The Internet is a wonderful marketing laboratory. You can come up with an idea at lunch, implement it this afternoon, and look over the results tomorrow morning. But this is not an article about web-based marketing.

It’s an article about using information.

The great thing about collecting customer preferences from the Internet is how quickly you can apply them to your off-line marketing.

Search words, for example.

Your customers, or potential customers, already have a name for what you do. Its up to you to find out the names they’ve given to your stuff, your services, your procedures.

Use those names. Making people change their vocabluary only frustrates them.

When customers have to try to remember your name for what you do, instead of just calling it by the name that comes to mind, they won’t order it. Which terms do they use when they want what you’re selling?

Hardees restaurants used to have a pretty good ham and cheese sandwich. Customers called it a ham and cheese. Hardees insisted that it be called a “Yumbo.” Had Hardees called it a ham and cheese you’d likely still be seeing it on the menu. (There was also the added embarrasment of having to publicly proclaim “I’d like fries with my Yumbo,” but I digress).

Sometime back a radio program director explained that her format, Adult Album Alternative, was going to be the next big ratings winner. I told her she didn’t have a prayer. Somewhat taken aback, she said “Well, our numbers are small now, but our listeners LOVE us. Our time spent listening is already the best in the market.”

It doesn’t matter. Country radio listeners will tell you they listen to country music. Jazz listeners will proclaim they listen to jazz. Reggae listeners know they’re listening to reggae.

Then there are your listeners,” I said. “What do they call the music on your radio station? You can safely bet that whatever they call their music, they don’t call it Adult Album Alternative.”

When they can’t name it, they won’t recommend it. People can’t rave about your radio station, or your store, or your service, if they don’t know what to call it while they’re raving.

You’ve been describing your business in your own terms. Your ads are producing a return on your advertising investment. You’re doing OK, so far.

Humm. Is just “OK” enough?

Imagine how customers would respond if you spoke to them in their own terms. How much more could you sell if your ads managed to resonate in the minds and hearts of your customers?

It doesn’t matter if you have a web site or not. The words customers use to describe what they’re looking for on the web are the very words they use when they’re looking in real life. They’re the words you should use in your radio scripts, in your newspaper layouts, in your Yellow Pages listings.

What do customers call what you do? Why aren’t you using those descriptions in your off-line advertising?

Perhaps a coffee break spent Googling keywords would be time well invested.

Do you know what your customers call what you do?

Do you dare to not find out?