Q. I’ve been thinking about employing a company to launch a very extensive internet and social media marketing campaign for my business. By the time I pay for all of the pieces (e.g., search engine 0ptimization, search engine marketing, a community manager, etc.) it will be a very expensive proposition for my small company. Do you have any advice?
A. The internet, used properly, can be an important part of your marketing mix. Used improperly, it can be a black hole into which you dump tens of thousands of dollars without results. To maximize the return on your internet-marketing dollar, follow these four tips.
The Basics Still Matter – To get the basics right, we suggest answering three questions:
Why would a prospective customer buy my product or service rather than a competitor’s?
Is there a segment of the market that would value the things that differentiate my product or service and is it large enough to support my business?
What is the most cost effective way to reach this segment with the message that my product or service is different?
You should only launch an internet marketing campaign if it is the most cost effective way to reach your specific target segment with your message.
Choose the Right Social Media – All social media is not created equal. For example, Pinterest, which is image based, may be great for a residential Realtor to post pictures of the homes that she is marketing. It would probably be less useful for a criminal defense attorney. In fact, depending on the target market segment, social media may not be appropriate at all. Launching a Twitter campaign to reach septuagenarians may not be the best use of marketing funds. Choose the right platform.
Offer Content – Going out on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn with a message that says, “buy our product!” is ineffective at best. We have found it far more useful to offer something of value to your prospective customers when posting. You could give away a link to an article, a blog post, or a video. It is completely acceptable to link to the work of others (as long as proper attribution is given). However, if you author the material, it positions you as an expert.
Once you have provided something of value and positioned yourself as an expert, you are in a much better position to offer to sell something. This might be done with a banner ad on your blog or by inviting the prospect to click to the e-commerce portion of your website.
Focus on Sales Not Clicks – One huge problem with many internet marketers is misalignment of objectives. You want to sell your product or service. They measure success in clicks, friends, followers or some other metric that does not equate to sales. Our advice: if your goals are not aligned with the company you are paying for marketing services…run! Interim goals are fine. Gaining a certain number of followers or obtaining a target click through rate are wonderful short-term objectives. However, the final objective of internet marketing is sales, full stop. Don’t lose sight of this.
The internet in general and social media specifically can be wonderful tools for generating sales. But, like all tools, they have to be used properly to produce the desired results. The four tips above will help you choose the right path.