Perhaps the great advantage of using the Internet as a marketing tool is that it enables even fledgling companies to reach precisely the audience they are seeking, whether in the town or city where the businesses are located, their home country or the entire world.
Establishing a presence on the Web
The setting up costs for a simple website are relatively low and as long as the content is updated regularly, potential and existing customers are likely to return on a regular basis. For smaller companies it is well worth investing in employing the services of a professional website designer rather than trying to do the job in-house. Even larger organisations with their own IT departments are advised to employ consultants and designers to carry out this work. Trying to take short cuts by saving money on design and content are false economies; consumers may visit a poorly designed site that is not user-friendly once, but they are unlikely to return.
Sites should always include a contact e-mail address, telephone number and a section that customers can use to provide feedback on their experience of using it. A section should be included that provides details of the company’s management structure, along with brief bios of its CEO and senior managers. Customers want to feel they are dealing with human beings rather than an impersonal corporation; a good example is the blog posted by Francesco Corallo, www.francescocorallo.com that features regular pieces including a bio and content on a whole range of subjects that interest him.
Social media, as a commercial marketing tool, has only been around for the past three or four years. Setting up a page on a site such as Facebook, Google+ or Twitter is somewhat easier and cheaper than a website and enables businesses to enjoy an even closer relationship with their customers.
The number of individuals who log on to social media sites is quite staggering; Facebook claims 800m regular users, Google+ 300m and Twitter 200m. Facebook and Google+ allow companies to set-up their own page, effectively a mini-website that anyone can ‘follow’. The page is used to advertise special offers, provide advance notice of upcoming promotions, seek feedback and carry out surveys. Google+ has additional features that enable companies to target specific groups of followers and access statistics detailing how their page is being used.
Twitter is slightly different in that it uses short messages or ‘tweets’, which are restricted to 140 characters. Companies use this service to issue news releases, introduce new products and maintain close contact with followers.
In order to work as effectively as possible a company’s social media pages should always be linked to its website.
Planning and implementing an online marketing strategy
There are several stages to implementing a successful online marketing strategy:
- Run a survey to ascertain what customers want; this enables the company to create relevant content, resolve points of contention and respond to specific demands
- Define an overarching goal, one thing that best describes the brand
- Decide on the theme of the content, where it will be shared and how it will be delivered; blog, video or other
- Run competitions and promotions; organise training programmes and webinar
- Establish a customer welcome tab on social media pages
- Decide whether to have an e-commerce feature on social media pages or channel sales solely through the website
Evaluate the results after a couple of months and if necessary tweak the strategy based on feedback received and the effect it has had on sales.
The Web and social media sites have made it possible for companies to interact with their customers in ways that were unimaginable less than a decade ago. Businesses that embrace this new technology are far more likely to succeed than those that ignore it.
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