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Talking Shop

Where should you focus your online marketing? Try the office.

Internet users are shopping at work. An estimated 60 percent of the $53 billion spent online in the United States in 2001 occurred at the office, according to research firm ComScore Networks. You can attract the attention--and dollars--of this growing audience. All you need to know is when, where and how.

  • Target by time. Sending out an e-mail? Planning to buy ad space on another Web site? Ask if you can run your promotion between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. Aim for 9 a.m. to noon, which are the peak Internet usage hours at work.

Even if you're purchasing keywords on pay-per-placement search engines such as Overture, you can incorporate this strategy. Boost your listing and bid price to a top position during peak work hours. You can stretch your budget on expensive keywords, if these clicks convert to orders.

  • Put your ads where your shoppers are. ComScore Networks noted that in 2001, the top categories of online purchases made in the workplace included books, computer hardware and software, consumer electronics, event tickets, flowers and gifts, home and garden, jewelry and watches, office items and travel.

But just because you don't sell these items doesn't mean you can't bring in new shoppers by putting your advertisements on sites such as these. If your ad relates to the site's main topic, you can persuade Internet surfers to continue shopping over on your Web site.

  • Get them to buy. Make it quick, easy and painless for your at-work customers to order online. The less information required, the better. Even growing your e-mail database will be much easier if you prove the value of the offer and then make registration a breeze.

I've visited travel agency or airline sites where account sign-up is required just to search for flight information! Although I want to find cheaper rates, I leave these sites immediately to search and reserve flights from Expedia.com or Southwest.com. Why? Don't make me surf, click or type any more than necessary.

And I'm not alone. You can close more sales online by showing value while demanding little time and information to get it. Pretend you're running a cafe during lunch hour. Your hungry patrons want a good meal served quickly and inexpensively. If they've enjoyed their experience, they'll become regular customers-a dream come true for most companies.

By targeting at-work consumers, you could squeeze higher profits from your current marketing campaigns simply by changing the delivery time, ad placement or ordering process. And if you're concerned employees will abandon their shopping experience to "get back to work," then entice them with a limited-time offer they'll redeem before they leave the office.


Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Seda owns an Internet marketing agency and is author of Search Engine Advertising .

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This article was originally published in the July 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Talking Shop.

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