I have no doubt that in business 101 there was plenty of talk about how important a solid marketing and advertising plan is to the success of a business. Whether it is TV, Radio, Online, a guy on the street with a sign, or anything else, you have to let people know you exist and that you have things that they need. There are countless options and what works for one business may not work for all. Ultimately it boils down to a long experiment with trial and error.
Many of these traditional marketing considerations hold strong when it comes to the online world, but in addition to marketing the brand there must also be a plan to manage the brand in the online world. We have all heard stories of people losing jobs and scholarships because of something they posted on Facebook or Twitter, right? Well the same principals apply to business as well. Once something is out there, it is out there, whether you want it to be or not. Having a plan in place to manage what is being broadcast about your brand online is of the upmost importance. So what exactly is the difference between marketing and managing the band online?
Marketing a Business Online
The core idea of online marketing is to get a business maximum exposure for their budget that will in turn lead to revenues. There are many different approaches to this, but most of the online activity falls into one of 3 categories Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click Advertising, and Social Media Marketing. Though there are many other options outside of these, let’s just say that these are the “big players”, which companies are pouring large amounts of time and resources into.
Which of these is best for a business depends on a variety of different factors including, budget, industry, and marketing goals (meaning who they want to reach). The big brands have their hands in all of these pots, but the SMB’s may not have the budget to attack each one effectively. So ultimately the business needs to then decide the most effective way to use their budget.
Again the focus should be on budget, industry, and goals. Think to yourself, how competitive is my industry? If it is super competitive then you should think about a niche’ and probably the need for a fairly large budget to make your mark. If your business is very niche’ and people may not search for it a lot then you need to figure out the best channels to get in front of people and let them know you exist. If your goal is to reach the 55+ crowd and you are planning on using Instagram, you may reconsider! There are countless factors, so the more specific you can get the better chance your campaign will have to succeed. Paint a real picture of what you can afford over the next 12 months and how cut throat your industry really is. This will only help to get a good strategy in place quickly.
Managing the Brand Online
Managing the brand is something that the most successful online marketers understand and in turn are getting results. But what exactly do I mean when I say “managing the brand”? Long story short, when people research your business online are they going to like what they find or will they find anything at all? The consumer has more research power at their fingertips than any other time in history and they are using it. When a potential customer “Googles” your business what do they find? Limited or bad reviews on an unclaimed yelp account, no Google + reviews, an old client that wrote a not so nice piece on scam.com about you or your business?
Of course these are all horror stories, but it is more important than ever to have a system in place to manage online reviews and social media activity that relates to your business. This should be part of every online marketing plan and should be budgeted for accordingly. If done right, the rewards can be great, but if ignored it could be costing your business and you might not even know it.
There is no perfect strategy but a well-rounded Online Reputation Management program should include:
– Systems for monitoring and responding to online reviews
– Systems for soliciting online reviews
– Social Listing tools to Identify when your brand is being talked about
– Customer service on big social media channels (Facebook, Twitter)
– A “disaster” plan to be sure you are covered if REALLY bad things are posted
With these baseline tools in place you can at least have the sense of comfort in having a clear picture of what is being said about your business online. Also, increased customer service efforts and social media activity will only help to endear your customer base for the long run, which is exactly what you are trying to do, right?