The following is a guest post by Leland Harden co-author of Digital Engagement: Internet Marketing that Captures Customers and Builds Brand Loyalty.
“In the past 30 days, 87% of consumers have been checking prices online before buying.” So says PriceGrabber.com’s recent report, “Economic Trends in Consumer Spending.”
Smart marketers are pouring more dollars than ever into online marketing. While traditional print, display, and broadcast budgets are shrinking, online advertising expenditures continue to grow. According to ad tracking service TNS, Procter & Gamble increased its online ad spending in the second quarter by 150% over the previous quarter. Johnson and Johnson had similar gains. The bottom line is that consumers are online, and marketing online provides more measurable, more comprehensive tools for reaching them.
For organizations large and small, this begs the question: “What are you doing to reach your customers online?”
While you most likely don’t have an ad budget to rival that of P&G or J&J, you can still take advantage of all of the great tools available to you for engaging your customers online.
Get listed on price comparison websites. If the majority of consumers are comparing prices online, make sure that your products are listed on the price comparison websites. Whenever I am considering a major purchase, I go online and comparison shop, as do most consumers. There are a number of contenders in comparison shopping space, but you can’t go wrong with Google Shopping, Yahoo! Shopping, Shopzilla, PriceGrabber, NexTag and MySimon. Start with Google or Yahoo! and expand from there. Simply go to the sites and follow the links for getting your products listed. You can organize this manually, or set up a data feed so that your listings are updated automatically. Optimize your listings for the best results. Highlight sales tax or shipping savings options. And by all means, make sure that your prices are competitive. Not all of your products will be successful in this channel, so after a little testing, concentrate on the ones that are.
Tap the power of social networks. I recently reconnected with an old friend on Facebook, and as we were catching up, I learned that she had a shop in her city and was just trying to get a website up, start blogging, etc., to publicize events at her shop. Since she knew that I had just released “Digital Engagement,” she started asking me for advice on how to best publicize the special events that she hosts in her store on the third Friday of each month. I encouraged her to consider setting up a Facebook page using the Pages utility, and invite friends to ‘fan’ the page. My reasoning was that since what she needed was to get the word out to lots of people, and Facebook already had lots of people, she should start there. This progressed with her starting to ask about advertising on Facebook, and us jointly developing a targeting strategy using Facebook Ads. Her Third Friday event marketing efforts met with huge success. She had about 50 people in and sales were through the roof. Facebook delivered over 78,000 impressions and 25 click-throughs for $21.
When marketing on a social network, don’t think like a marketer, think like a networker. Provide information that is useful or beneficial to your ‘friends’ or ‘fans’ on the site. Create events or special opportunities for your network take advantage of. Use the geographic and demographic targeting capabilities of the social nets to publicize events or special opportunities to your target customer.
Engage your customers online in blogs. Most marketers feel like they need to have a huge in-house blogging initiative before they can be successful. The truth is that your customers, or your prospective customers (those who fit your ideal demographic profile), are already participating in blogs. Do your research and find out where they congregate and simply begin to participate, too. Bruce Ertmann, social media consultant, and former director of consumer generated media at Toyota Motor Sales USA, began blogging in Toyota fan blogs long before the company established their own blog site. His involvement was totally transparent. His ‘handle’ made it clear that he was a representative of Toyota. While there was a little distrust at first, customers soon began to rely on him as a vital resource for being heard. His work defined how you should interact with customers on blogs. Be transparent. Don’t try to hide who you are or what your intentions are. Be prepared to take criticism, but answer it honestly and straightforwardly. Stay away from corporate speak and be conversational.
Your next question might be, “So what does this cost?” Blogging is free, and should you choose to engage in advertising on the social networks, beyond establishing a page or group and recruiting followers (which is free also), you will pay only one a cost per click basis, just like on a price comparison website. Cost per click means that you only pay if someone clicks on your ad or product and comes to your website. From there, it’s up to you to close the sale.
These three strategies are fairly simple to execute, and simply require a little tenacity and manpower.
Leland Harden is currently the vice president of institutional advancement at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. Mr. Harden is an internationally recognized authority on online marketing and promotion. He is regularly featured as a speaker or chair of national conferences. In March 2001, Mr. Harden agreed to join the New Economy Council, which advised the President of the United States on issues relating to online business. For more information visit his website and blog.