by Brendan Morrissey
In a previous post, I advised audio video retailers and integrators to take a hard look at their marketing mix, as there is no longer a “cookie cutter” formula for reaching new customers. Traditional forms of advertising like print, direct mail and broadcasting don’t yield the same results for the investment as they once did, due largely to the explosion of digital media and online search. It’s not surprising that online media is now one of the most effective ways to reach new customers, even for local businesses that sell off-line.
But deciding to rethink your marketing mix and placing a greater focus on your online presence is simply a first step. Far more important is how you choose to implement an online marketing strategy.
A question I hear often is, “Why can’t I do this stuff myself?” Actually, you can. Just like you can learn enough to handle your own accounting, legal or real estate needs, it’s possible–but not really prudent. In fact, in the home technology business, you probably hear from consumers all the time who are considering pulling wire, installing a component, or configuring an automation system by themselves. What often results is that it becomes more expensive and frustrating for them in the end because they don’t get the results that a skilled professional with the right tools can deliver. And the consumer has also burned a lot of time in the process.
Ask yourself this question. Do you, as a business owner or manager, have the time necessary to learn the complexities of online marketing and spend time every day monitoring and managing the process? The answer is no. You are operating a business, and if you can aim and calibrate your marketing efforts while having someone else manage the heavy lifting, that’s a better approach. So where do you turn?
One thing I’ve learned in several years in online media is that just about everyone has heard of a guy who knows online marketing or search engine optimization. Like the early days of the Internet when simply learning basic HTML could make you a Web design expert, we see today a large influx of people who may have an understanding of online marketing, but lack the tools, scale or accredited expertise to deliver results for a business.
Since we know that over 90 percent of consumers start their search for locally purchased products and services online, the decision about who handles your online campaigns is crucial. With that in mind, here are some considerations when choosing an online marketing partner:
* Ensure it is a core competency. Many marketing and PR firms, as well as independent consultants, offer online marketing and SEO services. If it’s simply an add-on service, you’ll want to examine their services–and successes–closely.
* Evaluate their ability to support you. Will you talk with a live person who has the expertise to guide your online marketing to success? Will they consult with you and adjust the approach as your business evolves and grows?
* Ask about their technology. Online marketing is increasingly complex and nearly impossible to effectively manage without advanced software tools. A human simply can’t control a campaign with 42 categories, 1,000 keywords, hundreds of bid changes, and 200 variations of your advertisements.
* Ask for multiple referrals in your industry. Developing a knowledgebase within a particular industry enables a partner to maximize results based on the data and shared learnings of your market. Ultimately, this results in more qualified leads for less cost.
* Do they provide meaningful and concise reporting? One of the biggest benefits of online marketing versus traditional media is the measurable tracking of data. Is your partner providing insight to success rates? Conversions? Cost per click?
* Evaluate and verify their technical credentials in online media. What accreditations and bonafide partnerships does your provider have? Do they have entire teams fully certified by the major search engines, ad networks, etc., or is it just the guy who passed a Google test back in 2007?
As you contemplate making your moves in online marketing, pick partners that will truly help your business succeed and give you the same type of support that you give your customers. Then you are maximizing your opportunities with new potential customers while being able to stay focused on your own business. In future posts, I’ll be sharing some success stories that businesses just like yours have had with online marketing.
Brendan Morrissey is CEO ofNetsertive.