Gore is Vice President of Praxis International, Inc.
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For 2 ½ years, we have been following MaraStar
a high-tech Internet start-up company based in Paoli. MaraStar has
survived despite the bursting of the Internet bubble and the lingering
recession that followed the 9/11 tragedy. One year ago, we reported that
Marysue Lucci and Ray Hansell, the founders of MaraStar, were adapting
to the challenging business environment by restructuring and resizing
MaraStar to the business climate and to the available funding base.
Over the past year, Lucci and Hansell completed the
revamping and repositioning of their sophisticated and innovative
animated training and communications programs. “Now that we have
completed work on the technology that supports our products, we have
shifted our focus from product development to marketing and sales
strategies,” says Hansell. “We continue to survey our customers. We
find that our customers are overwhelmingly positive about the value of
MaraStar products in enhancing employee communications and in increasing
the effectiveness of employee training programs. One of our success
principles from the outset has been that ‘your idea must have
intrinsic worth and provide value-added services,’ and the many
satisfied customers of MaraStar is a testimony to our staying true to
our core values.”
To drive traffic to www.marastar.com, Hansell and Lucci
leveraged their direct marketing experience coupled with outside
Internet experts to explore ways to increase traffic to the company web
site. “Of course,” says Lucci, “getting ‘hits’ on your web
site is just the first step. Your site must be user-friendly to interest
potential customers and it must have features to entice them to want
more information and to ultimately place an order.”
“We are implementing ways to increase our rankings
when a potential customer uses a search engine to find products to meet
a particular communications or training need,” continues Lucci. “It
is critical to be on the first one or two pages of a search engine’s
matches. For example, we offer animated cartoons for use in customer
service training. Entering the phrase ‘customer service training’ in
a major search engine can produce millions of results. Being listed
among the top results is a very real challenge.”
Once a potential customer visits the MaraStar web site,
they need to be able to quickly and easily understand how MaraStar’s
animated training and communications cartoons would work for their
particular situation. From the MaraStar home page, potential customers
can take an interface tour, which demonstrates how the animations work,
the benefits of using MaraStar’s product, and pricing information.
Moreover, MaraStar has a “Make It Real” section under the “Uses”
tab on its website where potential customers can see examples of the
animated cartoons “in action” at various companies.
During their visit to www.marastar.com,
prospective customers are invited to receive a free sample. As they
register for a free sample, the contact information is then directed to
MaraStar’s inside sales consultants for follow-up.
MaraStar is now in the process of rebuilding its sales
staff. “We retooled our sales training program from a product focus to
an emphasis on a complete and comprehensive understanding of and
proficiency in the total sales process,” says Hansell. “MaraStar’s
inside sales consultants do not use a ‘canned’ sales approach.
Instead, they become adept in using a consultative sales approach to
match customer needs to MaraStar products.”
“Moreover,” adds Hansell, “in selling MaraStar’s
animated cartoons, MaraStar’s inside sales consultants use MaraStar’s
animated cartoons as sales tools. This reinforces the value of MaraStar’s
animated cartoons to potential customers. For example, inside sales
consultants use animated cartoons to confirm telephone appointments with
potential customers, to thank potential customers for their time in
speaking with them, and to follow-up with a next step.”
MaraStar’s rapidly growing client list proves that it is still possible for a start-up Internet company to overcome the challenges presented in today’s economic and political climate.
The Greg Gore Web Site on Computers and the Internet (www.GregGore.com)
column was published in the Daily Local News, West Chester, PA on
May 21, 2003.
Greg Gore can be reached at gg@GregGore.com.
2009 by Greg Gore. All rights reserved.