OK! You've finally gotten customers to your Web site after a large investment in time and effort, not to mention money. What? They're not staying long enough to buy anything or to fill out those profile forms that you stayed up until 3 a.m. to create? Why not? The site navigation is good, you have a secure order form, the site loads quickly without too many annoying graphics, and you even have a return and privacy policy! What's going on here?

Make Your Site Stand Out
Those of us who are trying to do business on the Internet are constantly bombarded with information, statistics, and marketing advice: Go to your target market. Claim your niche with your "unique selling position." Promote your brand. Develop a Web "community." Publish an e-zine. Provide worthwhile content. It's all good advice.

But these marketing gurus leave out an important and indisputable fact. People want to be entertained! And they don't want to have to work to enjoy their Web experience. The success of television, a completely passive medium, attests to that. What should be done, then? How do you keep your audience long enough so that you can tell your story and promote your product? In short, how do you make your site "sticky"?

Streaming media technology provides a vital answer. It has a 70% click-through rate for content, a 60% click-through rate for advertiser information, and a 49% "buy" rate for online merchandise. Those statistics, provided by Carton Donofrio Interactive, are proof of the success of streaming media when they are used in a creative and content-rich environment.

What does "streaming" mean? Streaming promises quick access to crucial audio and video content without the aggravating wait for files to download. Downloading requires that files be sent to the user's PC in their entirety before they can be played; MP3 audio is a perfect example of this. The files then remain on the user's machine until they are deleted. On the other hand, streaming continuously sends these same files, which have already been digitized, to the user's PC while the user is listening or watching. When the stream is ended, no files are left behind on the user's machine.

How can we use this exciting technology to create "stickiness"? The possibilities are endless:

  • Coaches and motivational speakers can use it for instruction and team building.
  • Lawyers, accountants, and other professionals can enhance their sites with timely client messages.
  • Manufacturers can use it to demonstrate the intricate product features of machines and "widgets."
  • Resorts can showcase their most desirable features.
  • Realtors can market multiple properties efficiently and at reasonable cost.
  • Clothing retailers can have fashion "events" and show off new items and services.
  • Furniture and antique dealers can highlight unique product details.
  • Human resource professionals can use it to enhance corporate sales sites for remote sales forces and clients.
  • Nonprofit organizations can use it to explain their missions.
  • Charities can use it for soliciting donations.

Make Your Streaming Effective
The quality of your streaming presentation will only be as good as the quality of the source material from which it was originally created. This is extremely important! (You can't expect a videotape with bad color and contrast to look better in a stream than it did when you played it on your VHS machine at home.) The company that you select to do the encoding and compression of your media should be able to provide you with good guidelines for your original production.

For example, we always tell our clients that too much movement on a videotape will cause blurring and "smeariness" when the video is streamed. (As bandwidth continues to improve, many restrictions that exist today will disappear.) Your streaming vendor is the best source of information regarding tape formats and the equipment required to create the original production.

Streaming media are already being used effectively by a number of industries and organizations that are striving to stand out in the crowded Internet business world. Streaming media still have its limitations, especially in the area of delivering full-screen, high-quality video. But most of the big players on the Internet, even those in head-to-head competition for the fast-growing streaming audience, know that as bandwidth continues to improve, streaming media will inevitably become more prevalent as site visitors begin to expect it.

Streaming media advertising substantially increases brand recall, brand awareness, and positive brand perception. This really gives you the opportunity to deliver a powerful message about your products or services. Streaming is affordable, exciting, and inviting. It creates the stickiness that keeps your Web visitors on your site and gives them that extra incentive to click on the "order now" icon.

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