The New Frontier of Marketing
Helping companies spread the word, online marketers navigate the rapidly evolving world of the Web.
The Internet isn’t just a great way to share photos and watch videos—it’s also a vibrant ecosystem that allows companies of all sizes and shapes to market to customers around the world.
While navigating the rapidly changing waters of online marketing may feel like an overwhelming task for small and large businesses alike, more and more dedicated professionals in the field are helping organizations thrive. Online marketers can work for specialized marketing firms, corporations, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, political campaigns, and nearly anywhere else that tries to attract customers to its goods and services.
Inside online marketing
“Online marketing is very important to society as a whole,” says Naveen Pal, founder and CEO of digital marketing firm Indian Online Marketing. “It’s something that all businesses should do.” Online marketing gives companies constant and affordable visibility with no need to close at the end of the day or for the holidays, he says. Content can also be added or changed quickly, customers can easily find a business and browse its products, and with the right combination of online marketing strategies, sales figures can increase dramatically.
Photographs by SEEMA SAWHNEY
Artist Seema Sawhney was born in Dehradun, grew up in Mumbai, and currently lives in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Inspired by traditional Indian art, she creates beautiful custom Indian wedding invitations through her company, Samvadiya Cards, and has built her business using online marketing tools.
"My first sale came through Etsy.com," she says, describing the online marketplace where independent craftspeople sell everything from custom-made desk lamps to handcrafted slippers.
"Etsy is great because buyers are willing to experiment with your product, as long as you price it right," says Sawhney, who has found that customers are most willing to take chances on products that cost between $10 and $15.
Though much of Sawhney's sales now come via her company's own Web site, she still uses Etsy as a marketing tool—and as a testing ground. "Etsy was where I experimented to find my niche and customer segment, and it's still an incubation area for me," she describes. "If I come up with a new product, I put it on there and see how it does. There's usually a strong correlation between what sells on Etsy and what sells on my Web site."
Sawhney further markets her work online using tools like Google Adwords, Facebook and picture advertisements that show up on popular Indian wedding blogs. Her Web site, samvadiyacards.com, continues to play an increasingly important role in marketing her work. "It's important to have a well made Web site, since that is basically your online equivalent of a shop front," she says. "I would advise other artists to have a very good description that honestly communicates what your business is about. People often read that and want to know more about you before doing business with you."
“If you don’t have online marketing and your competitors do, they have a leg up on you,” Pal continues. “They will be able to quickly reach a wider audience and gain more customers. So just start marketing your business online.”
Online marketing managers must juggle a challenging but exciting variety of responsibilities to be successful. These include developing and implementing online strategies to help generate brand awareness and Web site traffic, among other goals. They must also analyze “customer behavior for site traffic, page performance, click navigation, purchase conversion and shopping patterns to drive sales in the virtual shopping environment,” says Pal. And through all such efforts, online marketers must stay in close contact with multiple departments of the companies they work with, actively promoting new and existing products and services—and staying within budget while doing so.
Over the last several years, Pal has seen significant growth in the use of online marketing. “If we take India as an example, the number of Internet users is increasing very rapidly,” he says. “That growth gives businesses some great opportunities to promote their products or services online. In the next few years, millions more will get connected to the Internet and it will become an even bigger force as more people look for what they need online.”
Choosing the career
To thrive in the world of online marketing, Pal says that though work experience isn’t necessary, training and education are the keys to success. College degrees in technology and computer applications, or an MBA, are essential along with skills like Web site design, graphic design and search engine optimization. “Technology keeps on changing and new online tools come up,” says Pal. “We need to keep up-to-date and be good learners.” Putting that principle into action means reading newsletters from search engines like Google and Yahoo, as well as social media giants like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
As the founder and CEO of his company, Pal works long hours, often putting in 13-hour workdays, six days a week. “In spite of the stress level of my work, I love online marketing,” he says. Online marketing managers working for other organizations should expect to invest a good amount of time into their jobs, though their schedules will likely not be as intense as Pal’s. Salary Web site indeed.com describes the average salary of online marketing managers in the United States as $63,000, while payscale.com describes a very wide range of roughly $37,000 to over $90,000.
Regardless of the challenges and salaries involved, Pal emphasizes the fact that, thanks to tools like Skype, he is able to work with clients from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and beyond without straying far from his headquarters in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. “This is the beauty of online marketing techniques,” he says. “We can promote and market products from anywhere around the world.”
Michael Gallant is the founder and chief executive officer of Gallant Music. He lives in New York City.