Bridging the Digital Canyon: Your First Steps Into Online Marketing
Seventy-five percent of Americans go online at least once daily; twenty-five percent say they are online almost constantly. Think about that for a moment. As newspapers, magazines and other print information routes are drying up, more and more people are going online to find whatever it is that they’re looking for. According to Pew Research, anyway. Although you may not be feeling the pinch just yet, the days of relying strictly on print advertising are growing short. Of course, you always want to be where your audience is, but there’s some significant percentage of your audience looking for you online and finding nothing. No presence, means no online leads, eventually your business contracts. It’s a vicious cycle.
But you don’t have to suffer the fate of so many small businesses that couldn’t bridge the digital canyon, you can add a digital marketing channel or two and breathe new life into your company.
What is the Digital Canyon?
Well, it’s not the Grand Canyon, all scenic and fun, that’s for sure. The Digital Canyon is really more of a moat filled with crocodiles. Where you’re standing may be firmly in “traditional advertising” land, where you want to get to is the world of digital marketing. But between you and that ultimate goal are lots of scary things and risks you can’t possibly foresee. Will you end up overpaying for marketing? How long does it take to get started? WHERE should you even start? How will you ever find your audience among all the people who are online these days?
It’s enough to paralyze anyone, especially if your online experience is limited. You may not know the difference between Facebook and Twitter, but you do know that there are too many options and too much advice telling you to do all the things at once. It is a little bit unfair to you, really. After all, the right digital marketing plan is a moving target. Instead of focusing on what you can’t accomplish, it’s much easier to think about digital marketing in terms of what you can accomplish.
Step one of bridging that digital canyon is to look over what you have to offer, just like you’d do with a traditional marketing plan. Ask yourself questions like:
- Do my customers recommend me to their friends? The answer to this question is almost certainly “yes” or you’d not be here. This is the biggest reason to sign up with Yelp!, Google My Business and other sites that allow clients to leave feedback on your work. Start with the free sites and packages, you can always give your review site information out to your customers on a business card. And make sure to ask for those reviews. So many people check them before they hire an unknown contractor these days.
- Do I enjoy interacting with my clients on a more personal level? There’s no shame in not wanting to interact directly with your customers. It doesn’t make you a bad business owner, but it will probably make social media difficult. While having a social media account is a good idea, it’s worse to have one and never do anything with it. You can solve this one of two ways: don’t have one, at least not for now, or hire a social media manager to handle the customer service aspect.
- What about my brand makes it different from other companies in my market segment? As your company has matured, something specific has made it stand out. Is it because you have fair prices and give quotes before you start work? Is that enough to differentiate you? Is your branding particularly interesting and sticks with a customer? That’s something, too. If you can figure out what’s at your core, it’ll help you choose digital media outlets that will be most effective for your type of customer and advertising.
- What valuable information could I share to help create better informed customers? A lot of digital marketing comes down to content marketing. This is a slow, but highly effective, way of building credibility and showing your customers how super smart you are. This blog, for example, is a piece of content marketing. You’re reading it and hopefully picking up some tips for bridging the Digital Canyon. Over time, this blog will help support the idea that In The Cloud knows a few things about selling stuff online.
That First Online Step is a Doozy
At some point, you just have to close your eyes and jump into the noise that is the digital market. There are a couple of good entry points, three if you’re in a service industry. Those would be:
- WordPress-driven website. You can choose from several platforms, but really, for the long term, WordPress is where it’s at. Not only is there an incredible amount of support for the software, you can buy it on a month-to-month basis as hosting, so you don’t have to stress about keeping it updated or having to work on the gears and switches. This site is a WordPress site, but there are hundreds of thousands of others running the same software. Just make sure that you choose a URL that you really love. Don’t just take http://DanielsPlumbingCo.com because you saw it first. Your URL should be easy to remember and not too long for the best success.
- Review sites. A lot of marketing people will talk bad about review sites, probably because they’re not getting paid much to monitor them, but they’re a great way for a company like yours to have an online face without too much work. Your main goal will be to encourage customers who are very happy to leave reviews and to be as gracious as possible to those that leave less than positive reviews. Even if they’re totally in the wrong, you’ll want to keep in mind that everybody is watching. The whole world can see how you’re handling those consumer complaints, but the better you do, the more business you can earn. No one wants to do business with a jerk.
- Facebook. As mentioned above, if you’re not going to really use your social media, it can turn out to be a weight around your neck. You can collect reviews on Facebook, but the site is more about interacting with your audience (customer base) and providing them with valuable information. Lots of businesses share news pieces, giving their own views on the subject at hand or create original content meant just for social media. Whatever you do, don’t talk at your audience, talk to them. That’s the only trick. Remember it’s a conversation, not a one way announcement.
If your hesitation about going online is more about not having the extra time to commit to additional marketing tools, the good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. You can partner with one of many highly recommended marketing companies. Websites, blogs and social media management can be surprisingly affordable and effective, if you have the right team that understands the needs of your company.
In The Cloud can get you up and running with an “Intro to Digital” package that starts at just $750 per month. You’ll be able to set up the package and just walk away if you want, we’ll handle the rest. From editorial calendars to professional editing services, it’s all included. We’ll make you look like you’ve done digital since digital was there to be done. Drop us an email here or call (817) 796-9393 for a free custom quote or to get started today.