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Those that get online marketing, and those that very clearly don't.

In his October editorial for Customer Interaction Solutions, Rich Tehrani wrote about companies that answer customer e-mail promptly and that he, and millions of others, were more likely to do business with companies that are responsive to online inquiries. He recounted a story of a woman who attended one of his speeches that became very upset with this idea. She thought that it was a "bad idea" that companies allow customers to "get used to" having their e-mail dealt with promptly. Clearly, people like this missed the basic lessons of business school: if you don't give your customers what they want, your competitor will. Wishing this away won't get you anywhere.

I'm always struck by how some companies seem to really strive to innovate to broaden their marketing across all channels, but in particular toward their Web channels. I'm impressed with the companies that link their television commercials to their online presence, like Sharp and its "More To See" commercials (www.moretosee.com) that begin telling a story in the commercial and ask consumers to visit the Web site to see how the story turns out.

Granted, Sharp has an enormous marketing budget and a lot of innovative people to come up with cross-channel marketing ideas.
Other companies are using this same method to drive traffic to their Web sites, and it appears to be working for them. Large companies are using YouTube to distribute commercials that could not be shown on television for reasons of language, a harder-edged message or non-family-appropriate humor. They are generally quite funny, and prompt viewers to share them with one another in a true viral marketing model.

But what impresses me even more is when smaller companies come up with fun ideas to drive traffic to their Web sites.

I get marketing e-mails from Sure Fit, a catalog company that sells slip covers. Now, I'm not sure how big Sure Fit is, but I suspect there are no presidential cabinet members on its board of directors, if it even has a board of directors, and the brand is hardly a household name. The e-mail sent to me read, "Celebrate Sure Fit's Ugly Couch Contest Grand Prize Drawing and Save 20 Percent On All Orders!"

An ugly couch contest? What fun! A little surfing led me to a page with photos of previous years’ winners: www.tmcnet.com/1269.1. I'm sure you'll agree, those are some damn ugly sofas. 2001's winner, complete with chain accents, is a particular favorite of mine.

You are probably tempted to visit Sure Fit's Web site now, aren't you? Even if only to see the ugly sofas. Maybe you have a contender for next year's contest lurking in your family room. Would you have gone to the Web site otherwise? Not unless you were really on an active hunt to buy slipcovers. But now that you're there, you might find you need a slipcover. And if you do…hey, you can get 20 percent off.

Too many companies think cross-channel marketing is achieved by repeating the same boring marketing message across multiple marketing vehicles. A boring radio ad plus a boring print ad plus a boring television commercial plus a boring Web site do NOT equal cross-channel marketing.

As far as I'm concerned, the marketing world needs more ugly couches. And you…you really DO need a slipcover, don't you?

The author may be contacted at [email protected].

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