Digital marketing 101 for Aussie SMEs

Depending on your reading habits, what you've #liked on Facebook or what's on your feed reader, you can't help but trip over web articles '5 steps to selling on your website' 'If you don't do anything else, do atleast these 3 things on your Facebook page' '15 minute onramp to Youtube branded channels' and other linkbait-ish titles. What I'd like to discuss here is less the mechanics behind your digital marketing campaigns and more a strategic approach to digital/marketing.

Let's start by dialing it all the way back, and for argument's sake, exploring whether your business even needs digital marketing.

Do you really need digital marketing?

There aren't many scenarios I can envision where a business does not need to include some form of digital in it's marketing mix; and even the micro-est of businesses are marketing (with or without a 'plan').

Sidebar: From your business name onwards, your prospects and customers are encountering your marketing decisions.

High street retailers benefiting from plenty of foot traffic still need digital marketing: Shoppers wander into your store because of its fabulous location. Besides, nobody is Googling for 'tchotchkes in Randwick'. Wrong: they are; and even if you're not relying on the web for customers to find you, you're lowering your customer service standards by not giving them a handy way to find your address / contact information / opening hours / etc. That would be a bare minimum digital presence, which then positions you build customer loyalty with promotion announcements via e-newsletters and other marketing campaigns.

Business-to-business suppliers also need digital marketing: Sure, most of the web is consumer-oriented but there are compelling reasons for B2B companies to be marketing online: accurate, find-grained control of online ads, tap into your existing supplier, distributor and customer eco-systems by fostering online communities, recruit job candidates online and save on costly staffing agency fees.

Service professionals: Those selling services, from plumbers to medical experts, quickly benefit from online marketing wins. Use digital channels to broadcast your service offering capabilities, differentiate yourself and facilitate incoming enquiries.

Okay, you do need digital marketing. But what? And where to start?

This segues the conversation to the most important factor in any marketing (including digital) strategy:

It's all about your customers.

No, really, it truly is all about them - if they aren't around, you're not in business. Everything flows from knowing them, understanding them, and therefore being able to sell to them.

What does that mean in a simple, yet very common, business scenario? A successful cafe in one that is located where, prices their coffee for and delivers the standard expected by their customers. A brewer of gourmet, organically grown coffee at a high price point is unlikely to last at a truck stop venue. If you have decided to be a cafe that caters to those who would purchase Guatemalan green bean soy macchiatos, then you need to know where these consumers are and how much they would pay for your chichi coffees.

Making digital marketing all about your customers: In short, research your prospective and existing audience, which will tell you which digital spaces they are in (go there, don't ask them to come to you - they won't), the types of conversations they are having (so that you can add value to them, without being intrusive or irrelevant) and how to activate them.

Say 'no' to directionless marketing: start by understanding your customers

This is usually where we start our digital projects. There are a range of activities, mechanisms and tools you can draw on to investigate, explore and understand your customers. Start by profiling your target market, and ensure you can answer:

  • How do they behave? (tip: 'Personas' are a great way to model your target audiences)
  • Where do the congregate: Facebook, niche discussion forums e.g. http://www.bubhub.com.au, LinkedIn, etc?
  • What do they talk about about: keywords they're using to search, and also keywords denoting positive/negative sentiment?

Now you know your customers' motivations and behaviours: develop your marketing strategy

An illustration will explain this best. Let's say you have 2 personas representing your primary audience group: Peter and Sandra.

  • You: High end office fit-out provider
  • Peter: Likes to stay knowledgable across a range of topics. Will do extensive research and compile information before making important business decisions. Fluent web and technology user.
  • Sandra: Decisive business owner; has budgeted for an office revamp and is now soliciting referrals. Above average web and technology user (primarily for work, personal Facebook use).

Peter will be looking at industry websites and 'objective' third party commendations. Considering submitting work to be featured in http://www.indesignlive.com, or maybe advertising on http://www.architectureanddesign.com.au.

Sandra has reached out to her contacts asking if anyone has fit-out outfits they'd like to recommend. Stay front-of-mind for previous and existing customers with loyalty incentives and periodic e-newsletters.

Both will be referring to your website, and referrals (via organisations or via personal contacts) are important to both Peter and Sandra. Ensure your website's basics are impeccable - great user experience, visuals and conversions - key to that will be copy and especially testimonials.

Which can be distilled down to:

  • Place/digital channels: website, e-newsletter
  • Promotions: Digital advertising on select industry media/websites
  • Promotions: Loyalty schemes for current and previous customers

These considered decisions also highlight what you have decided not to invest efforts in (for now):

  • Your digital media buy is balanced - the entire budget isn't being spent on Google Adwords. Some Adwords, and some banner ads on http://indesignlive.com
  • You're not blogging - instead you spend your time on copy for the newsletter, which is targetted and even more effective at establishing your thoughtleadership in both new and proven fitout techniques
  • You're not on LinkedIn, Twitter or niche industry discussion boards - because your customer profiling has shown your target market has minimal interest in these channels

Deploying your campaigns: are they are working

You've put in the hard yards, planned, implemented and launched a wonderful website, have the content calendar for the e-newsletter ready for the next 6 months, etc. But is the website really wonderful? And are the e-newsletters being read, forwarded and acted upon?

  • How many new visitors is the website receiving?
  • Can you distinguish new and returning visitors? (Tip: give them a reason to login/identify themselves, so you know who return visitors are)
  • What is your conversion rate? (Tip: Even informational sites must get their users to action something e.g. e-newsletter signup, report download, etc, and track these 'conversions')
  • What is your e-newsletter click through rate?
  • Are your e-newsletters being forwarded?
  • To participate in your loyalty program, customers must have Liked your Facebook page - how many Facebook Fans do you have?

Customer-centric marketing

That was quite a long-winded way of saying:

Your business benefits from marketing. Great marketing is all about your prospects and customers.

Before you spend time on '3 steps to location based marketing,' stand back and think about whether your prospects and customers would 'checkin' to get discounts/deals using their smartphones. Yet another business type/scenario, I know; but hopefully these varied scenarios have demonstrated our mantra: Marketing (and sales) is all about your customers. We're always keen to explore specifics of your business case. Give us a buzz on 02 8003 4624, and let's deep dive into your target market and how to harness it.