tions trends and differences across Fortune 500 manufacturer web sites. The specific research questions we address are:1. Do Fortune 500 manufacturer web sites reflect thevariety of marketing communications activities usedin the physical marketplace?2. What are the dominant and rarely used marketingcommunications on Fortune 500 manufacturer websites?, and3. Are differences in web site marketing strategiesassociated with different manufacturer characteristicssuch as sales, R&D to sales ratio, and net income?We begin by first discussing the relevant literature thenthe research design, results, and lastly with the discussionand conclusion.
2. Literature review and conceptual definitions
We incorporate the relevant literature that focuses onmarketing communications, business-to-business marketing,and the unique aspects of web sites. The literature onmarketing communications, or the promotional mix, is wideand varied. Our focus is on the marketing communicationsliterature that defines and describes promotional mix activ-ities and variations in use. Components of the marketingcommunications mix for web sites include: (1) advertising,(2) sales promotions, (3) public relations, and (4) direct marketing .
The first promotional tool, advertising, occupies the samefunction in cyberspace (web sites) as in the physical market- place. The goals of advertising are to create awareness,communicate benefits, promote trial, and urge customersinto action . Our definition of the content of communi-cations in web site advertising parallels van Waterschoot and Van den Botte’s  discussion of the promotion mix — the web site can communicate information about products, prices, and/or distribution. We also add general companyinformation to our definition of advertising content toacknowledge the potential role of institutional advertising.Advertising messages can contain company- and/or product-specific content. Product-specific content includes brand images and trademarks, as well as product benefits,quality, and/or features. A corporate web site can provide avariety of information such as details about product lines,specific products, product use, product benefits, prices, anddistribution options (availability of products from variousintermediaries). Company information includes compo-nents such as tag lines and corporate logos. For example,Con Agra’s web site prominently displays their tag line‘‘Across the food chain — around the world.’’ The needfor corporate and product brand building advertising in business-to-business is at least as great as it is in consumer markets (Warman).
2.2. Sales promotion
Advertising is but one part of the promotional mix; sales promotions can also be offered and/or delivered via the website. The major sales promotion tools relevant to manufac-turer web sites include refunds/rebates, premium and spe-cialty offers, sampling, online demonstrations, and contestsand sweepstakes.Sales promotions have been given an increasing portionof the total communications budgets [cf. 5]. Some manu-facturers, like Procter and Gamble, have attempted to endsales promotions by utilizing EDLP (everyday low pricing),they subsequently have reinstituted sales promotion practi-ces . If web site promotional efforts mirror the physicalworld, we would expect to see relatively frequent use of sales promotion on Fortune 500 manufacturer web sites.
2.3. Public relations
The third promotional tool, public relations, includesnews (e.g., press releases), speeches, educational programs, public-service activities, and lobbying or cause-relatedinformation. Significant debate exists within the marketingcommunity about the impact of public relations activities oncustomer choice. Therefore we include public relations for completeness but it is not a focal point for our current study.
2.4. Direct marketing
The final type of communication utilized on a corporateweb site is direct marketing. Direct marketing takes twoforms. First, a manufacturer can engage in electronic com-merce by providing customers with the ability to purchase products online through the web site (Internet).One might expect limited direct marketing activities onmanufacturers’ web sites because EDI use precedes web siteelectronic commerce (Internet). While EDI has been usedsuccessfully by some firms, only a small percentage of UScompanies utilize EDI . EDI often requires proprietarysoftware and hardware and thus can be prohibitivelyexpensive for many manufacturers and more importantlycustomers . As a result the penetration and adoption of EDI across the business customer base is low. Consequently,we would not expect EDI to supplant the need for Internet or web site-based electronic commerce.In addition to EDI, intranets and extranets may supplant the use of Internet web sites as direct marketing options.However, as with EDI, the adoption rate for intranets andextranets is relatively low. A recent study of extranet usagein the US and Canadian forest products industries foundonly a 10% penetration rate for extranets . Intranets can be expensive in the short term while a manufacturer’s website has relatively low initial and ongoing costs for custom-
M. Perry, C.D. Bodkin / Industrial Marketing Management 31 (2002) 133–144