Tag Archives: online

Getting Lost in the Digital World of Marketing but Staying Real

digital-world-wifi-zone

As a business owner, do you remember the first time you set up a social media account? It was probably a personal one where you exchanged jokes, ideas and pictures with friends and family.

As you grew more familiar with various platforms, you decided to start using social media for your business. Let’s face it everybody was talking about the digital world of marketing and how it enabled the measurement of marketing ROI. So why not?

Then it happened! You were consumed by the digital world and its trappings. As you started to read more and more blogs, they told you how to search for communities, build engagement figures and analyse authenticity scores, you got lost in the traffic (no pun intended).

Yep – managing your online presence became much more immersive all of a sudden. Everybody was caught up focusing on the tools and the numbers. We were all beginning to forget about people – the very people we wanted as customers.

Are you still operating in the real world or have you left us?

How do you know when you’ve become too immersed in the digital world? – score yourself out of 10, on the following scenarios:

  1. You unfollow your friends because they don’t re-post you or follow back
  2. You discuss your various online reputation scores when out socialising
  3. You curate recommendations, but don’t bother with them yourself
  4. You have been annoyed that your LinkedIn connection count stops at 500
  5. You don’t sell anything on social media because that’s not what it’s for
  6. You spend more time on redesigning your profiles than you do on advertising
  7. You spend a lot of time convincing people that they’ll miss the boat without digital
  8. You can quote most of your Google Analytic stats
  9. You love checking out new apps / tools / latest channels – and use them once
  10. You write posts about being immersed in the digital world (whoops)

How many are you guilty of? I have definitely been guilty of 5 of them in the past! However, in the last 8 months or so, we have reduced the number of digital channels we use and aligned the remaining ones with a specific function to reflect the ‘why’ of our business.

For example, we use twitter to keep abreast of all things marketing and share tips and timesavers with followers that may find them useful. Most of the curation is automated, but the sharing and follow-back is still a human decision.

You will notice that after 3 years on twitter, we still have a relatively low follower count but that is on purpose. Helping people (particularly SMEs), we believe, reflects the O’C&K values and builds our reputation. In other words, we want to be real to our clients and prospects. We have learnt that you can only be real if you are relevant, be it online or offline.

Entering the digital world is not the only marketing solution for every situation.

Sometimes when we’re networking at SME meet-ups, people don’t always see us as being real, especially when we start talking about an offline promotional mix (one of the four Ps – remember them?). Quite often people’s eyes become glazed over until we mention SEO, social media, content marketing, link building or growth hacking.

Of course, we have no problem with specialists per say, we use a lot of them ourselves. However, we have encountered many digital marketing gurus that don’t necessarily have a background (education or experience) in traditional marketing and communication. Their only solution is a digital one. Sometimes I just wonder if they are providing the best solution for a client, who might need more comprehensive, marketing communications advice. The ‘why in’ and not just the ‘how of’, the digital world.

Some of the same specialists argue that ‘traditional advertising is dead’, ‘inbound marketing is the only future’ or ‘social media is the only way to engage people’. Well, here’s our opinion on that – marketing hasn’t changed that much, mainly because people haven’t changed that much and the function of marketing in the future won’t change much either.

The agency (or guru) that does not provide you with a customised strategy, linked to your business objectives and supported by a range of marketing tactics – is probably just trying to sell you something. Depending on the business objective, product, brand or industry, different elements of the promotional mix will apply.

The real relationship is between marketing, communications and promotion.

Allow me to elaborate by way of background. One way of looking at marketing communications is through the prism of relationships. In marketing, the focus is on customer relations and in communications, the focus is on influencer relations, media relations, community relations and government relations.

Bear with me just a little longer – of the 4Ps (product, price, place and promotion) – promotion comprises Direct marketing; Personal selling; Sales promotion; Advertising and Publicity. In the digital world, these elements of promotion don’t change.

It’s just the tools and channels that are available right now, allow us to engage with people in a more relevant way. The challenge remains to choose which promotional tools to use, that will build the various relationships.

When using a mix of tools to engage an identified audience, professional marketing communications will ensure efficient and consistent messaging across all audiences and all channels. All that remains is to allocate different weights to each part of the promotional mix, based on business objectives.

Ask yourself, can our audience be best reached offline or online (or a little bit of both)? Based on your answer, you can then start to decide which promotional elements to use to engage them. To finish off this segment of the post, here are some examples of combined online and offline promotional activity.

  • Direct marketing: producing brochures / online newsletters to engage prospects directly
  • Advertising: creating PPC and AdWords campaigns to support offline ads
  • Personal selling: designing presentations, webinars and podcasts
  • Sales promotion: creating coupons, landing pages, lead magnets
  • Publicity: blogging and writing guest articles or capturing a publicity stunt on video

Tips and Timesavers

As a small business owner, you wear multiple hats, some of which are a better fit than others. It’s not unusual for business owners to feel uncomfortable with marketing. The growth of digital marketing has definitely added complexity and import, but also power to small business marketing.

Succeeding in the digital world means providing content that your audience wants, where and when they want it. Here are some tips in relation to content creation and its distribution.

Content creation addresses your messaging and the best way to communicate it:

  • Blog post
  • Video
  • Email
  • Audio
  • Whitepaper
  • Infographic
  • Presentation

Content distribution determines how you are going to reach your target audience:

  • Newsletter
  • RSS subscribers
  • Social networks
  • Email campaigns
  • Community groups
  • Forums / offline meet-ups
  • Live streaming / Podcasts
  • Print / promotional items
  • Workshops

Conclusion

There are many powerful tools and channels for communicating with people and building your business. Sticking to online or offline only, however, isn’t going to get the job done. Whether it’s traditional offline marketing or the use of digital, you need to do each well and ensure you’re using them both in your promotional mix.

Marketing is a type of communication – communication is one person talking to another

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

 

 

Business Marketing – building relationships with effective communication.

christmas business marketing

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

7 ideas for SME’s marketing online this Christmas.

Whenever the owners of small or medium sized businesses ask us about business marketing, we respond by separating the two words. We suggest that, business is about building two things; trust and relevance and marketing is about building one; a relationship. The tool needed to build all of these, is communication.

You can talk about any type of ‘new’ or ‘old’ marketing you want to, influencer marketing, engaging marketing, broadcast marketing, transactional marketing – it doesn’t matter. People connect with people and communication is how that happens, in whatever way that works for both.

Wanting a relationship is human, it is only the type of relationship that differs. As a result, organisations (of any size) must seek out ways, online and offline, which build relationships. Use any method you want to, social media, traditional advertising, growth hacking – just make sure that you are creating an environment for a person to have a positive engagement with you / your brand.

If you think about it, in this digitally enhanced and fragmented world of customers – building a relationship that can’t be copied or stolen, may be the only differentiator, in business. How do you build such a relationship? – By using consistent and effective communication.

Business marketing is about communicating a relevant story.

Let’s be fair, some organisations are embracing the notion of consistency in their communication. Almost every day we read about the tsunami of organisations entering into the content marketing and / or storytelling space. The trouble is that sometimes, this is not done in a consistent and effective manner, because they are storytelling from a traditional advertising mind set.

To me, this is a waste of time. Personally, I don’t want any of my timelines interrupted by a tweet, a Facebook or Google+ post, advising me about a great product! No, for me social media is -s-o-c-i-a-l…. I don’t want to discuss my holidays with my bank manager (even if she, ahem, paid for it). Educate me or entertain me – that’s it.

If you want to share a story that includes your brand, make it a compelling and authentic one that I might be interested in. Also, tell me the story where and when I want it. I might want to check out a service of yours on my mobile but I may read about your story in a blog, on my tablet. And if it’s that useful yes, I’ll share it with my friends on my social media networks. Lastly, please make it different to all the other ‘stories’ because my time is precious.

Be smarter about your business marketing because time is precious for everyone. Your time is spent concentrating on growing your business and marketing has to play its role. To do so, however, your marketing must respond to people’s needs and desires. You have to acknowledge this if you are to earn people’s attention.

The fact that you can’t force anybody to listen to your story anymore, means that you have to ensure that you are part of their story. You’ll read many blogs, articles and books on the need for data management, new technology, automation, targeting, optimisation and measurement. But without being authentic when marketing your business, people won’t care and you’ll end up being a busy fool.

Building blocks for smarter business marketing.

Even before embarking on your storytelling journey, there are some building blocks that should be in place, especially if you are a small business with a small marketing budget.

  • Identify your USP. Choose one thing that differentiates you from competitors and build around that.
  • Be clear about your audience. Don’t waste time on an audience that will never buy your offerings.
  • Use the right channels. A channel should get new customers, and/or build relationships / reputation.
  • Start off with a clear business model. Ensure correct pricing – from a customer’s point of view.
  • Enjoy yourself. Do things you enjoy and that fit with your company’s values.

Tips and Timesavers.

We mentioned above about a business building relationships. Last week one of our Facebook friends, contacted us for activity ideas, to sell products online between now and Christmas. We do apologise for mentioning the ‘C’ word so early in November. However, as we can’t all afford the big TV campaigns, some of the ideas below may help to level the online playing field for SMEs, in the coming weeks.

  1. Maximise social: If you’re planning some offline activity such as a flyer (QR codes), a trade show, a Christmas market stall – broaden your activity impact using social media. Have early-bird discounts, talk about the advantages of shopping early and online. Use each channel / audience in a different way and invite them to get involved (by sharing). If you have a range of products think of using Pinterest.
  2. Site optimisation: track search activity and re align landing pages and search terms. Have you access to FAQs or a sizing chart (fashion). Use large thumbnail images, quick view buttons and testimonials. Make sure the check-out process is simple.
  3. Create an experience: Set up an advent calendar. Each day have an offer on a particular product, have a discount, a 24 hour competition, a quote, a picture – anything that raises awareness or drives people to your site. (O2 have done this in Ireland in the past offering music downloads). Use Instagram to give people gift ideas.
  4. Get emotional: Email is still a personal channel. Use an online ‘pull strategy’ to encourage people to send their gift ‘wish list’ to you. Get them to write a story about why they would want to give one of your products to someone they love. Maybe the best story would get a free gift etc. Their email would give you permission to mail your catalogue to them, for inspiration.
  5. Be generous: Create Christmas themed gift cards. Offer free discount cards – people tend to spend more than the card offer. Promote a BOGOF offer which would help people to solve their gift buying problems by getting two for one! How about free posting?
  6. Be helpful: Delivery countdown. Remind your online followers that there are only ‘x’ amount of days left to ensure pre-Christmas delivery. Let them know if a particular product is almost out of stock.
  7. Be human: Set up a scheduled tweet. Don’t go overboard on this but there is nothing wrong with a little Christmas cheer – schedule a ‘greeting tweet’ for Christmas Eve or Day.

Hopefully, some of these might ‘spark’ an idea of your own.  We want to ensure that you have a turkey stuffin’, wine sippin’, santa hat wearin’, cracker pullin’ bit of fun, this Christmas season.

Outsourcing your content management.

To finish, I’d like to return to the notion of organisations entering into the content marketing and / or storytelling space, in an ineffective manner. Sometimes the task of ‘storytelling’ is delegated to the overworked marketing team (or development person) that are trying to get their heads around data management, new technology and customer’s increased expectations.

The obvious answer is to outsource. However there is a caveat here also. Traditional agencies may lack digital knowledge and digital agencies may lack strategic know how. There is a new breed of content and editorial agencies but the trouble is that they may well lack brand knowledge. Perhaps we will eventually get an integrated model that can understand both the editorial mind set and the brand management side but in the meantime, make sure you all agree the deliverables up front.

“Here’s the plug folks – at O’C&K we combine our own experience and that of our ‘contacts community’ to deliver brand management, engagement strategy and storytelling into a seamless experience for your brand. Let us know if we can help”.

  If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course, if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K

 

Social Media can be a solution to business growth, when used properly.

Social Media Choices

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

10 questions to ask yourself about your company’s social media activity.

Let’s face it – us marketers have flooded the social media scene. It’s a no-brainer really as, when done properly, it does offer an opportunity to raise brand awareness and strengthen relationships with people.

Despite all the advantages of social media however, I was reminded recently by a Facebook post from BAG Chairperson, Ramona Nicholas, that it should not be the only solution to your business growth. Ramona warned against small businesses spending too much time online and not concentrating on generating revenue. So, I thought that I would use this blog to explore the matter further.

In my opinion, Ramona is right. The number one thing to remember is that social media doesn’t sell. Despite having a following of say, 7,000 people on Twitter or a huge number of likes on your FB page, it doesn’t mean that they are all interested customers / prospects. In fact, probably 1% might be interested in a relationship. Think of the time you spend chasing the 6,930 others.

Of course, exposure is good for any business but no matter how well we ‘expose’ ourselves, ‘likes’ and ‘RTs’ don’t translate into sales. Unfortunately, some organisations pursue a goal of achieving thousands of followers, which on occasions is pure vanity and other times – a waste of energy. The danger is that using social media with such a narrow focus, may lull you into a false sense of marketing, resulting in unrealistic expectations and lost opportunities. In fact, this drive for numbers can actually alienate existing customers that do want to ‘link’ with you.

At O’C&K we ignore any business that asks for follows or ‘un-like’ those that use their online presence to constantly promote themselves i.e. broadcast marketing.

I am not discouraging the use of social media for marketing at all, it’s just that it is only a solution, when undertaken in a meaningful and planned way.  I’m also agreeing with Ramona’s sentiment that social media should be part of your overall marketing activity, but not the majority of it.

The customer’s overall experience of your brand will determine repeat business.

I outline later, under ‘tips and timesavers’, why it is understandable that social media is being looked to as a ‘fix it all’ strategy. This is evident to us when we talk to businesses about outsourcing their marketing. On most occasions they see social media as an inexpensive solution to many of their marketing problems. I don’t know how many times we have had to explain that a solid understanding of marketing is required before jumping on the social media bandwagon.

The message we try to convey is that traditional and social media marketing are a very powerful combination but must be fully integrated and linked to an overall business strategy. Simply knowing how to use social platforms and adding it on to an existing activity does not constitute good marketing.

Yes, customers will respond to professionally executed marketing messages but as we are aware, they also form impressions based on their experience and word-of-mouth. The customer will have to resonate with your story / strategy (not your channel) and offerings before they will become a repeat customer for your business. It follows that if social media has a part to play in a customer’s experience it is therefore, an important element of your marketing activity and resultant business growth.

Let’s think about marketing strategy for a moment. We all know that ‘finding’ the budget for marketing is difficult and where to spend it is even more difficult. It is very easy to be overwhelmed by all the experts out there, advising where to focus, how to split it up or when to do testing. In our minds, quite often a business may be wise to stick with what they have and ‘tweek’ it, in a smarter way.

By having a marketing strategy, linked to a business plan, many of the marketing solutions are obvious.  Where you might require some professional assistance from outside, is deciding whether another area of marketing might provide a better ‘bang for your buck’.

To get back on track here – the same questions you might ask yourself about your overall marketing, can be used to determine your social media activity.

Tips and Timesavers.

I’ve already alluded to not ‘putting all your eggs in the social media basket’. However, it is understandable why people want to start using social media. There are a variety of reasons why it makes sense to you, initially:

  • It is easy to set up and implement by yourself.
  • It looks like it won’t take up much time.
  • It costs nothing (other than your time).
  • You use it for personal reasons so why not your business.
  • Your competitors are on social media.
  • Your friends and other marketing ‘experts’ are advising you to do so.

Most of you reading this already know that engaging an audience with information, education, entertainment or even customer service takes up a hell of a lot of time. Your time is not free. Using social media as part of your marketing strategy is complicated, time intensive and a lot of work. This does not mean you don’t do it. It’s just that you need to decide how much of it you use or whether, in fact, you need it at all. Please don’t confuse having an online presence with using social media.

The blog post heading reads that ‘Social Media can be a solution to your business growth’. I included the words ‘when used properly’ because sometimes it might only require a small effort to bolster your existing online presence. For instance if you have a company blog, a social media channel is definitely necessary to promote same. However, you might only need to be on ONE channel – the one where your audience is!

So, if you are thinking about allocating marketing budget to social media, here are three questions to ask yourself, in the first instance.

– How important is it for your customers for you to be on social media? – Have you sufficient financial resources to allocate to this new activity?

– Are your existing marketing activities providing a good return?

There is no ‘yes or no’ answer to these 3 questions but thinking about them will set you up to continue the exercise and see how compatible social media is with your overall marketing plan:

10 questions to ask yourself about your company’s social media activity.

  1. Have you a set of goals for using social media.
  2. Will your customers / prospects receive added value from you being there.
  3. Can you compete with your competitor’s activity.
  4. Have you the skills, in-house, to dedicate the time to ensure success.
  5. Do you have a plan to engage with your audience in a relevant way.
  6. Where will you source your content.
  7. How often will you post & will you use it for promotions.
  8. What channels will you use.
  9. Do you have a way to measure the success of your actions.
  10. Will you commit to staying abreast of social media developments, as they occur.

Business relationships form in real life, and online, by being human.

If you are already ‘set-up’ on social media, but it doesn’t appear to be paying off, here are some thoughts that may help you review your activity.

Are you trying to be all things to everyone on multiple channels? Why not become an expert in one of them that suits your business and your customers. Become a thought leader.

Are you engaging with the people who followed you – or are you just promoting your business to them? If you have not set up social monitoring tools you should do so straight away – they are usually free. Listen for mentions of your brand, competitor’s activity, industry keywords etc.

Delete any inactive social media accounts that you have. It does not reflect well when a prospect clicks through a social media button on your website to find that there’s no one home.

We have covered this thought before in a blog, but it is worth repeating again and again – be human. Business relationships are formed by being personable with your customers.

To finish, I want to reflect on three things that remind me that whilst social media can be a solution for your business growth, there are caveats.

First of all, the basic concept of marketing hasn’t changed .i.e. to let people know that you have something of value to share. So, social media isn’t a substitute for marketing, but it can be an alternative channel for people to connect with your business when they need to.

Secondly, remember that people do not want to see your brand in the middle of their personal conversations online. Social media, for the general punter, is an opportunity to share with friends and family. This must be respected.

Finally, social media will always be an interactive channel between business and customers, however what ‘social’ means to both parties is going to change in the near future. Be there but be professional and aligned to your business goals.

  If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course, if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K

Successful events and professionalism

Coffee biscuits at an event

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

Creating a professional online and offline event experience.

There are still people in business who believe that successful events are created simply by organising a venue, food, speakers and sponsors. Their invitation list is developed using the ratio that ‘the more we invite, the more chance we have of people attending’. The venue is provided ‘at the right price’ by a contact and the speaker is a friend or colleague. Does this sound familiar? Perhaps, but it’s not acceptable to attendees any more.

We all know that people are more conscious of their time nowadays, and accordingly there are high expectations that an attended event will be meaningful and useful to them. Therefore, if a business is trying to create a platform to meet customers and/or prospects, but it’s not relevant to them, they will more than likely, ignore the invite. Let’s say they do attend your seminar, sponsorship, business networking evening, or whatever, but don’t have a good experience, then I’m afraid they won’t return the following year or at any other event that you invite them to.

Such a scenario can be avoided by the event owner being more professional or by outsourcing the event management to somebody that has the experience. A lot of the time, the event owners believe that they can save money by not using external professionals. As a result, they spend their time on logistics and leave no time to concentrate on the attendees (their customers / prospects). What will also be neglected is a targeted marketing plan (online and offline), to drive awareness before, excitement during and contentment afterwards. What happens? The event fades into the sea of other business events occuring around the same time.

Basic event planning.

So, if there are any businesses reading this blog that want to plan and organise their own event, here are some pointers about creating successful events. You would be amazed how many people that have approached us, in relation to helping them with event planning, but have not considered these basic points:

  • What the main objectives are.
  • Who the primary target market is.
  • Why would somebody want to attend the event?
  • Is there sufficient lead in time.
  • The resources required in terms of time and money.
  • Professional assistance with some elements.
  • The measurement of results.

When we are planning events we look for an eight week run-in to the event, at least. Ideally, an event should be planned as far ahead as possible. Not only is this important to allow time to put everything in place, but it also allows time to market the event by using a mix of offline and online elements.

Online promotion.

Here’s a summary list of the most common items and activities we recommend:

Print items – (ads, posters, flyers) – professionally designed with a common theme so it can be used on-line also.
Website – if it is a very large event it may require its own online presence. If not, a landing page on an existing site can be created. At least, develop a banner or sidebar widget for an existing homepage.
Registration – do invitees require an entrance ticket, how do they register / pay? WordPress plugins are available. EventBrite is a popular planning tool and Facebook can also be used for events.
Invitees – you should know (or learn) who the influencers are in your industry; the bloggers, public reps, speakers, students, celebrities, social media leaders, etc.
Email campaign – use a provider such as MailChimp rather than a personal email address and schedule a series of emails e.g. the invite, special features, extra speakers, reminders etc.
Social Media – twitter, facebook, google+, blog, linkedin, pinterest etc.

  • – Twitter; twitter stream of hashtags, pre written tweets, scheduled tweets.
  • – Facebook; Flyer and link on timeline and FBX ad targeting.
  • Google+; Add photo of flyer / poster and post to relevant circles.
  • – Use your blogging platform if you have one.
  • – LinkedIn; Target specialised groups that you are a member of.
  • – Pinterest; Use the poster, flyer and any visuals you may have in advance.
  • – There are many very useful event management apps available

During the event itself we create a sign-up form (this can be done with an iPad app for instance). It is essential, of course, that you have a sufficient wad of business cards, and it is always good to have participant name badges. If the event is twitter related it is a clever move to have space on the name tag for the participant’s twitter name also. On all print items during the event you really should have the event’s social media follow buttons.

Also during the event, it is always a good idea to encourage the participants to ‘tweet’ about the event, the speakers or their experience. Either way, be sure to appoint a friend or colleague to tweet photos etc. It is even better if you organise for a photographer and / or videographer and take photos of the attendees as well as the speakers and / or the exhibitions.

Tips and Timesavers.

Finally, when the event is over here are a few tailwaggers that expand the footprint of the event:

  1. Post the photos and or videos on your Facebook page and tag as many people you can.
  2. Share photos to social media sites pertaining to the event (or your own).
  3. Contact the people who helped share the information online, to thank them.
  4. Hold a team wrap up meeting to review the event and where to improve.
  5. If permissible, share any presentations online with the participants.

What I really want to highlight in this post is to remember that being professional about staging successful events is not only about picking the venue, the food, getting sponsors and hiring modern equipment. It’s also about the experience that the participants have, before and during the event, when all these things are combined. In addition, as mobile devices are part of everybody’s life nowadays, it really is a given that online activity is an integral part of an event experience. It’s only successful events that encourage participants to share their experience with their peer’s who in turn may become future customers at / prospects for your events.

Whether it is a sponsorship event, a seminar, a presentation or an exhibition, consider the benefits of outsourcing a lot of the ‘grief’ to professionals. In the main, this will allow you to take time to know your audience and how they like to network / engage. In this way you will be more relevant to them, and they will appreciate your efforts a lot more.

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K

 

Digital Strategy is alive and well.

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

Get a bigger bang for your marketing buck.

It’s not only in business, you know. It seems like the world is going through a digital / technological warp. The general public, your customers, your family and all their equipment, have already connected wirelessly and now apparently we are entering the era of ‘the internet of things’. I have previously spoken here on these pages about the importance of an online presence, but in this post, I’m going to chat about why having a digital strategy, is necessary so as to avoid flapping around in this sea of social and search and getting nowhere.

I have been asked to give a short talk to a gathering of small businesses at the end of this month, and I think that this is the subject I am going to broach with them. I want to talk about it because I come across many SMEs on social media on a daily basis, that are there only to ‘advertise’ their wares. Even if they do write a blog, more than not, the channel chosen is viewed as a tool, solely to push the link. Rarely do I see a structured effort to engage with customers. Oh, and by the way, when I say ‘engage’ I mean a two-way activity. So what’s wrong here? I believe that many businesses will acknowledge that they do require an online presence but unfortunately they jump straight into using the ‘shiny new tools’ to garner followers, without proper thought – without professional help – without making it part of their overall business strategy.

Modern consumers do not like being sold to.

As I have alluded to before, if the consumer is now buying rather than being sold to, then an online presence should be part of the overall customer experience. If you’re not there – your customer may well ‘experience’ one of your competitors. However, when you do decide on a digital strategy, then remember that nothing is different online about your customers. They still want you to solve their problem in a timely and efficient manner. They still want a relationship. As I have said above, too often businesses act like kids with a new toy and just grow page likes, followers, friends and subscribers and then don’t engage. They don’t act like that offline – so why do it online. A digital strategy should be an integral part of your marketing activity and thereby a part of your overall business strategy. A co-ordinated plan of activity covering paid for, earned and owned digital assets should be aligned to reflect your business objectives and complete the customer’s 360 degree experience of your brand

I was reminded of this only last week when discussing a potential sponsorship strategy with a client. They were full sure that they would obtain a sponsor for a sports property they were involved with – because they had over 20,000 likes on their Facebook page. They were stumped when I asked them how they engaged with those ‘friends’ and how many of them were into sport. They had no idea. Not all was lost, I’m glad to say – we pulled together a sponsorship approach based on what the brand stands for, and who their target audience was. We matched those with potential sponsors and ….. Well, it was only last week but, hopefully they will get an appropriate partner, as a result.

So let’s say you do have a clear vision of what your business is, where it wants to go and who your customers and prospects are. Let’s also assume that you have a broad digital strategy that fits neatly into your business plans. Now we will look at 5 basic tactical areas that you should be planning for.

Tips and Timesavers.

If all this digital stuff terrifies you or you don’t have the time – just get help. There are many agencies out there that will create a plan with you or indeed you might well want to outsource it to a company to manage it for you. We have a Smarter Business Guide here on our website, that has ten questions on digital visibility. Have a look, it might give you a start or a steer on what to look for if outsourcing to an agency. Either way, at a minimum your tactical plan should include:

  • Search Engine Marketing (SEO), the rules change frequently so professional advice is recommended.
  • Social Media Marketing, you need to be visible to your audience at many, relevant, brand touch points.
  • Blogging, this works for search engines and of course your audience – if the content is appropriate.
  • Online newsletters/email, these are an excellent way of reaching customers in their personal space.
  • Measurement Tools, analytical tools are a must if you are to ensure that you are not wasting effort.

I cannot stress enough that if SMEs are to compete successfully with the larger companies in their industry, having a digital marketing strategy is not just good policy – it’s a necessary policy. Think of it this way – if you are smaller, you are more flexible. If you are flexible you can react faster to competitive situations. If your competitors are missing a trick, online – go for it. Create a blog, a video, a podcast, whatever gives you an advantage with your customers and prospects. Again, if all of this appears to be too much, outsource to somebody like us, (we too are small and flexible) or at least outsource the bit that you can’t do in-house.

To finish off here, in no way am I proposing that digital is the only way to market these days. Depending on your business type and customer’s personae, traditional methods may still be the most appropriate way of reaching them. What I am proposing though is that by being a little smarter and integrating online efforts into your marketing activity, you will achieve a bigger bang for your marketing buck.

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K