Read an Excerpt
Manager's Guide to Online Marketing
By Jason Weaver
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2013 McGraw-Hill Education
All rights reserved.
Benefits of Effective Online Marketing
Everyone wants their business to have an online presence. Whether you work in retail, run a company that sells to other businesses, or manage a nonprofit organization, we all want to be found online. Most companies continuously strive to achieve the highest placement they can on Google and other search engines. With the explosion of social media, many companies also want to increase the number of their Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and YouTube subscribers. Chances are, if you are running a company or a nonprofit organization, you want to make or raise money. Every company's leaders want to speed the rate at which they attract customers. This book aims to help you uncover ways to achieve your online business goals.
Before we go farther, it's important to note that every company has a different definition of success when it comes to online marketing. For retail companies that sell online, success is often defined by the number of transactions (direct sales) that take place on their e-commerce site. For an alcohol company, selling directly online in the United States is illegal, so its definition of success is increased brand recognition with the goal of increasing offline sales. For a nonprofit organization, success is defined by an increase in donations or new volunteers. Finally, for a company that sells professional services (banking, law, consulting), success is defined by the number of direct leads that translate into consultation sales offline. Though each of these examples has a different objective, each can benefit from an increased online presence. Having a solid online marketing strategy can both increase awareness of your organization and make money for you.
Reduced Costs and Increased Efficiency
You've probably purchased this book for one of two reasons: either you are new to online marketing or you're uncertain about the value you're getting from your current online marketing efforts. The right online strategy can reduce costs from both advertising and operational standpoints. Companies like Procter & Gamble are shifting a large portion of their offline advertising and marketing budgets to online strategies. You can reduce your traditional marketing costs by examining some of your existing marketing tactics based on a few comparisons.
For example, I recently met with the marketing team of a health insurance company in my hometown. They were new to online marketing but interested in discovering how it could help them obtain more business (sell health insurance policies). Historically, their company had used the traditional means of radio, television, billboards, and print media.
I was curious to learn if they were effectively reaching their target audience with traditional advertising. Prior to our first meeting, I called the local television and radio stations and billboard companies to get a sense of cost per media impression. I was surprised to find out how expensive it was to reach the insurance company's target audience. I was even more surprised to discover that the company had no effective way to measure media impressions or their return on investment (ROI).
I began to build my case for online marketing to this company around the benefits of taking a large portion of the advertising budget and putting it online.
This company's target audience for new insurance policies was a small business owner who had the authority to switch health insurance providers. I challenged the company with a simple set of questions that addressed the effectiveness of their conversion formula: How much was it costing them to reach their target audience today? The company was advertising on bill-boards in a city of only 300,000 people. They were paying $5,000 per month to advertise on the billboards. I asked, "Of the 300,000 people, do you know how many pass by the billboard each day?" Digging further, I asked, "How many are actually looking at the billboard?" But most important, "How many of those people who actually see the billboard are your target audience of small business owners who can decide to change health insurance providers?" The truth was out. They had no way to measure who was seeing their billboards or how effective those ads were in reaching small business owners. Nor did they have a concept of what kind of sales increase the promotion was giving them.
Over the next several meetings with the insurance company marketing team, I outlined a specific plan for an online strategy.
It was easy to illustrate the benefits of online marketing for the health insurance company by our second meeting. Their ROI with the billboards, television and radio commercials, and print ads did not yield the positive results they needed. I was able to design a specific plan for them that would target their potential customers more effectively and cost much less than traditional advertising methods.
Online advertising provides more maneuverability than traditional advertising. For example:
* You can "turn on a dime" with online marketing. You can update the sites you advertise on, change your message strategy, and cut or increase spending within minutes.
* Opposite of online marketing, once you place a print ad, run a television or radio commercial, or create a billboard, you are committed by contract to your message and the amount you spend, and you must wait through the publishing or broadcast dates before assessing results and readjusting strategy.
When comparing traditional marketing with online marketing, it's easy to see the cost benefits and time savings. I also prefer online marketing because of the amount of targeting and measurement it provides. When I am able to track every movement of my marketing campaign, I don't just think—I know—how it's performing and whom it's reaching.
Almost all the companies I meet with want to get to "the sale" immediately with online marketing. Outside of the direct sale, there is a benefit of simply increasing your brand presence online for a sale that may occur later.
Truthfully, I had never had much interest in branding until I started my own company. I had always worked on the search engine optimization (SEO) and e-commerce aspects of marketing, so I wasn't involved in branding activities.
It wasn't until I started to experiment with social media that I began to understand the concepts of brand association and building relationships. Working with my clients, I experienced the result of first building a relationship with potential future customers via branding before moving to the transaction (sale) phase.
We discuss search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, and content marketing in the next few chapters. You'll begin to understand how each tactic requires a different approach. Before you invest in online marketing, it is important to understand the rules of engagement for each online marketing strategy, as each is different in how it works tactically and technically.
For now, I'd like to share an example to illustrate how online marketing can work wonders. I like to talk about this next client when I'm giving marketing speeches, as people find it funny that a company would want to target irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sufferers via online marketing. As I mentioned earlier, everyone is online. Visit lifeinabathroom.wordpress.com if you need proof.
This particular client I worked with was indeed trying to reach people with IBS online to sell its medicinal product. Doing a "batch and blast" approach of distributing coupons wouldn't work with this audience. Many of these sufferers have tried several medications without success. The company knew that it had to build trust before a sale could occur. It wasn't until we researched the target audience that we found most IBS sufferers will do anything they can to avoid medication. So how does a company that sells IBS medication reach an audience that typically avoids it? The answer was that the company first needed to focus on building an online relationship with IBS sufferers before moving to the transaction phase.
A great deal of useful information came from the research. One finding we focused on was that people with IBS are typically instructed by their doctors to change their eating habits before taking medication. This was the obvious first step in interacting with IBS sufferers. With this finding, the company decided to provide healthy recipes and eating tips for people with IBS. Over the course of a few months, the company became a trusted source for IBS sufferers. It offered samples of its product, then coupons for purchases. It wasn't too long after it launched the initial branding campaign that people were "transacting," or buying, the product online.
The company only had to initiate the online relationship during a 90-day period to build online awareness and trust between the company and IBS sufferers. After the IBS sufferers felt a positive relationship had been established with the company, they began to share their recipes and stories with other IBS sufferers.
Figure 1-1 shows the phases of building a relationship before asking for a sale online.
* Phase 1: Provide value. Do this by giving useful information to the web visitor. In the case of IBS, the information was free recipes.
* Phase 2: Interact and engage. Ask your web visitors to engage with you through a contest, entry form, etc. With IBS, the company asked visitors to submit recipes of their own to share with other IBS sufferers.
* Phase 3: Transact. Now that you've built a relationship, it's appropriate to ask for the sale by offering a coupon or limited offer.
Once these phases are complete, you should see an audience of people with influence begin to share the offer with their friends.
Back when I published a magazine, we used the term pass-along rate (the number of times a magazine was shared with other readers). Publishers often bragged about how high their pass-along rates were when comparing themselves against their competitors. The web has a significantly higher pass-along rate than publications due to the ease with which information can be shared. The pass-along rate for web content can be tracked, so it's easy for you to know how many times your content is being shared as opposed to having a magazine publisher's representatives tell you how many times they think it is being shared.
The lesson I learned early on when putting together an online marketing strategy is that research is the key to success. There is no better way to find out what your customers are doing online than to ask them. So many organizations I have worked with spend wasteful amounts of money figuring out their strategy as they go. In Chapter 5, we go into how to plan, research, and align your online marketing expectations.
Improved Customer Service
For companies that sell online, customer service responsiveness is everything. Several companies have suffered public relations debacles by not responding quickly enough to a comment or complaint on Twitter, a blog, or a website, allowing the comment/complaint to become a real problem. Now more than ever, companies must prepare themselves to address customer service issues online and at lightning speed.
The lines connecting marketing, public relations, and customer service are becoming more blurred daily. Facebook, Twitter, and blogs have moved beyond simple social media sites to boast about your products and services into a complete online customer interaction with your brand. In today's high-tech world, you can search, buy, and complain about a product all during one interaction. Companies that embrace this change are quickly turning challenges into opportunities.
Tips for Social Media Customer Service
Initiating social media customer service holds many advantages, as shown in the sidebar about Comcast. Social media customer service is instant, and it gives customers the chance to interact and spread messages virally.
Social media customer service, however, comes with a unique set of opportunities—and challenges—in that once spread by users, it can stick around for years. Apply these three simple tips on a consistent basis to ensure that you are building positive rapport at all times in your social media efforts:
1. Be authentic. Make certain when you respond to customers on social media platforms that you are honest and factual. It only takes seconds for someone to find out what's actually behind the scenes in any organization.
2. Be humble. Remember, these are your customers and they want to know that you'll solve their issues. I have seen customer service representatives become confrontational when they get frustrated with a customer. Social media leaves quite a "paper trail," in that words written onto websites can stick around for years and get picked up by search engines—potentially hurting you with future customers who research your business. You should feel lucky to have these people as customers whether or not they are tough to deal with.
3. Respond quickly. I've found that social media users tend to be impatient. You'll need a full-time, dedicated customer service person if you are going to provide online support. Customers are quickly frustrated if they don't hear from you within about an hour.
Customer service based in social media shouldn't be customers' only option. Phone and e-mail support are also important options in case they don't see a social media response mechanism on a social site. However, social media can provide a rapid response system and often save companies money over a call center.
In addition to increased sales, improved customer service, and greater marketing efficiency, online marketing allows companies to get continuous, real-time feedback from current and prospective customers. An entire industry has emerged to help companies better connect with their most influential customers in an effort to perfect and refine their ongoing product development. Companies like Lithium, Jive, and Bazaarvoice have redefined the way we connect with customers online, which I talk about soon.
Social media is a great tool for rapid product development. However, there are no secrets online, so be careful of exposing your deep product secrets on the web. There are numerous ways you can use social media to help with product innovation and collaboration.
New Product Launch
Recently I worked with an advertising agency that represented a company that built motorized surfboards. Since the idea of powered surfboards was a radically new approach to traditional surfing, the company wanted to do some product testing before spending a ton of money bringing the new surfboard to market. The company leveraged social media to gain immediate feedback on how the new product would be perceived by surfers and what the proposed pricing should be. To accomplish this, the agency first identified existing websites, bloggers, and groups that focused on traditional surfing. With permission from the website owners, the company posted a demonstration video on these sites followed by a survey. It posed questions such as: Would you buy this product? How much would you pay for it? Where would you expect to purchase it? The type of feedback these questions produced was invaluable to the surfboard company and helped it make better product decisions before the launch.
Platforms like Lithium (lithium.com) help companies build entire communities around products and services. Similar to a forum, these communities reduce the major expense of customer support by opening a public forum for customers to answer each others' questions. The company collects these questions and uses them for product improvements and additional product training. The continuous loop of information gives companies an instant view on how customers perceive their products.
Product Ratings and Reviews
Bazaarvoice (www.bazaarvoice.com) is a platform that focuses on providing companies with a ratings and review system. I'm sure that you've seen ratings on sites like Amazon.com or Apple. It's popular now to be completely transparent with your product reviews on your own website. Formerly, several companies I worked with were reluctant to place a rating system on their website. Today, however, it's common practice to show your product reviews to potential customers. My advice to companies concerned with product reviews is to do it anyway. Customers are already talking about your products with friends offline and on other social sites. At least by bringing the conversation to your site, you have a chance to refine your products or respond directly to customers regarding their views of your products.
The benefits of online marketing are multiple, and you will learn more of them as you read this book. Online marketing can help you take your business from a small shop to a global enterprise—through the power of community and technology.
Manager's Checklist for Chapter 1
[check] Run an ROI calculator to determine your offline marketing costs before jumping online.
[check] Ask your audience where they are online through an online survey.
[check] Only use social media for customer service if you can commit to it on an ongoing basis.
[check] Leverage social media for product innovation through surveys and examples.
[check] Be transparent with your customers about your product ratings.
Web 1.0: Search Engine Optimization and Marketing
Google loves brands—build one. —Dave Naylor, SEO expert
To understand online marketing, it is first necessary to have a grasp of the early innovators and businesses that were built entirely online. Each new web technology builds on the technology before it. In all my online marketing training classes, I spend ample time educating people about the history of the web by explaining search engine optimization and e-commerce before moving into strategic online marketing tactics. Like learning a foreign language, once you understand the fundamentals of online technology, it's easier to move into current online marketing methods such as social media.
The web began with search and commerce. Without pioneers/innovators like Yahoo!, Google, eBay, and Amazon, the web would not be where it is today. These companies set up successful online platforms that allowed us to buy anything online and have it shipped to our doorstep. These companies also enabled us to promote our companies, thoughts, and ideas via blogs, networks, and keywords. It was these innovative companies that paved the way for a variety of successful online ventures.
Excerpted from Manager's Guide to Online Marketing by Jason Weaver. Copyright © 2013 by McGraw-Hill Education. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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