September 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio September 1998 Current Issue
September 1998 Net GainsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Net Gains


Great Comebacks

How To Get Visitors To Return To Your Web Site Again And Again

"Honey, have you seen the half-off coupon from GargantuaMart for those yak-leather tool belts?"

It's amazing what we'll do for a bargain. Our friend in the example above will drive across town and search through a huge megastore for a belt he doesn't need -- all because he has a coupon. GargantuaMart happily provides the incentive, knowing that when they get the customer into the store, he'll probably buy a few more things. This principle applies on the Web, but in much greater variety.

Someone said the Internet is like the Library of Congress, with all the books strewn about on the floor. Since surfers have so much to pick through, how can you get people to come back to your site after they've found you?

The Internet Coupon

Once the Web was recognized as a viable place to do business, many of the marketing principles that work offline were put into practice online. Meeting sites offered discounts for online registrations, the equivalent of a cents-off coupon. Suppliers created slick sites to entice visitors to buy, looking for the success that four-color brochures typically bring in. What sellers have discovered, however, is this is a whole new medium when it comes to marketing.

We will discuss some of the better methods for enticing visitors, but first things first. As we've said many times, Content is King. People return if the information they want is there. So keep your site fresh, interesting, easy to navigate and, above all, pertinent. The best gimmick in the world won't bring your audience back if that's all there is.

You also have to know yourself and your audience. Kevin Olsen of the production company One Smooth Stone ( says, "We've thought of going the humor, travel tips, educational, glossary, trivia route, but haven't pursued it. We see our site as another brand-reinforcement piece." In his case, personal contact is what sells, and his site is simply a virtual brochure.

Bringing 'Em Back Home

The online bookstore ( com) offers a great example of intrasite marketing. They sell us something every time we go there. And there's always a fun activity to do: rate books, take surveys, enter chats about music. Frequent buyers often get free upgrades on shipping (a ploy known as a hook). simply offers great, helpful customer service. (That works offline, too, by the way.)

So what makes them so effective? Look back to last month's article on the online customer database. has a profile on each customer, builds on it with every visit and uses it to reel you in time and again. They don't wait for you to wander back on your own; they push new information via e-mail. Our industry can learn a lot from them.

Continental Airlines ( also is on the right track. It was one of the first to send subscribers special low fares via e-mail, and many carriers have followed suit. Continental was also quick to offer bonus miles for booking online. The History Channel, A&E and many others find success with trivia -- no prizes, just a chance to test your knowledge. Virtual Florist ( lets you send free virtual flowers or balloons, but also offers the real things.

By the way, Web marketing is the most measurable mass marketing there is. Suppliers with banner ads and planners with registration coupons know every time someone requests more information. These are real numbers, and a great way to measure return on investment.

Portals and Communities

We've discussed "gateway" sites in the past, where viewers access many related sites from one launching pad. Gateways now are giving way to portals and communities, which go beyond single subject matter to become the hub of a viewer's Internet experience. Such sites as Excite (, Yahoo! ( and Netscape's Netcenter ( are springboards to the Internet and moneymakers for advertisers and investors. They are designed to be the first page surfers see when they access the Web. Similarly, industry sites, including M&C's (, are becoming information centers rather than online versions of their offline selves. By partnering with other content providers, they reap the benefits of increased traffic.

In short, the trick is to bring people back to your site again and again, and if they forget, e-mail them a gentle reminder.

Rodman Marymor, CMP, and Jeffrey Rasco, CMP, are partners in San Francisco and Austin, Texas-based, providing technology solutions for the meetings industry.

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