined automatically by the popularity rating programs of Internet search engines.
2. Provide a top-notch experience. The overall experience of customers that visit your site should be pleasant particularly with respect to such aspects as working icons, ease of navigation, updated information, and rapid download features. Investing in a great webpage design is therefore very important.
3. Measure everything. Many people think high website traffic guarantees success, but this necessarily isn't so. Macalua thus recommends the use of direct-mail marketing standards for measuring success. This includes using the hits-to-sale conversion ratio instead of the site-visit figure alone. He says a 2 percent conversion rate is a good target to begin with, although high flyers can achieve as much as a 10 percent sales conversion.
A more direct measure is return on investment (ROI) based on your total website investment or even just based on your monthly website maintenance cost. You must consider, too, that nothing ties up website visits to actual revenues better than pay-per-click or PPC. Under a PPC setup, a paying customer is charged for each download, each page view, or each file view.
Online trading is now the norm in many advanced economies, but many wonder when it will become popular among Filipino consumers. Macalua is optimistic about this and believes that the Philippines is moving in that direction. As an example, he cites how a domestic online flower-delivery company now gets as many orders from Philippine-based buyers as from overseas buyers. He adds that although the space for Internet marketers abroad is now saturated, there's still plenty of room for growth and improvement in the Philippines.
Macalua says that one major factor that's favorable to the online trading trend is the availability of a viable payment platform. Indeed, with the increasing number of Philippine-issued credit cards as well as of debit cards for online transactions, the number of Filipinos willing to trade online has been growing.
Even without these cards though, he says, Filipinos are now able to trade and settle accounts online. Some of them are settling transactions with cellphone loads sent through short messaging service or SMS instead of using face-to-face payments, over-the-counter bank deposits, and fund transfers.
IS A WEBSITE NECESSARY?
Many entrepreneurs, of course, are wary that putting up a website involves hiring a Web developer to design, launch, and maintain the site; subscribing to an Internet service provider; buying an exclusive domain name; and making the needed investment in computer hardware. This means raising the funds for the initial setup cost and for the monthly overhead expenses of running the website.
But Macalua says that these costs have gone down considerably; in fact, he adds, many Internet service providers are now bundling their website services into much more affordable packages.
He says there is still another uniquely Filipino way of marketing through the Internet without putting up a proper website, which therefore means next to nothing in information technology investment. It is the common practice of selling products through Internet auction sites, forums, and free postings.
Macalua observes that some Filipino companies actually hire full-time employees who do nothing else but solicit sales through these channels, creating blogs, direct postings, and so-called Internet "threads" or sending direct e-mails through accounts with such free Internet services as Multiply, Yahoo, and Friendster. Some companies, he says, even actively participate in biddings through e-Bay and similar online auction sites. Such simple sales-generating initiatives definitely will give much better results than just passively waiting for prospective customers to visit your site.
Now who says Internet marketing is too complicated and expensive to be viable?
MARC HIL MACALUA
VP Marketing, MBS Tek Corp.
First Floor, RCC Center, 104 Shaw Boulevard, Pasig City
Telephone: (02) 634 1846 local 6889
E-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: www.usautoparts.net; www.seophilippines.org