Digital marketing is a catchall term to describe the use of digital technologies and techniques to create and retain customers. Social media is one of the more prominent digital marketing techniques because of the huge numbers it attracts. As a result, businesses are establishing a presence on the various social media platforms where customers are having conversations about their products, services and brands. Many believing they can acquire millions of visitors and users jump into digital media and invest time in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+. They are often disappointed when they don’t see significant results in the short term.
In an attempt to get more sales out of their digital marketing, businesses will hire an agency or try to establish in house capabilities and in most cases are still unable to see a significant increase in sales. How can businesses avoid these pitfalls and achieve their sales goals? By increasing their understanding of customers, using that knowledge and spending more time to develop content and setting the proper level of expectations for social media marketing.
Know Your Audience:
In Marketing everything begins with the customer, so one of the first steps in crafting a marketing plan is defining the target audience. This customer knowledge is the foundation for an integrated marketing strategy that includes both traditional and digital tactics. This knowledge will help drive decisions around which digital marketing techniques to use and more importantly the content that will fuel your digital marketing efforts.
By defining the individual or business customer as precisely as possible, you are in a better position to develop relevant content that they will seek out. Businesses should increase their knowledge about how their target audience obtains information about the products/services they offer; knowing where their target audience looks for what the Company offers, when their target audience starts their search for information and what set of circumstances trigger the search behavior.
Compelling and relevant content about your brand, product or service is at the heart of digital marketing. Content is information that your target audiences can consume. It is anything created or curated that tells your story and includes:
- Blog posts
- How To Guides
- White Papers
Your understanding of the target audience and the decision making process they go through to make a purchase will allow you to think like a customer when it comes to producing content. Use your customer insights to guide your decisions on the type and tone of content made available on your digital distribution points. Quality customer focused content has distinct characteristics.
- It educates, excites and engages
- Expresses the key points of differences of your brand, product or service
- Establishes you as a thought leader
- Keeps your target audiences interested through storytelling or education
- Is not static and is updated on a planned schedule
- Is trustworthy and credible, not gimmicky
Many businesses spend a lot of time and effort on the look, feel and navigability of websites, getting on to social media platforms. They spend considerably less time developing a content strategy. This is a mistake because a steady flow of content can increase your search engine optimization making it easier to show positive results for your digital marketing. Content can be re-purposed and used across all the digital marketing platforms.
Your website is the hub of your digital marketing strategy. This 24/7-touch point is where target audiences can engage with your company, at their convenience, for information, purchases and service. It should be the central repository for relevant content that prospects look for during their information-gathering phase. The website can be a call to action in traditional and digital marketing tactics including email, videos, webinars.
Setting the Right Expectations for Social Media
People visit social media sites to engage and connect with family and friends, to be entertained, educated and enlightened. They do not go there to be sold to. Several studies have confirmed this sentiment. Hubspot, a leader in inbound marketing, asked 569 consumers how social media changes the way they buy and interact with brands in their study The Social Lifecycle: Consumer Insights to Improve Your Business
They found that email and direct mail marketing are the two the most preferred methods for businesses to reach out to consumers to sell products or services they need. In fact, one of the takeaways from the results was that “social media is a bad place for cold selling but a good place to find out who you’re selling to.”
Gallup’s 2014 State of the American Consumer study validates the Hubspot findings in greater detail. According to Gallup 62% of the 18,000 respondents indicated that social media had “no influence at all” on purchasing decisions. Clearly, social media is not an effective sales channel. It is better suited for providing consumers with authentic, responsive and compelling information without an overt sales pitch.
In order to achieve sales success with digital marketing, there needs to be a willingness to incorporate digital marketing into a comprehensive integrated marketing strategy that includes both inbound and outbound marketing tactics. This comes with the realization of the limitations and appropriate roles for social media. Despite the huge numbers of consumers that are actively engaged on social media, businesses should use social media to tell their story not to sell their story.