116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Business News / Columns
Digital Marketing: Creating an online strategy for SMBs
by Regina Gilloon-Meyer, Fusionfarm
Aug. 24, 2014 1:00 am, Updated: Aug. 25, 2014 5:47 pm
According to a January 2014 Time magazine article, you'll never buy a point-and-shoot camera again.
People still want to take pictures, but they now want to take them in the moment with their ever-present smartphones. They don't want to stop, pull out a digital camera, take a picture and then upload those images to another device to be saved and shared later.
Along the same lines, people still respond to marketing messages, but they want to consume them on their own schedule, tailored to their behaviors.
For most Americans, this now includes living a multi-screen life. According to a research study by Google, 90 percent of all media interactions are screen based, and consumers use multiple screens - smartphones, tablets, PCs and TVs - to achieve their goals.
For example, a buyer's path to purchase may start with a traditional ad, move to a Google search for a business' location or phone number, zip over to Pinterest for visual ideas and recommendations, visit Yelp to see product and business reviews, check out Amazon.com for price comparisons and then, finally, seek out your business' website for more information and (hopefully) make the purchase at your business.
There are a million permutations of this new buying sequence, and the higher the price tag, the more extensive the research.
So where does a small to medium-sized business (SMB) begin? I'd like to tell you there's a one-size-fits-all digital marketing strategy, with results as predictable as clockwork. There's not.
You need to be online and you need to have a digital strategy that makes sense for your business. (If you're ever contacted by a marketing genius who guarantees to get your business listed in the top position of Google, it's a scam.)
Search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing populate their search results from a variety of sources - online directories, websites, social media sites, review sites, etc. Shopping sites such as Amazon, Overstock and eBay provide a treasure trove of product information.
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Vimeo and YouTube are gaining traffic and people have integrated this content into their search behavior. New platforms emerge every day.
Where should you invest your efforts? Read about digital marketing on industry blogs or purchase some current books on the topics you're interested in. Look at what your competition is doing. Talk to your customers to learn how they are finding you.
Digital marketing can be broken down into three distinct buckets:
Be present - Being present online can take many forms. Your presence could be as simple as a map listing, a display ad or online directory citation. However, most businesses today do need a website or at least a social media presence.
It all depends on how much information your customers need to make a decision and in what context. If a driver is just looking for the nearest gas station, an elaborate website isn't necessary, but a map listing is critical.
Be found - Having an online presence is crucial but it won't do you much good if the people searching for your products ad services can't find you. Your online content needs to follow the rules of the search engines and answer the questions your customers are asking.
The design of your website both online and offline through search engine optimization (SEO), as well as your content creation strategies, determines how easily your customers can find you. SEO helps you with your unpaid listings (organic), but if you need results in a hurry, you might also want to consider paid search ads (also known as pay-per-click or PPC).
Be preferred - Your reputation, online and offline, is key to the success of your business. Monitoring and managing your reputation online can be challenging because, as an individual, it's impossible to be aware of everything that's being said about you on every single review site, social media platform or forum.
There are tools and strategies for responding to and managing negative reviews and social media comments. You also can use timely, relevant content such as blogs, videos and tools to build relationships with your customers to keep them coming back to you.
' Regina Gilloon-Meyer, (319) 368-8530, firstname.lastname@example.org, is a content marketing specialist for Fusionfarm, a part of The Gazette. Twitter handle: @RegiiMary