“While this works very well in more advanced markets, in South Africa the market is still maturing. My best advice for synergy would be to make sure your online marketing efforts support what you are communicating through traditional media. It forms part of a holistic marketing strategy, so make sure you use the extra exposure to reach customers with something along the same lines of your current traditional campaign, but which adds more value to your proposal.”
Plan your online presence
Before you even attempt to move your brand online however, there are a few important questions you need to ask yourself. “An online strategy will help you determine what your online presence should look like,” explains Jason Warner, a researcher at Quirk Education, a subsidiary of Quirk specialising in training material.
“Objectives are vital for any planned expansion,” he says. “For example, one objective could be to grow a community of fans around your brand. Your key performance indicator will then be fan numbers, and you could set a target of 5 000 fans over six months.”
Perhaps your main objective is simply to be the first company that pops up in a Google search – it’s all about what you do and who you are targeting. For example, a plumber is generally called in an emergency. The person looking for a plumber will Google plumber and possibly their location – a good online presence will mean your plumbing company is at the top of Google’s search list. But a Facebook page with fans might not achieve any of your objectives.
“It’s important to differentiate between what different online presences can achieve,” says Grant Leishman, CEO of marketing strategist PenQuin International. “People go to social networking sites for content and conversations. They go to websites for product and service information and contact details. Don’t think a Facebook account means you have an online presence — you have one piece of a presence.”
Integrate online into your marketing strategy
A true online presence is based on objectives and a firm digital strategy that works hand in hand with the overall marketing strategy. “A website is the first and most important step in an online strategy, but it’s not the be-all and end-all,” says Lechelle van Staden, marketing and sales manager at online agency, SABest.
“For example, a local supplier of under-floor heating and solar panels used Facebook exceptionally well to create a fan base. This doesn’t sound like the kind of exciting product that people would discuss on Facebook, but the company realised that their core market is higher LSM families in which many of the wives do not work. They created a Facebook group where these women could chat to each other about their homes and what they are doing for the environment through solar heating options. It was a great success, simply because they knew who their audience was and what they wanted to speak about.”
First and foremost, online marketing should be done for brand, product and services awareness and sales. “Remember that an online presence is instant, flexible, completely trackable and measurable,” she adds.
Reassess your objectives
Before you go further, Warner suggests you answer these questions:
- Who are you and what is it about your identity that makes you useful?
- Would it be suited to the online world?
- What would your brand gain from going digital?
- How much time and money can you invest?
- How does online marketing tie in with your overall marketing and business objectives?
- Who are your competitors? These might extend beyond organisations that compete with you on the basis of price and product and could also be competition in the form of abstracts, such as time and mindshare.
Launching an online presence
Jason Warner offers three simple steps to launching an online presence:
1. Create your own space
The first thing you will need to do as a business without an online presence is to stake out your base. This should be the first port of call for any consumer wanting to know more about your brand or hoping to get in touch.
Register for a domain in line with your brand identity. To put it more clearly, register a domain that actually ties in with your business. Choose something that is easy to remember and relatively short — long URLs or ones with unusual characters are likely to either be forgotten or entered incorrectly.
Be prepared to invest money in your website. This is the one section where you shouldn’t skimp. A proper base of operations, with all the relevant information and an easy to use content management system will go a long way in turning your offline brand digital. A website serves two purposes. First, it informs consumers about your company — what it offers, its history, how to get in touch and any other information you’d like to share. Second, it acts as a platform to give your brand exposure and credibility. For example, a bed and breakfast without a website might look untrustworthy or shabby, while one with a relatively simple website would use it to showcase great reviews and testimonials.
2. Getting social
After you’ve gone about giving your brand an Internet home, it’s time to move onto the ever-popular social networking aspect of eMarketing.
Social media has changed the way we go about our lives. Never before have so many people, from so many different places, had the opportunity to communicate so easily and at no cost (besides an actual Internet connection). This has changed the way brands behave, both online and off. Consumers are now able to interact with brands completely in the public eye; whether they’re attacking or complimenting it, the brand still has the chance of being seen by scores of users.
From a strategic perspective, social media is useful for branding, raising awareness of the brand story and allowing the consumer to become involved in the story through collaboration. Social media platforms also play a role in building awareness due to their shareable, viral nature. They can also provide crowdsourced feedback via open graphs and social analytics systems.
Choose a social network where you think your consumers will feel most comfortable interacting with you. Remember, social spaces are owned by people, not brands.
Consider establishing a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter — the two most popular social networking platforms in the Western world. Both of these networks are free to use, so go ahead and create a Facebook page and a Twitter handle. Start by inviting friends and family members, drive traffic from your (new and snazzy) website by inserting icons representing these platforms (called chiclets), and include links to your pages in email signatures. Don’t spam people with messages, but use your already existing network of contacts to get the ball rolling.
3. Getting a newsletter out there
Newsletters offer a great way of informing your customers while retaining a community. And even better, they’re relatively cheap for small businesses to create and send.
Using a neat template, clever branding and well-written copy can go a long way in promoting a brand. Again, ask yourself a few questions: How many times should I send the newsletter? What will I offer?
What do I want to achieve via my newsletter?
Make an effort to offer valuable content in your newsletter. This could be anything from a discount to an article on tips or tricks relevant to your services. Another perk of an email newsletter is that it will inevitably drive traffic to your other platforms.