The marketing environment has changed drastically over the last decade. A marketer today has many more ways to communicate with prospects and customers, and things are changing so fast it is difficult to keep up.
Most likely you’ve tried some things. There’s that Facebook company page, LinkedIn profile, and Twitter account that sapped up time, for awhile anyway. You’ve dabbled with an email newsletter. Without careful planning, however, it’s difficult to know whether it’s an effective use of your time. If you don’t know it’s effective it probably isn’t. Maybe you know it isn’t. Most likely some of your competitors are being effective leveraging new marketing techniques.
Why Should You Worry?
We are in a self-serve knowledge based economy.
The average company today can access 20 times as much information about you and your competitors as they could access five years ago, so you’re no longer dealing with a customer where ignorance is a factor.Source: Neil Rackham interview
Today’s potential customer has no need to talk to you until they are getting ready to buy, if even then. Recent studies show that ⅔ of the buyer’s journey to purchase is done digitally. (Source: SiriusDecisions CXO Study: The Marketing Organization in 2017) You need to have content to help the customer along the way. Here are a few things to consider before starting out:
- The new marketing channels you use should work with what you’re currently doing. Your marketing efforts should all work together and enhance each other. You don’t need a social media strategy, a content marketing strategy, and an email marketing strategy. You only need a marketing strategy.
- You can ease into the new marketing techniques. Unless the company (or your job) is in dire straits, there’s no need to make drastic changes to what you’re doing. There is a cost, however, and it is up to you to decide the mix between financial cost and your time that works for you.
You don’t need a social media strategy, a content marketing strategy, and an email marketing strategy. You only need a marketing strategy.
Five Steps to Get Started
Make sure your website is ready.
- Verify you have Google Analytics or some other website measurement tool in place on your website.
- You’ll need to have a blog implemented on your site. If you don’t, and your IT department or web designer says it will take a lot of time to implement, you can turn to an online blogging platform like WordPress.com, blogger, or tumbler.
Define your Marketing Goals
You need a reason to invest your time, energy and budget. Here’s a few example goals:
- Create brand awareness
- Generate more qualified leads
- Improve customer retention
- Maintain existing customer relationships.
- Provide better customer service
- Up sell to existing customers
Determine your target audience
You can’t be everything to everybody. The more your audience is aligned with your current marketing efforts the more effective you will be. If your marketing up to this point has been focused on lead generation, and your goal for your online marketing is to up sell to existing customers, you should transition some of your existing traditional marketing to existing customers. Advanced tip: Create detailed personas that describes your audience and their process along the purchase journey.
Determine your Resources
It is really easy to take on more than you have time for. Determine the talent and time that is available. It is important to be consistent once you get started, so you’ll have to drop some things your team is currently doing or bring on more resources. Force yourself to start slow and be consistent.
2. Get started on social media
There are three objectives to keep in mind while using social media:
- Provide useful information that is relevant to your audience.
- Engage in two-way conversations.
- Use social media and other channels to drive your audience to your blog.
Select Your Marketing Social Media Channels
Select the social media channels that your audience uses. A common minimum recommendation is:
- LinkedIn and Twitter and B2B companies
- Facebook and Twitter for B2C companies
There are many other platforms, however, that provide a more targeted audience that can provide better results. A few include Goodreads (books), Wiser ( sustainability), Pinterest (crafts and visual arts), Behance (creatives), and Houzz (home design ideas). Keep it simple. Pick one, two or three channels. Assume each channel will take ten to twenty minutes each day, and make your plans accordingly. Even if you don’t plan to be active on Google+ you should have your Google company profile created since it will be used in search results. Google My Business (www.google.com/business/) is a good place to get started. To determine which social networks to use:
- Directly ask, or look up, your best customers online to see where they go for information.
- Observe what your competitors and other companies in your industry are doing. Look at the content they’re posting and pay particular attention to what gets shared.
Social Media Implementation
It’s impossible to lay out a good social media implementation program in one blog post, let alone part of a post. Here’s a few suggestions to get you going:
- Read this article How to Get Started With Social Media Marketing by Social Media Examiner.
- Read Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk.
- Use a scheduling program like Hootsuite or Buffer to spread your posts out over time.
- Be sure to set up your social media accounts so you are notified by email or by a smart phone app when you get a message addressed to you in social media. You want to respond quickly.
Tip: Post your blog posts and other information that is useful or fun to your audience. Use the 4-1-1 rule as a guide:
- 4 posts of new content
- 1 retweet (Twitter) or share (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn).
- 1 self-serving (blog post, white paper, or promotion)
3. Start Your Marketing Blog
Your blog should provide content for prospects, leads that are becoming more interested in your specific products and services, and customers. Each blog post should have relevant information for at least one of these needs. Always remember: it’s not about you. Be useful. Be relevant. A prospect that is not ready to make a purchase decision would be interested in general industry information but not detailed product information. A lead that is getting closer to a buying decision would be interested in information that is somewhat related to your product offering, and also specific “how to” or “what’s new” information. An existing customer might be interested in all of this information. Blog on a regular basis. Weekly is a good goal, twice a month should be considered a bare minimum. You will see the best results if you make a blog post at the same time on the same day each week. The goal of your blog is to provide ongoing, useful information to your prospects and customers so they keep coming back to it. If your articles are all about you and your products, or services, the only time it will be interesting to a prospect is when they’re about to buy. If they haven’t been engaging before they reach this point they probably won’t think of you when it is time to make the buying decision.
Customers and prospects are the best places to get blog ideas. Any question they have is a potential blog post. Task your sales and customer service teams with generating blog ideas. You likely won’t get much response if you ask them to write a blog post, but people like to be asked for ideas.
To keep ideas coming, ask your customers and prospects open-ended questions like:
- What’s your biggest business challenge?
- What information do you wish you have that would allow you to make better decisions?
- What magazines or blogs to you subscribe to?
Market Your Blog
Now that you’ve established your blog you want to drive traffic to it. Here’s some common techniques:
- Use your social media channels, utilizing the 4-1-1 rule. Don’t just communicate it once as social media posts are very short-lived. Schedule regular posts over time, with more popular blog posts appearing more frequently.
- Tell people about your blog using the marketing channels you’re already using.
- Have sales or customer service reps tell clients about posts that might be particularly useful for them. This can be done via email or by picking up the phone and calling.
- Be sure sales and customer service reps are well versed in the content in the blog. There are few things better at establishing trust and authority more than referring customers or prospects to a blog post you’ve already published that answers a question they have.
4. Start a monthly email marketing newsletter.
Now that you are blogging on a regular basis you’ve got the content you need to start a monthly newsletter. Have short articles that summarize your blog posts, and sprinkle in promotions or other news as appropriate.
- Select an Email Service Provider. I normally recommend Mailchimp, as it is full featured, “forever free” while your list is small, and competitively priced after that.
- Put an email newsletter sign up form prominently on your web site. When someone lands on your website and is interested in you, but not ready to buy, this gives them a way to keep in touch.
- Determine which customers and prospects you will put on your list. Be aware of best practices and the legal requirements.
- Personally invite people to sign up for your email newsletter.
- Offer up white papers or other useful content in exchange for a prospect’s email address.
5. Watch, Learn, Adjust
Over time to will learn more about what works best for your particular audience.
- On your website: Check Google Analytics to learn more about your audience, how they are finding you, and to see what content is getting the most interest.
- On social media: Observe the types of posts that gets the most engagement.
- In your emails: Keep testing different headlines, and see what types of stories get the most engagement.
As you go you’ll learn more about the type of information to write and share. You’ll figure out what channels are working better than others, allowing you to minimize or completely stop doing things that don’t work as well.
The program outlined above is just the start of the journey. Since you can measure the performance of online marketing you can justify adding resources to improve your efforts. As you go on, some other programs you may want to consider include:
- Review your overall marketing strategy. Make sure that your online marketing efforts are aligned to your overall marketing goals. Make adjustments as needed.
- Implement a Cost Per Click and/or Display Advertising Program. Once you are creating good content you can think about investing more in your marketing.
- Get Started with Marketing Automation. Marketing automation lets you leverage your content to set up programs that nurture prospects and identify which leads are sales ready and getting close to their buying decision.