Online Marketing Channels

Monday, July 19, 2010
Often businesses can feel that integrating marketing (bridging traditional, digital, and social media marketing) can be as enormous as the Grand Canyon if not properly thought out, and can be an expensive process if not properly planned and measured. Yet if done to match the right message with the right audience, the payoff is valuable. Doing so takes strategy and time in the beginning.

I recommend taking a look at what has been done so far in evaluating your company’s overall internal systems and processes and also take a look at the external perceptions of the customers. This can be done by asking each customer how they heard about your company and why they do business with your company.  We do this within our own company and is a process for our employees when someone calls or walks into our showroom. Also using the competitive analysis discussed in earlier blogs will enable your company to gain valuable insight to what you are doing better or not doing well.

Evaluate the company’s Unique Selling Proposition, also known as USP and how that USP relates to what and how things are delivered to the customers. After this is accomplished, determine the best media to reach the target market segments. Is the target audience under thirty years of age? If so, this is the time to delve into social media as a main touch point to reach this target audience. 

If the target audience is between thirty and forty, it is a good idea to focus on digital marketing and social media. If the target audience is between forty and fifty-five, I suggest you use all three methods to reach them. There will be some in this group who appreciate social media, but most prefer the traditional and digital media. If the target audience is over fifty-five, then I suggest you pick up the phone and personally get to know this target audience or use direct mail to reach this customer.

Millions of customers converse on a daily basis in online communities, discussion forums, blogs, and social networks sharing opinions, advice, grievances, and recommendations. Are you listening, connecting, and responding in a way that protects and promotes your brand?

Find out how customers feel about your brand, product, or service – in their words. This is a great opportunity to listen to the customers at a time when there is so much to offer on the Internet. It has been said that traditional media is losing its face value and that the Internet is a fad and digital only applies to the millennium generation. While that may seem true, if you want to stay on the innovative cusp for your business, use both traditional and Internet media marketing. Here are some reasons why:

• Online conversations can power or deflate a company’s brand.  Do you have an online presence?

• Discover specific issues that are being discussed around your company, brand, or organization and create feedback to these issues.

• There may be events, trends, and issues that may be influencing industry and brand buzz that you can respond to online.

• You can measure how your online and offline marketing campaigns resonate with customers. 

• You will be able to leverage word-of-mouth to drive brand credibility, and ultimately sales, if you use face-to-face marketing, Internet marketing, search engine optimization strategy and social media strategy correctly. 

According to Nielson research, TV users watch TV more than ever before (an average of 127 hours, fifteen minutes per month) and these users are spending 9 percent more time using the Internet (twenty-six hours, twenty-six minutes per month) from last year. Approximately 220 million Americans have Internet access at home and/or work with a growing number using the Internet for research and social media.

Online marketing communications are moving toward interactions between individuals as recipients and consumers rather than being directed from a marketing organization to masses of
consumers.  It is now possible for individuals to be just as efficient in broadcasting information, both positive and negative, about a company or individual as it is for larger corporations to
promote themselves such as Comcast, Del and Southwest Airlines.  Companies that are using this form of communication online have been successful in responding to positive and negative cyber space information. The social networking that allows the quick and easy dissemination of information and misinformation is in part a product of change in online communication channels.  These communication channels are in part enabled by such social networking.

Knowing this research, traditional media entertains and communicates to a mass audience whereas digital media entertains, communicates with, and engages the individual. Digital media is known as digitized content (text, graphics, audio, and video) that can be transmitted over the Internet. The benefits of digital media can be highly measurable and marketers can often see a direct effect in the form of improved sales in addition to establishing a direct link with the customer. This can also be cost effective. However, the pitfalls of digital marketing can be that the medium is new, constantly changing, and evolving with results that vary. You often get what you ask for!

By engaging the customer, you can clearly define your audience and determine the best way to engage that audience (both traditionally and digitally). First, examine your budget and deliverables and set goals with measurable expectations. Engage the customers in conversation and always market in a way that truly connects with the customers and answers any questions they may have about your product or service. Use traditional and digital media to reach your mass targeted audience and invite them to be engaged via the Web. Leverage the Web to start conversations. This is where you can lose or gain the attention of your audience if done correctly. Engage the viewer for lead generation.

Some of the emerging issues from online marketing channels are-

1.    Integrated Marketing Communication

The concept of integrated marketing communications, also known as IMC, is relatively new over the past few years.  The general idea is that there are a wide array of media methods and channels for communicating with those outside of a company that a company needs to coordinate and centralize these activities over the long term in order to be effective. By mid-1990s, IMC was being described as an emerging concept and field, but was also perceived as one with a lack of any generally accepted definition or process for precedence. Prior to this time, it was noted that there was little discussion or description of what has now come to be called IMC and this term was considered to be a mere buzzword and now look at the reality.

2.    Social Media

The emergency and popularity of social networking and social media sites has made it easy for an individual to communicate in real time with thousands of total strangers being present online and conversations take place as if with a single close friend. Social networking Web sites have also been a great equalizer, making it just as easy for someone to build or break a marketing brand as for a large corporation-as well as making it easy for a large corporation to mimic a sincere "grassroots" individual who lacks corporate motives. A social networking Web site allows internet users the ability to add user-generated content such as  comments, feedback, ratings, or their own dedicated pages for allowing product users to post ratings, comments, opinions, and full reviews about products.  

Wikipedia.com makes it possible for anyone to edit information about a company or person, enabling a view that is not necessarily the official white-washed company version.

Social networking Web sites make it easy for anyone to spoof a person or company with a fake profile and fake messages with the objective of causing harm to the other party.   This can be harmful to person or company should this happen.

Social networking Web sites also allow anonymous attacks on the character of persons or companies. For example, there was an attorney working for Cisco, a computer networking business, who anonymously posted comments on a blog about a patent attorney.  A civil lawsuit alleging libel and slander was then filed. The patent attorney had been on the opposing side of the patent lawsuit. The Cisco attorney allegedly accused the patent attorney, along with another attorney and a federal clerk, of conspiring to alter a document.  Claims were made to having made the blog post with the knowledge and approval of his supervisor. He ultimately admitted his true identity after someone traced his Internet address and threatened to expose him (LaRowe, 2008).

The damage to the reputation of the recipient of such an attack can be long lasting if such posts are indexed and never deleted, yet the risk, along with financial and reputation cost, to the anonymous party making them is nearly nil. The results of such attacks could also be long lasting even if removed. 

This opens up a lot of ethics when posting things online.  Become familiar with WOMMA.com, which is an online resource that provides ethical leadership to protect consumers and protect your brand.  It has best practices that help you become a better word of mouth “WOM” marketer with standards that improve impact and accountability.  This is a great organization to join.

From a marketing perspective, we are at a pioneering stage in understanding how online marketing works.  If you are new to online marketing, you may want to study how online
communication channels are emerging and how they might evolve in the future.  Some critical elements to become familiar with for online marketing infrastructure are core/technological, competitive/commercial and political/regulatory issues. 

DJ Heckes, Author & CEO
EXHIB-IT! Tradeshow Marketing Experts
www.exhib-it.com
Full BRAIN Marketing
www.fullbrainmarketing.com
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