Marketing your business used to be simple. You put an ad in the local newspaper, printed brochures, put up a sign, and sponsored the local softball team. And then the Internet happened.
Now it seems like every day there is a new way to market your business online – social media, search engine marketing, paid ads, and promoted blog posts. It can be hard to know what to focus on. Sometimes you wonder if your investments of time and money are actually helping you reach your marketing goals.
To help you understand what you really need to do, let me share with you three key components of effective online marketing. (To be clear, I am focusing on marketing that is social and conversational in nature rather than paid advertising.) These components are:
Channel: Find Your Audience
When I start working with businesses, we talk about their current and ideal customers. I want to know who they are marketing to. Then we figure out which online channel(s) might be a good fit. More than likely there are one or more that current customers frequent to get their information or to be entertained. How can you find this out? Ask them. At the counter, through email, or on your bills, ask them where they spend most of their time online. Note that an incentive for sharing this information can go a long way towards getting a larger pool of responses.
Content: Be Useful
You probably worked hard to build a good offline and online reputation for your business. Now cement that reputation with producing useful content that your customers will want to read, view, or share. A good place to start is talking about solutions to common problems. Or if you can manage it, answer individual questions that you receive on a frequent basis through your channel. Remember at no point do they forget that you are trying to sell them something so do not turn what you are doing into a blatant advertisement for your business.
Consistency: Don’t Disappear
Marketing online is an ongoing project. In fact, if you want to get the most out of your investment of time, then be consistent in your online presence. That means posting regularly on your channel(s), answering customer’s online messages in a timely manner, and keeping your website fresh with new and updated content. Just like a good relationship, the commitment to be present will pay off in forming real connections with your customers.
While there are many tips and tactics beyond integrating these three key components, using them will provide a solid base for your online marketing efforts now and in the future.