What should I do with social media? Should I invest in search engine marketing to generate leads and sales? Do I need a website that sells online? All good questions - but first things first.
I am often asked these questions and my response usually makes the person asking the question a little uncomfortable or disappointed. Like so many things in business and especially in marketing, "it all depends". Primarily it depends on how your customer shops…how he/she buys your products and services…what your typical sales process is...what you are trying to accomplish overall. Let me explain.
Social media is the buzz these days and deservedly so. It is re-shaping how people interact with others online and to a lesser degree, how brands are getting built. Likewise, search engines have been around since the birth of the internet and with the amount of search queries taking place each day, doing search engine marketing is a big deal and can be a significant source of revenue. But are these opportunities appropriate for you?
Let's first talk social media marketing. Realize now that social media isn't just about Facebook or Twitter. Sure it's about those things but more - like blogging, LinkedIn, press releases, article marketing, etc. So when someone asks, should I have a Facebook page for my business, my response is - "Is that where your customers are looking for information about your type of products and services?" If the answer is "no", then perhaps your social media efforts should be focused on developing compelling content that is helpful to your target marketplace. Blogging with good content, and writing and syndicating articles that position you as a "thought leader" may generate more brand strength and credibility than 100 Facebook pages.
If your customers are active on Facebook for example, then by all means have a page for your business - but, make sure it's of value to your customers. We often see companies pushing out deals and discounts as their primary Facebook marketing strategy. Frankly, we are seeing a trend these days of people reducing the amount of brands they are following on Facebook because they are tired of the deals, deals, deals. You know, you can only take so much of that. So, if you are going to have a Facebook page for your business, decide what you want to accomplish and plan out how you are going to do it - then launch a Facebook page and commit to providing value to your target market.
Search engines are extraordinary resources, but search engine optimization (SEO) is not always the best use of marketing funds. For example, if you are unfortunate to need heart surgery, are you going to open up Google and do an internet search for "heart surgeon" or "cardiologist"? Probably not. You'll likely ask your primary physician for a recommendation or two. Once your primary physician recommends you to a heart surgeon, you will probably go to the search engines for information to read about him/her. Same goes for a financial advisor. If you have a few million you don't know what to do with, are you really going to do a Google search for "financial advisor" or "money manager"? Unlikely - you will probably ask some friends, or your accountant or attorney if they know anyone. Once you get a few names, then you'll go to the search engines and read about him/her.
Now, I'm not saying search engine marketing won't work for heart surgeons or financial advisors. If someone is searching your name to learn more about you, make sure you are easy to find online, and that's where to invest your marketing money - in your name, not necessarily the terms "heart surgeon" or "financial advisor". So, if you know what you are trying to accomplish and understand the marketplace, search engine marketing can be very effective. But you've got to know what you want to achieve first.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself before investing in any type of online marketing:
- What am I trying to accomplish with my marketing efforts? Am I simply trying to gain better top-of-mind-awareness for my brand or am I trying to generate sales leads?
- Who are my target customers and where do they go to obtain information about my products and services?
- Are my customers engaging in meaningful activity on the social network websites? Are my customers doing random internet searches for my products and services?
- What information do my customers typically ask before they engage in a meaningful analysis of my products and services?
- What is my typical sales process and how can social media marketing, search engine marketing and my website increase the likelihood that my prospects will move further along the sales process?
- Is my product or service easily understood and can be sold online, or does it require some deeper understanding that can be accomplished via social networks, blogging, articles or on my website?
Depending on your product or service, these questions may only be the "tip of the iceberg". The key elements are:
- Know clearly what you want to accomplish
- Decide on the specific goals you want to achieve
- Determine how you will measure success
- Understand the behaviors of your target markets
In summary, avoid "jumping in" to the buzz - you might not know what's in the water. Instead, determine your goals and decide what you want to accomplish. Then, execute a marketing plan that appeals directly to the likes, dislikes and behaviors of your target markets.