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9 Online Marketing Ideas to Embrace Now

For generations, distributors and manufacturers relied heavily on face-to-face selling as the primary driver for new business growth.  While the role of the salesperson is still critical, your old tactics are no longer enough to compete in this rapidly evolving marketplace.  The changing face and needs of your customers, combined with the rise of online and mobile technologies in the workplace, has rendered your old tactics inadequate.  If you’re still relying on marketing strategies from past decades, your company’s success may be in question for the next decade. It’s time to step up and take action. But what should you do?

To ensure your company’s success, you must continually evaluate and evolve how you do business to grow revenue and profits.  Online marketing represents a tremendous opportunity for growth for your company, as more business is conducted online now more than ever before.  Here are nine online marketing ideas you should embrace to be successful.

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#1 – Think of Marketing as an Investment, not an Expense

If you think of marketing merely as an expense, chances are you’re doing it wrong. Try thinking of marketing as an investment that should produce a measurable return in the form of qualified leads and bankable sales. Just as you would carefully review the return on investment for stocks, bonds, and mutual funds in your retirement portfolio, you need to carefully evaluate the return on investment in your company’s marketing portfolio.

So, what type of return on investment should your marketing produce? Well, your marketing should produce a measurable return in four ways.  First, your marketing should help you attract prospects, or new customers. Attracting new customers is where most companies spend the majority of their marketing dollars and time. This is unfortunate, because it’s also the most challenging and expensive result to achieve. It is much easier to sell to existing customers than it is to new ones, because you have already earned their trust and you have credibility.  So, your marketing should also produce results by getting existing customers to: spend more, come back more often to buy from you and refer new business to you.

#2 – Ignore your Website at Your Own Peril

You’ve put it off long enough; it’s time to get serious about your Website.  As the endorsed online marketing consultant for a variety of industrial and B2B trade associations, I review hundreds of distribution Websites each year.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of them are just awful.  While you may have been able to get away with this in the past, you will not get away with it going forward.  The changing face and needs of your customers, combined with the rise of online technologies in the workplace, have rendered your neglected Website inadequate.  If you use Google on a daily basis to research products and companies, don’t you think your customers do too?  Make it a priority to turn your Website into a customer-focused sales machine. 

 #3 – There are Riches in Niches

There is a paradox in marketing you need to embrace:  The smaller your target market, the bigger your opportunity. This may seem counter-intuitive, because you may think marketing your business to the widest possible audience--trying to be all things to all people--is the best way to succeed. Nope!  If you say your target customer is “everyone” – the reality is you are targeting no one. Or, to put it another way, when you try to be all things to all people, no one will remember you. You need to become a niche marketer.  There are a number of significant benefits of focusing on a niche. First, you have fewer competitors because fewer companies focus on your specialized target market. Second, you become a specialist, and everyone wants to work with a specialist.  Next, your position in the market becomes stronger, which causes your reputation to spread rapidly throughout your target market. Finally, your marketing is more effective and less expensive. Since you know exactly who your ideal customer is and where to market to reach them, you can spend less time and money getting your message out.

#4 – Abandon ‘Megaphone Marketing’ Tactics

Successful companies are realizing that megaphone marketing tactics just don’t work.  Megaphone marketing is shouting at many with the hopes of attracting a few.  Examples of megaphone tactics include print advertising, yellow page advertising, directory advertising, untargeted banner advertising, cold calls and mass email blasts.  Megaphone marketing tactics no longer work because of a fundamental shift in customer behavior.  Customers don’t want to be interrupted and megaphone marketing is an interruption.  Customers want to be in control of the information they receive.  With megaphone marketing, the company is in control.  So, what should you do?

#5 – Embrace ‘Magnet Marketing’ Tactics

Magnet marketing overcomes the problems of megaphone marketing by putting the customer in control.  Magnet marketing helps you get found by customers at the very moment they have a need for your products and services.  It allows you to earn trust by providing customers with information they value to attract them to your Website to do business.  Examples of magnet marketing tactics include content marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising and social media marketing.  Not only do magnet marketing tactics generate more leads and sales, but they are also less expensive.  According to research, companies that focus on magnet marketing tactics have a 62% lower cost-per-lead than companies that focus on megaphone marketing tactics.

#6 – Content Marketing is the New Advertising

Search engines, blogs, social networking sites and other online platforms offer you a tremendous opportunity to engage directly with customers.  However, to get in front of them in the first place, you need great content.  Spend less time focusing on traditional advertising, and spend more time creating great content.  People don’t choose to do business with you just because you offer the right products at the right price.  They choose you because you and your team have valuable, specialized knowledge about the applications of your products.  Lead with that specialized knowledge in your marketing by writing best practice articles, filming ‘how to’ videos, producing an insightful blog and creating educational guides and whitepapers.   By marketing your knowledge instead of just marketing your products, you will create a unique differentiation in the marketplace.

#7 – Embrace the Mobile Marketing Revolution

2014 was the year that mobile devices passed desktop computers to be most common way people access the Web.  Have you prepared for this mobile marketing revolution?  Check out your Website on a smartphone.  If it’s difficult to read, you may want to consider creating a mobile version.  You can build a custom mobile Website yourself or take advantage of innovative services like DudaMobile to create a mobile version of your Website in minutes.  Also, include more video content on your Website, because it’s easier to view than text.  Perhaps you should create an app to help your customers and salespeople be more effective.  Whatever your strategy, start thinking about how you should optimize your business for the small screen.

#8 – Personal Online Branding has hit the Mainstream

More and more these days, people are ‘googling’ names of people they deal with before they do business.  What will they find when they search on your name?  If you haven’t started building your personal online brand, it may be time to start.  It will come in handy when you’re trying to make a sale, find a job or form a business partnership.  Begin by creating a content-rich LinkedIn profile for yourself.  Consider registering a domain name with your name (e.g., bobdestefano.com) and start producing a blog.  Start writing articles and submit them to online trade publications.  You have an online brand whether you like it or not, so you might as well take charge of it. 

#9 – Make Marketing Accountable for Revenue and Profits

It’s time to stop relying on gut feel or subjective measures when evaluating the return on your marketing investments.  Marketing needs to be accountable for revenue and profits so you can easily identify the activities that are working and not working.  The best way to accomplish this is by embracing analytics.  One of the great things about online marketing is you can measure everything.  So, leverage Web analytics, trackable phone numbers and a CRM system to track leads and sales generated by each marketing activity.   With this process in place, you will know what to cut and what to continue.

Ensure your company’s continued success by putting these ideas into action.  Which ideas are you going to start with?

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Bob DeStefano

President, speaker, consultant, author, my mission is to lead industrial marketing into the 21st Century. Full bio

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