Today, the vast majority of consumers either search and place orders online for products before going to a physical location to make their purchases or buy directly online. What’s more, an ever-growing percentage of them place orders when on the move, via a smartphone or tablet PC, and they use social media to do it.
More and more business owners have come to recognise the key role online marketing has to play in ensuring the continued success of their companies. You may have invented the most innovative product or service the world has ever seen, but if no one knows about it, how can you possibly hope to sell it? Forget press advertising, and TV commercials are out of reach to many SMEs and start-ups, especially if you are aiming at a global audience. Online marketing is by far the cheapest and most cost-effective way of reaching as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
Hopefully, you will already have a company website. A website makes it possible for consumers to browse at any time of the day or night, seven days a week. Assuming you have a contact page and an e-commerce facility, they can email you and place orders whenever they please. Today’s consumers expect to receive a more personalised service. The internet has made it possible to track the behaviour of visitors to your website, which means you can identify what interests them. You can target specific groups or individuals with sales campaigns that you already know stand a good chance of success. You can email them to check that they are satisfied with their purchases and ask them to complete customer satisfaction surveys.
With the advent of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, consumers now want to know more about the CEOs, CFOs and other senior managers running the companies they are buying from and expect these people to interact with them. A great example of how to go about this is provided by Max Mosley, the former president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body of world motor sport. Having dedicated his years as president to improving the safety of not only racing drivers but also road safety in general, he uses online media to comment and provide his expert opinion on issues such as F1 driver Jules Bianchi’s accident. Max’s comments on the crash were widely reported on online media sites around the world, something that would not previously have been possible. A headline such as ‘Max Mosley: EU investigators could crash F1’ can quickly trend across the internet and prompt discussion and debate.
Recent reports found that of the companies contacted that had a marketing department, 94% made use of social media and 85% of businesses that maintained a presence on social media reported an increase in consumer awareness. 43% of 20 to 29-year-olds say they spend over 10 hours per week on social media sites.
Finally, you may find it useful to set up a YouTube account. You can post video clips on a range of helpful subjects related to your company, display new products or services, or have yourself and your senior management team talk about your business and publicise upcoming events and promotions.
Ignore online media at your peril; your competitors may already be taking advantage of the extra sales it generates.