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Online marketing tripping up SMEs

23 Apr 2012

According to marketing plan specialists Tactix, Kiwi SMEs waste substantial marketing budget every day with campaigns that are both poorly aligned to business goals and have little clarity on spend from the outset.

Tactix director, Nicole Crump, believes online marketing in particular is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for SMEs and start up companies in terms of misspent budgets. 

"Many New Zealand companies have a very traditional approach to marketing, seeing it simply as advertising or letter drops,” Crump says. 

"In doing so, they fail to recognise and take advantage of the opportunities constantly being presented through new media channels, particularly online and mobile. Conversely, as the role of social media continues to grow in our day to day lives, there is a trend toward companies picking up a social media presence that may be more detrimental to their marketing efforts than they perhaps realise.”

The key, says Crump, is in developing the right online marketing strategy that fits the company’s goals and speaks to the right audiences. 

The world of online marketing is rapidly growing and continues to become a more credible and rewarding place to focus marketing efforts for companies that communicate well in this medium. 

While not all companies will want to delve into the realms of social media or e-commerce, there are very few situations where a business does not require any online presence at all. It is highly likely that, at some point during the purchase of your products or services, your customers will use the internet to source more information, seek reviews, compare against competitors or potentially purchase online. 

For this reason, resource must be given to managing your company’s online presence, from updating any content which you control to reviewing and understanding what your customers and competitors say about you. A tactical marketing plan will give greater clarity as to which online communication tools should be prioritised to deliver the most benefit in terms of brand awareness and ROI. 

As with most marketing activity, having a good understanding of your identity and that of your customers is the key to creating an effective online marketing campaign. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • How do we want to be perceived our customers?
  • What makes our business unique?
  • Who are our customers and how do they use the online space?
  • Where do our customers go to find information on our products or services? 

In answering these questions, many businesses may find that by maintaining a well updated website they are doing enough to satisfy the needs of their customers. Companies that deal in services, particularly industrial or primary sector services, are unlikely to derive benefit with social media campaigns, e-commerce or mobile phone applications with customers more likely to source basic information from a website. 

Conversely, a company selling goods or consumer focussed services may wish to use social media and e-commerce to communicate deals, build relationships, promote new products or features and seek customer feedback through two way communications.

Online Basics

Whether you are undertaking a robust online or digital campaign with social media and smartphone applications at the fore, or taking a more basic website only approach, there are several universal truths to any online marketing campaign.

  • Your 24/7 storefront – treat the company website as the store that is always open and accessible, essentially your ‘silent’ sales person. Does the tone, look and flow match that of your actual stores and staff? Does it match that of your customers? 
  • Use the media at your disposal – the internet gives companies an opportunity to provide information in a creative and cost effective way.  Consider how a video might add to the delivery of your message, or whether images could help to entice customers into a sale.  
  • Know what they are seeing – we all know that Google is the world’s premiere search engine. It performs over 90 billion searches worldwide each month, so the chances that someone is viewing your online material are pretty high. Performing a Google search every few weeks is a quick and easy way to see what your potential customers are reading about your company, or more importantly, what they are saying about your company. It will give you an insight into any other content they may consume while they are doing this. Take time to click through your website, ensuring all the links work and that content is current. 
  • Control what they are seeing – knowing your customers means knowing their interests, particularly what information they consume when online. If they are Googling your company or your industry, where does your business feature in the Page Rank? Could investing in search engine optimisation bring your website closer to the top of that list? If you know the sites your customers frequent, have you looked into the cost of advertising on these sites? 
  • Online means measurement – a key benefit of online marketing is the ability to easily measure cut through and the number of eyeballs potentially taking in your message. Basic analytics tools which measure page views, click through, average viewing minutes per page and a range of other helpful information are available online at little to no cost. Knowing more about how your customers take in your message helps you to understand your ROI easily and allows you to test alternative messages or placements to get the strongest mix for your business.
  • Integration is everything – if it’s in your brochure, on your flyers and part of your TV commercial, then why wouldn’t it be on your website or Facebook page? The key to effective marketing is consistency of message and making sure you’re reaching customers with the same promotions at multiple touch points. The look and feel of your campaign should also be carried through to tie the promotions together and help potential customers identify your campaign wherever they might encounter it. Your website should appear as a seamless extension of your business.

These basics of online marketing will give a good starting point for any small business looking to optimise their web presence and build relationships with their market which will hopefully lead to sales.