““The most dangerous untruths are truths slightly distorted.”” – Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, German philosopher (1742-1799)

So much has been written about how different Internet marketing is from “traditional” selling. And there are real differences. But most of the differences are superficial. The fundamentals of selling are tied to the nature of the human personality. And that hasn’t changed much, if at all, in thousands of years. So don’t pay too much attention to all the rhetoric about permission marketing, relationship selling and all the rest. It’s mostly either (1) just plain wrong or (2) the age-old rules repackaged for new buyers.

In a recent article in DM News, Dev Bhatia, president of HotSocket Inc., a NYC-based on-line marketing company, identified some of these Internet advertising myths. Here are a few I agree with:

1. Myth: Quality graphics are good because they tell the Web browser that your site is trustworthy.

Not always true. Illustrations and fancy visuals sometimes hurt response rates. In many cases, simple, text-only offers have outperformed fancier models. In a Business Week campaign, for example, a text-only page outperformed an illustrated page by 50%.

2. Myth: Long text is bad. Vertical scroll turns prospects off.

In fact, recent tests are providing differing results. In ad campaigns for Virtual Suite and Nova, scroll improved conversion.

3. Myth: The Internet will always favor cheaper prices because consumers can easily price shop.

The reality? Many successful Web sites sell on quality and uniqueness, charging more than their competitors for similar products. The secret? They establish a higher perceived value.

4. Myth: Branding is all-important.

In some recent tests, companies have been able to improve sales by removing or de-emphasizing branding in favor of offers or stronger copy.

5. Myth: E-commerce works.

According to a recent study conducted by Shop.org and The Boston Consulting Group Inc., the average e-commerce retailer paid $42 to acquire a customer last year. The bulk of this cost was expended on media advertising – bringing visitors to a retail destination via banner advertising. As Bhatia points out, “This is not only extremely inefficient, but extremely expensive.”

Actual Testing Is Showing Us That Internet Advertising Is Going to End Up Working Pretty Much Like Regular Advertising

You need to attract the attention of a prospect. To do that, you need to spend money to get an advertisement in front of him. What the advertisement does and how it looks depends on what response you are trying to solicit.

With Internet marketing, there are several media operating – each with its own rules but each resembling a traditional medium. Banner ads, for example, are very much like fractional display ads or classified ads. Web sites are like magazines or full-page space ads. And e-mail is like direct mail, both lead-generating direct mail and cash offers.

If you understand how direct response marketing works, you will have a very good idea of how to sell on the Internet. The key is to ask yourself about the nature and purpose of the Internet advertising and then find its equivalent in direct marketing.

Let’s say, for example, that you want to sell a report you’ve published for plumbers on the subject of faucets. You might find a Web site that has a lot of plumbers visiting it. That would be the equivalent of finding a trade magazine for plumbers. You will probably have a few choices in terms of advertising your report. You could take a banner ad, which would be like a small display ad. What you’d say on that banner ad would be pretty much what you’d say if you bought a small fractional ad. If the Web site had a message board filled with advertised goods and services, for example, you’d follow the marketing rules that work for classified ads. If the website had text and you were able to buy a small ad that resembled an insert ad, you’d follow the rules for insert ads.

Next month, I’ll be participating in a program on Internet advertising. I’ll be providing my ideas and hearing those of others. I’ll be happy to share them with you as soon as I get back.

In the meantime, don’t be fooled by Internet advertising gurus who have never sold anything except their own expertise. Rely on the common sense you have. Trust that the fundamental principles of selling are the same on the Internet as they are elsewhere. Move carefully, but trust your experience.