By Len Monheit
Although the dietary supplements and nutrition industries have traditionally been considered slow in technology adoption, new pressures, solutions and ideas has led to a re-examination of business processes to capture any cost savings opportunities and to take advantage of any solution leading to sales growth. From purchasing and sales to marketing, operations and internal and external communications, the industry and the audience within the industry has become more accepting of technology.
Looking specifically at marketing and communication, the Internet specifically is seriously considered as a message delivery vehicle and a key component of brand strategy, with an audience that in some verticals is higher than print or fax. The dietary supplements industry lags this trend slightly with signs of a major shift pending. The solution providers, the on-line vehicles, have responded by developing programs that work synergistically with other media forms to support and strengthen the presentation of information.
Critics of Internet programs noted that it was difficult to measure program effectiveness and until recently, ‘click throughs’ and ‘hits’ were the common measuring tools of Internet success. The Internet program was considered as an island, not integrating with nor benefiting from a mixed media approach. Now though, leading companies in many sectors are devoting more of their marketing efforts (and dollars) to Internet advertising and multiple, integrated media programs. A key development was the evolution of branding products, that is, innovative ways to brand advertisers, their products and services.
The Internet has characteristics that make it very effective although it is not suitable for all products and messages. Its speed of delivery and the way a message is received and viewed can be explored to maximize impact. Timing, getting a message to viewers or e-mail recipients under select circumstances, or even changing content or message on any schedule are some of the benefits of using the Internet. Examples of the latter include polling, feedback and discussion, storyboard messaging and contests.
The ability to have a viewer make a selection and then have content appear based on that preference is extremely powerful. Targeted delivery is one example of audience pre-filtering and enables you to reach different targets with different messages. Databases, search engines and sites with multiple resources and pages where your search criteria or your category choice may influence the message being displayed can all use this effectively. Sponsorship of selected pages is another example and studies have shown that specific content rather than general content has a greater viewer impact. And if you’ve already pre-qualified your audience, it makes sense that your ROI is higher. For instance, in this industry, if you’re considering a Yahoo banner ad, it may make more sense to focus on the Health directory or even search sensitive advertising.
Knowing and understanding viewer profile is important in maximizing return, whatever the media and industry. Consider for example an e-mail marketing program. Just as in fax messaging, you have control over message timing. Unlike fax messaging there are no cost incentives for overnight faxing, but delivery time analysis can be important. The same holds true for electronic newsletters. When do you want the recipient to get your message? What is he or she doing? Is your viewer a business professional starting up the computer and reading e-mail first thing in the morning? Do you want immediate response?
As technology evolves, new gimmicks and gadgets are available to help you deliver your message. Your audience could be at any stage of the adoption spectrum, all the way from no computer to complete wireless access or web/television. The dietary supplements industry has as wide a range as any sector, and this needs to be understood. These factors are driving decisions such as ‘html’ versus text e-mails, flash and streaming content on websites, animation and numerous other technology decisions. The more you use the engaging technologies such as rich media, the more effective your branding programs are. They come with a cost though, and that cost is the lack of reach to those users not capable of using the complete technology.
Marketers these days are learning that all media can contribute to a brand development program and in fact, if you ignore any channel, you potentially ignore a segment of your target market. And having a corporate website, although important, doesn’t necessarily contribute to brand success. It may take a brand website (or presence at the very least) plus an integrated on-line program that might involve e-mail, newsletters advertising, public relations and promotion to ensure that success.