The power of online marketing
In the last decade we have witnessed a paradigm shift in the method, power and influence of online marketing. This has meant that builders must make a conscious effort to ensure their business makes the most of the opportunity.
In the past, word of mouth has been limited by social and geographic boundaries – a conversation over the neighbour’s fence or a phone call to a relative. Today, that conversation is taking place online, through social media networks.
The interaction and reach of this conversation is unparalleled, with thousands and sometimes millions participating or listening in.
So what does this mean for builders and their businesses? Quite simply, the rules of marketing have changed. The interaction between you, your product or service and your customer is no longer one way. You are in fact talking to diverse communities of online users and they will talk back. In the online game, your business and your brand rely on how well you leverage this interaction to influence potential customers, build your online presence and stay ahead of your competitors.
The most valuable resource for your business to represent and market products is establishing a customised, smartphone-friendly website. It is vital that communities you connect with through social media spaces can easily access genuine information about your product on the devices they use daily.
To build upon and capitalise on your online presence, you must match your choice of social media to your business needs. Visual sites such as Instagram and Pinterest are ideal for showing the use of a product, service or building in an attractive and easily accessible way, and live streams can also be hosted on your website.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube mix everyday interaction with information sharing and are the most popular social media sites. They can be leveraged to increase your online visibility, with functions for those to like and share your posted content, mirroring traditional word of mouth.
Becoming an active and leading voice by sharing and uploading content on these platforms will demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. Your voice, and by extension your business, becomes a trusted source of information and social influence. In turn, your market value is increased.
LinkedIn, Australia’s most popular business-related social media tool, focuses on professional contacts and enables industry-related discussions. LinkedIn is essential for all business owners, allowing you to stay abreast of competitor activity and represent yourself as a voice of professionalism and expertise in your field. The biggest advantage of LinkedIn lies in the ease of connecting to customers and industry professionals for referral, recommendation and endorsement.
Enhancing your reputation by connecting with other influencers, colleagues and contacts in the industry ensures you stay top of mind with potential clients.
Content sharing is pivotal for the success of marketing. Sharing free and informative content through social media, and linking it back to your website, legitimises your expertise and your status as an authority on topics related to your business. Following are some more tips for online marketing.
1. Don’t broadcast, engage. Traditional advertising is a one-way street, and it is becoming increasingly easy for your target audience to block it out. Engagement demands that you offer something of value to potential customers upfront. Returns on engagement-based marketing are derived from the goodwill, authority and trust generated from the engagement.
Who is the target audience? What do they need? How can we provide it via engagement? How do we monetise this engagement?
Do: Set up a blog or community resource that engages the public with how-to guides, fact sheets and discussion. Your product or service will become trustworthy and valued.
Don’t: Fill your blog with product spam and self-promotion – it engenders distrust.
2. Share your content on social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram will give you a wide base, but integrate them gradually, as most platforms will need a dedicated administrator or moderator to supervise them.
Do: Use platforms that can be combined and easily monitored. Engage and interact with your community and share across platforms. Instagram can be used to automatically upload photos to Facebook, Twitter and a blog hosting site such as Tumblr.
Don’t: Spam your followers by re-sharing content; put effort into original posts a few times a week.
3. Visual design is paramount on Web 2.0. Your customer base is becoming increasingly design savvy and beautiful web, product and logo designs flourish.
Do: Bring your website and logo design into the 21st century. Include visual ways you can tell the story of your company, product and service (think photos, videos and infographics).
Don’t: Over complicate. Your goal is functional, innovative and memorable.
4. Tell your story: the story of your product and your service in a way that invokes need and builds a relationship with your target audience.
This builds on the content you have already created when developing your online community through your website and blog. Know who you want to target by segmenting the public into niche categories. Stretch your content further and with more returns.
Do: Use image and video to engage and educate your audience on your products and services. Be concise and consistent with your message and use emotional story telling.
Don’t: Post a deluge of image and video content onto as many platforms you can find. Be thoughtful about your content as well as where you post – this will give more value to your content and it will reach the right audience.
5. Register your business on online directories that drive clientele to your website. Online directories such as the Yellow Pages and True Local provide you with direct access for people looking for your product and service then and there.
Do: Provide your website details and contact information. Include your logo and encourage your customers to review your product or service. The ease of accessibility you can provide on these directories will drive customers to you.
Don’t: Write endless copy. Limit your information to one paragraph explaining your service and a link to your website.
6. Take advantage of new platforms and increase your accessibility. If your website cannot be viewed on a mobile platform, it needs to be. Your potential customers are using their phones to search, browse and pay online for products and services daily. If your content is not mobile accessible, it isn’t accessible at all.
Do: Invest in making your website and blog accessible with mobiles and portable devices. This could mean re-designing your website to maximise compatibility, but opens the door to a whole new generation of mobile users.
Don’t: Invest in a mobile app just because you can. Most of your potential clients will be searching for your product or service on a browser, linking to your website rather than a mobile application.
As always, using a team of professionals to plan, design and build your online marketing strategy will put you ahead of the game.
Cecelia Haddad is the director of Marketing Elements, which specialises in public relations for the building and environmental sectors.