Online marketing may not be quick, but it’s effective

Alice

As the recession deepens (and all those BNI types who still testify that there isn’t a recession, wake up and smell the coffee), businesses are starting to appear a mite desperate. This is when marketing gets a raw deal, especially if the CEOs don’t really understand what marketing is all about.

Looking around and reading the signs, it is beginning to be obvious that companies are waking up that they need to market more online. But their lack of understanding shows that although they furiously update their websites with fancy new designs, they omit to think about the content or how they can communicate better with their customers, namely by interacting with them and getting their feedback through social networking.

If your company is still bogged down in the dark ages, the difference between marketing and sales will still be hazy, muddy and out of date. There is a new concept going about now that may not only confuse, but worry CEOs and Marketing Managers. There is this thing called customer relationship marketing (CRM), and the worst thing is that it happens over a long period of time!

But their balance sheets and cash flow statements are crying out, and the Accounts department report doom and gloom. What to do? The immediate response is to bombard the online marketing world with PPC projects, sales objectives and buy-now strategies. Money is pumped in to make a fast buck – and yes, it works! But only for the immediate future.

But they have forgotten about this CRM thing, which is apparently a real bind because it takes so long to happen. It’s may be really boring, but it is proving to be necessary. Gradually it dawns on them that marketing is a long-term affair, and communicating with prospective clients to really get to know them, understand their needs and desires, work out how they can help them, so that the company becomes a benefit rather than another faceless corporate identity, will have long-term results that can be worked on for many years.

And another thing, it doesn’t cost that much either. Certainly cheaper than a quick blast of PPC when they don’t really know what they’re doing. The ROI may be slower, but the graph is constantly rising, with no signs of those drastic peaks signifying boom and bust, or as Chantal puts it, feast and famine. CRM with its cousin data management will allow further marketing endeavours for future objectives.

And if you know more about what your customers are doing, thinking, saying or whatever, isn’t it easier to adapt your marketing strategies around this? And when the penny drops about social networking, Marketing Managers will begin to realise that here is a place to find out this data with the minimum of fuss and expense, with marketing research tactics at their fingertips and somewhere where people can exercise their natural tendency to chat, communicate, strike up a conversation and create a relationship. With all this at very little cost (except the time taken to monitor it), perhaps this online marketing lark isn’t so far fetched as it previously seemed.

Popularity, sociability and desire

Alice

The Royal Wedding has been a really ‘big’ thing during the past month, not just here in jolly old Blighty, but absolutely massive in the States. They haven’t got a Royal Family, so anything that sounds like a fairy tale appeals to those sovereign starved souls on the other side of the pond, and it reached incredible proportions as it was passed about on the web, far more than we in England have been aware of.

The Americans ‘play’ with social networking far more than we do. I don’t know whether it’s because of their mind-set, or even just the weather, but being sociable appeals to them on many levels, and their lack of inhibitions results in much more interaction online than us Brits. Evidence is shown in the amount of comments an ordinary blog post receives, and other social media platforms fair the same way.

It all stems down to popularity, which comes from being sociable, originating in providing what people want. Certainly Kate and Wills have done that. If you’re in business, you need to find out what your customers want, and then provide it for them. You can do this by being sociable, asking the right questions, responding to the answers, using a friendly mode of communication to find out a little more…

Once you’ve established your customers’ desires, which isn’t necessarily their need, or even what you think their need is, and you’ve fathomed out how you’re going to satisfy what they want, you still continue to socialise and communicate with them to win their trust in you.

Being sociable isn’t about telling them what you have, how wonderful your business or the product you’ve created for them is, boring them endlessly by spouting out facts about which features do this and that, it’s about providing information that is beneficial to your customers.

If you provide help and advice that makes their lives better, they are going to be thankful. Being sociable like this will make you popular, as you continue to communicate top tips that set you up as an expert in your field, and this relentless goodwill will accelerate your popularity so that when eventually a customer desires what you provide, they will immediately think of you.

Sociability leads to popularity, which results in recognition, then trust, and ultimately business. And all because you bothered to find out about your customers’ desires by being sociable.

What is Foursquare and can it be used for business?

Alice

Foursquare is basically a local service-based social network-come-game which you can play online and, more appropriately, via your smart phone. Its main purpose is to tell you where your friends are (if they’re also connected to Foursquare) and vice versa, plus a few more activities to increase the fun.

It’s based around the idea of ‘checking-in’ places, such as coffee shops, bars, restaurants, hotels or wherever, with a short message about where you are and what you’re doing. Your friends will receive that message so they can decide whether to come and join you, and it’s also good way to enable you to find your friends when you need them too.

Every time you ‘check-in’ somewhere you get points, with incentives to gain more from new places, multiple ‘check-ins’ and more, mostly obtained out of work hours to ensure Foursquare is played for social reasons. This appeals to collecting-types, because if you manage to acquire more points than anyone else within a 60-day period, you could become ‘Mayor’ of that location. Also you can collect ‘badges’ for ‘checking-in’ various new places over a time period, as another result of gaming.

How can this be used for marketing purposes? Well, not much, unless your business partakes in the Foursquare gaming side, and honours its ‘Mayors’ with incentives and ‘badges’ to encourage them to visit more often – great for coffee bars, cake shops, bars, hotels and the like. Apart from free coffees and drinks, Foursquare players don’t benefit much apart from having fun and showing their loyalty to that particular brand or company.

It’s important to remember this is essentially a social networking activity, which is about communicating and forming relationships, so the business side will become merely a bi-product from meeting up with your friends and showing off your ‘Mayorship’. You could take advantage of incentives from hotels when wining and dining clients, using their conference rooms and such like, there is always an opportunity around the corner once a relationship has been struck from using Foursquare!

How do you integrate your online marketing, to save time and money?

Chantal

The number of ways that you can promote your business through online marketing is constantly growing. It is now accepted that you need an online presence in order to market your business. I was asked to speak about this at a recent FSB IT event in Reading, so I thought I’d share with you a summary of the session. (The full PowerPoint presentation is available from the Free Stuff page of my website, if you’d like a copy.)

So What Online Marketing Can You Do?

  1. Keyword Research – use to find phrases people are actually looking for online. Use keywords for your website, titles for your articles, newsletters, blogs and tweets. https://adwords.google.co.uk/select/KeywordToolExternal
  2. Website – use it to give the key messages about what you do, promote your blog, tweets and newsletter; list your articles. Put Google Analytics on all the pages; do some keyword research.
  3. Google Analytics – see how people use your website; see what keywords they use to find it and put more of those words onto the site.
  4. Newsletters – provide regular advice and comments, promote your website, blog, tweets and articles; use keywords for titles.
  5. Social Networking – keep it business. Post your articles and newsletters.
  6. Networking Groups and Forums – if you go networking, do those groups have websites you can use? Post comments and advice on forums; post your newsletters and articles. Complete your profile page to promote your website, blog and tweets.
  7. Blogs – provide regular comments and thoughts. Promote your website, newsletter and articles.
  8. Google Adwords – research keywords for your website, titles for your articles, newsletters, blogs and tweets. Create specific landing pages on your website.
  9. Twitter – daily tips and advice. Promote your website, newsletter and blog.
  10. PR – submit articles and your newsletter. Promote your website and tweets. www.EzineArticles.com

Summary

The number of online marketing tools is on the increase. If you try to do everything, you’ll end up spending all your time online – leaving no time to do your actual job; or you’ll spend all your money on online marketing with nothing left for old fashioned off line marketing.

Remember these three things – quality not quantity; integrate it and keep doing it.

Will Facebook take over from websites?

Alice

The short answer is No. This question is asked because, with some businesses, it appears that their Facebook page is getting more hits than their website, but let me assure you these statistics appear to be deceptive.

But let’s start at the beginning. To succeed on Facebook depends on your product (and that includes services) and the kind of customer you are targeting. Certainly in the States, where social networking takes on a totally different culture than in this country, Facebook has a much larger presence and some businesses are thriving on there, but to what cost?

Facebook is an excellent medium to excite initial interest in your company and what it has to offer. As a social networking site it is, of course, interactive and new content is automatically placed on subscribers’ walls. It is ideal for defining problems, socially empathising with them, and with effective communication tactics gather a suitable following. But, as with all social media, selling and marketing is not tolerated; once you’ve captured your audience your Facebook should act like a squeeze page, directing them towards your website where the necessary marketing activities can be put into practice.

Social networking is all about forming relationships and interacting with these new connections. A Facebook page should perform as a microsite, a landing page, a community portal back to your website. It is excellent for lead generation, and your website should collect these likely candidates through its newsletter signup or whatever method you have, so you can communicate your marketing to them later over time.

Unlike your website, Facebook is only temporary. How long will it last before it disappears, changes or is taken over? Although you may have effectively branded your Facebook page to suitably reflect your corporate image, it is still not ‘yours’, Facebook owns it, hence all the adverts in the sidebars. You don’t have control over the navigation as in your own website, and you have to abide by Facebook’s terms and conditions. Your website is a medium to reflect your own image and brand, let alone market and sell your product or service, whereas your Facebook page is purely promotional, a social networking voice for interaction, networking, feedback, customer collecting and lots of fun and creativity!

Is being the fastest the best?

Alice

It is commonplace to hear that an event had received a large audience because it has been publicised on Twitter. This does, of course, depend on how many followers the Twitterer had, what time of day the tweet was sent, how many times, and what it said. And the viral element: how many times it was retweeted, which, in turn, depends on the Twitter accounts it was retweeted by, and who read it…

Social networking is notoriously fast. To those who aren’t old fogies like me, it seems incomprehensible how slow we were 20 years ago, without email, mobile phones or even the internet. Publicising an event would have taken planning, forethought and a considerable amount of legwork: getting flyers printed, distributed and posted up on show; invites sent out to likely friends, relying on the Word of Mouth (a factor now replaced by Word of Mouse); booking done via telephone, in person at a box office or even by post (heavens, not snail mail!).

Of course there are (slightly) slower versions today: texting and status updates on social media do require a bit of a time delay before you get an answer, which should allow you plenty of time to think of something suitable say (if possible). Go a step slower and blogging encourages comments on its posts which, depending on whether they are moderated or not, can become flowing conversations where necessary.

Email newsletters and similar campaigns are maybe the slowest, but booking online via clicking on a link that will direct you immediately to a Paypal or similar shopping cart certainly cuts down the lengthy procedure of finding a box office, and stimulates a more immediate response that eliminates the chance of being forgotten, overlooked or displaced by another event.

But then these slower options do allow more room for information about the event, a phenomenon that is certainly more difficult if restricted to 140 characters (SMS as well as Twitter) or the quick-fire responses on status updates on Facebook, (certainly, as in the case of my daughter, with several open all at once!). Posting up details of the event on a blog, forum, Facebook fanpage or as a discussion on a LinkedIn group will allow a bit more perpetuity than the ‘here, now gone’ scenario of Twitter, so subject to a continuous timeline forever superseding what has gone before.