Online marketing is the best way to reach your audience but, unless you know how to effectively use it, you’re stuck with paying others to do it for you and as any good online marketing firm starts with basic, and I mean basic services at $1,500 a month, you may need to learn how to do it yourself and learn quickly. One mistake can undo all your efforts and damage your brand beyond repair.
The basic rules for online marketing are simple and steadfast:
- Listen to the consumer.
- Offer useful information.
- Be there for your customer.
- Always be friendly and helpful.
- Keep up your marketing efforts on a regular basis.
Seem simple? It is and it’s simple to trip up as well. Let’s look at each rule and how to keep on the top of your game.
This is how you define your target audience and how you keep your consumer base. Too often a company will use either a shotgun approach to finding the right consumers or just put out their product/service to who they think wants it. It’s important to listen to what people say on the web about you and your product/service and then act on that information.
One of the worst blunders I’ve witnessed was a company executive who thought she had a brilliant idea to pump up the product by throwing out the entire consumer base in hopes a whole new larger base would form. Not only did she not heed the wants of the consumers but she didn’t listen to those who worked with the product every day and knew the product and who wanted it. The “relaunch,” as she called it, was a disaster. The lesson is; listen not only to the consumer but to those who know the product/service because they have the inside track on what has and will make it all a success.
Another source of listening is what the trades say about similar products and services. What makes your competitors stand out? How does this translate to you? How can you build upon the success of others? Listen and find out.
Consumers are looking to you for information about your product or service. Mostly, of course, is how it will make their lives or business better. Did you know that about 75% of businesses in the U.S. do not have a website? 78% of adults in the U.S. think it’s imperative to look up information about companies before deciding to do business with them. So what does it say to potential customers when you’re not online? A former advertising teacher of mine said that advertising doesn’t make people buy things they don’t need. It shows them they have a need and shows the product or service that fulfills that need.
You need to show people why you have the best way to fulfill their need(s). If your information is clear, informative, of course, and sets you up as an expert in your field, you will build trust among consumers. A blog and targeted tweets with links to top information is the best method to provide information to an ever-widening audience. As you drive traffic to your blog, your site ranking will go up and your trust factor will also increase. Just make sure the information is helpful, entertaining, thought-provoking and answers questions before they are asked. Readers love when they don’t have to search out the answers to their questions, so anticipate the questions you know will be asked.
If you are adept at writing or can pay someone who can write for you, use the plethora of web magazines/blogs that serve your industry. Becoming an expert who contributes in various places on the web will help your Google ranking and having your name come up in search results will build your reputation and that of your business.
Being there for your consumers is very important. Most customers who leave a supplier (66%) say it’s due to perceived indifference on the part of the company. Every customer wants to feel special but most of all they want their needs met quickly and efficiently. When using online marketing to pump up your reputation with consumers, keep in mind there are sites consumers can use to complain about your service. Most people use online reviews before deciding which firm they will use for their needs. Keep your online reputation clean and build a trust for attentiveness to each and every customer.
It is more costly to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Consumers have never before been so connected and willing to share opinions of purchases and experience. Marketers seek creative ways to make customers feel appreciated and satisfied. What was once an afterthought should now find its way into the early stages of marketing plans. Use special programs to reward customers and when a customer is dissatisfied, go overboard to make them happy. Those online reviews are more powerful when an unhappy customer leaves a comment somewhere about how you solved a problem quickly and in a friendly manner.
What do you think of a service person who is rude or doesn’t dedicate 100% to solving your problem? You don’t like it and like most consumers, you will either not use that company anymore or cut back to using them only when absolutely necessary. The websites mentioned before that rate services and products works FOR you when you are known for being helpful and friendly.
Your marketing should always be in motion… forward, preferably. Having a blog or e-newsletter that isn’t done on a regular basis or starts and stops does not build confidence in your target audience. It seems like a simple rule but too many companies let their marketing efforts slip. I have to laugh when I see a marketing company that has a blog they haven’t updated in eight months or even over a year. What does THAT tell customers looking for a marketing company to handle their marketing efforts? If you can’t keep up with a blog, just take it down and stick with writing for other blogs (or paying someone to write for you). For ideas on how to move your marketing forward, check out this resource on Essential List of 31 Marketing Tactics for Small Businesses to inspire you.
Motion is your plan that changes by the feedback you receive. If it’s not working, analyze the reasons why and make changes quickly. The great thing about the web is information can be deleted or added in a few hours, as opposed to print and waiting for a new printed version of a catalog or brochure. Keep the motion going because the content is king and consumers expect something different and wonderful every time they visit your site.
Some Other Considerations…
BEFORE you get started, is your website everything it should be? Is there responsive design so people can read it on their computer, tablet or mobile phone? Is it easy to navigate? During the design process, did you ask your eight-year-old niece for design advice because she once won a finger painting prize and then passed that advice on to your web designer as an order of what you want to be changed? Did you negate expert advice for your own ego or because you were scared of something new and different? These mistakes could place your site low on search results and that can only be fixed by a site redesign, more money and doubled efforts to build your online brand again.
You will also want to network with the right people. LinkedIn is the premier business networking site. It has groups you can join and your posts will be shared across several levels of connections, so get with the “who you know” program and use networking sites to your best advantage.
Some people believe that only very young people have a handle on social media. This is not true. Social media avenues such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and blogs have a majority user base of 35 year-olds and up. One key of social media is the ability to be social… speaking WITH consumers and not AT them. As with famous social media blunders that have happened over the past few years, it takes a certain maturity and experience with marketing and sales to use online marketing. Never judge by age but by abilities of proven results. Too many small companies give their social media responsibilities to the wrong employee either because they believe age is a factor or they think anyone can do it and it’s given to an unqualified worker they feel has the extra time to handle it.
Whoever you use, they must show the ability to use the right channels for your business, budget their time and efforts to keep the motion moving and the good sense to post the right information while spotting any web content posted elsewhere that must be dealt with in a mature and sensible manner.
Keep up with technology! Using QR codes, augmented reality, inbound marketing and anything else that has and will continue to evolve the web is important. In online marketing, as is said with business, there are quick and the dead. With the web, you now have to be quicker.
Updated March 2017: If you want more information about why it’s important to define your target audience and how to do it, check out Artifakt Digital’s blog post about finding your target audience.
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