Digital Marketing Tips for Your Business
As your organization works to incorporate more online tools and tactics into your marketing strategy, don’t get too caught up in the buzz surrounding the latest and greatest online tools. Focus on your business goals and make smart decisions about where to invest your time and resources. That was the message from a group of local digital marketing experts during a panel discussion last week, hosted by the Maryland Chamber’s Business Development Council.
“People are very caught up in the tools. They talk about Twitter, they talk about Facebook. In fact, when many people start talking about their social strategy, they start talking about the tools,” said Matt Goddard, CEO of R2integrated. “At the end of the day, not that much has changed. You’ll be successful if you understand how your customer buys your product. How do they buy it? What do they think about? How long does it take? Do they reach out to people to get advice about what to buy? How do they do this? If you understand how your customer buys your product, and how the Internet has changed that behavior, then the tools are sort of a secondary strategic decision.”
The panel discussed strategies and best practices for making the most of your digital marketing efforts. Panelists included:
- Moderator: Mario Armstrong, Visionary, Mario Armstrong Media, NPR, XM, WBAL-TV
- Greg Cangialosi, President & CEO, Blue Sky Factory
- Matt Goddard, CEO, R2integrated
- Leah Messina, CEO, Sinuate Media
Here are some highlights:
Monitor Online Conversations
Use social media tools to find out what people are saying about your organization or to find out where online conversations are taking place about the product or service you provide.
Leah Messina, CEO of Sinuate Media, said it’s one of the first things she tells her clients. “Spend a couple hours researching what people are saying. Are you being mentioned on Twitter? Have any bloggers written about your company? You may find people who are advocates, or you may find people you need to win over,” she said.
Matt Goddard, CEO of R2integrated, said that one of the things people often ignore when they think about social media strategy is that market research is one of the more powerful opportunities. In social spaces, two-way conversations are taking place about products and services. “We used to spend a lot of money on focus groups and surveys to get that information,” he said. “Now, it’s happening in real time and the tools that are out there aggregate the conversations.”
Focus on the Buyer’s Needs
“You cannot sell online. The Internet is a buying engine. The customer is now in control of the buying process. They can research, find out more information about you, compare and contrast,” Goddard said. “You need to be part of the buying process. The way you do that is to share information, you articulate your value proposition in a way that is important to the buyer.”
Goddard said people use social tools to reduce risk when making purchasing decisions. They turn to their peers for advice. Online social tools simply aggregate the advice and make the process easier.
“All you’re doing as an organization by leveraging social media is going to these communities where all of this advice is being given and making sure that your company is present during those conversations. Because if you’re not present, someone else will be,” Goddard said.
Identify Where Your Prospects & Customers Seek Advice Online
Where are the people who purchase your products or services gathering and sharing advice online? While there may be conversations taking place in the large online spaces like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter communities, Goddard urged attendees to look for online communities targeted to the product or service you sell. Don’t overlook professional communities organized by business organizations, trade associations, trade publications or even niche websites. “Look for where your communities are outside the popular tools,” Goddard said. “Start there. There is a lot less noise in those areas. It’s a lot more targeted.”
Messina said that once you find where potential clients gather online, identify and reach out to the most influential people within these online communities. “Find that one person, whether it’s the blogger or the forum moderator, and give them information and let them share it with their communities,” she said. “Give them information so that they can digest it and put it back to their communities in a way they know people are receptive to.”
Don’t Forget About Search
“Search still dominates the buying process that your customers go through in order to find you and make their business decisions,” Goddard said. “Search and social are connected at the hip. Since most people who are going through a buying process start at the search engines, all of these social conversations are going to come up in the engines.”
Email is the Digital Glue
Greg Cangialosi, President & CEO of Blue Sky Factory said, “I’m obviously biased, but email marketing is something you must do. Our thought process around email is that it’s truly the digital glue of everything we’re talking about here today. It’s the dominant medium online. It’s the No. 1 thing people do online. From our perspective, it ties these other things together: social media, blogging, etc.”
Email is a great way to market your products and services and provide useful content to customers and potential customers. You can also use email to jumpstart your social media efforts. The people on your email list are constantly hearing from you. They have an ongoing relationship and dialogue with your organization. Cangialosi said that his clients are taking space in their email templates to promote their presence on social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. This is a easy way to build your presence in these communities, engage with your clients and encourage online conversations about your company and its products or services.
Content is Marketing Currency
Consider sharing useful information with customers and prospective customers online. Cangialosi said that Blue Sky Factory views blogging as a stand-alone marketing activity. They use their blog to share thoughts and opinions, as well as highlight information about product features, the company and it’s clients.
“All these tools allow companies to bring personality to their brand,” he said. “At the end of the day, people work with people. They don’t work with companies. A big part of this open landscape is being able to dialogue; being able to connect with people; and being available for other people, who may be prospects or current customers, to dialogue with people inside the brand.”
Set Aside Time For Your Efforts
Be realistic about the time commitment necessary to conduct your digital marketing efforts. Mario Armstrong of Mario Armstrong Media said one of the biggest misconceptions he hears from people is that social media is free. “It’s free like owning a dog is free,” he said.
To get the most from your efforts, Messina recommends that someone within your organizations set aside time each day to monitor the online conversations and develop content for these new online channels. Exactly how much time should be dedicated will vary based on your organization’s level of commitment and the level of interaction between your organization and your clients and prospects. But, Messina recommends that you start by checking your accounts at least at the beginning and end of each day.