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Longtail: Ingrid Rubin

Integrating online strategy in the marketing communications mix.

Juliet Pitman

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Ingrid Rubin of Longtail

When it comes to referrals, you don’t always have to rely ona happy customer to generate new leads. The world of digital marketing hasopened up a wealth of opportunities for companies to generate their ownreferrals – and it’s particularly effective for SMBs which don’t have largemarketing budgets to spend on brand building and lead generation.

One company that’s been using digital marketing to greateffect – in both its own business and that of its clients – is digital marketingagency, Longtail. With heavyweight clients like Unilever, Holiday Inn, HolidayInn Express and campaigns implemented for FujitsuSiemens, Tiger Brands andMercedes Benz, Longtail offers the full ambit of digital marketing, includingsearch engine optimisation (SEO), pay per click (PPC) advertising, social mediamarketing, web PR, media strategy and buying and reputation management. Thecreative design and development division was recently bolstered by a mergerwith Pixel8 Studios. “When used effectively, these are fantastic tools forcompanies to generate referrals that can lead to new business – no matter whatthe size of an organisation,” says managing director, Ingrid Rubin. She speaks from first-hand experience; Longtail not onlyimplements such referral-generating solutions for its clients but has alsobenefited directly from using them in its own business. “Our monthly emailnewsletter goes out to our database and a lot of people self-refer to us viathis medium,” but she adds that you can’t send out communication just for thesake of it and expect it to generate referrals; there has to be a call toaction and value in what you have to offer.

“We make sure that our newsletter contains a number ofplatforms that encourage people to interact with us. For example, providingfree advice and helpful tips not only establishes us as an expert in ourmarket, but some of the information we include might relate to a problem that areader is experiencing, and they’ll then email us for further advice or a quote.We also advertise events and positions available in the company and thisprovides a further call to action for people to engage with us,” she says. The same is true of Longtail’s internal social mediastrategy using WebPR and its blog, www.emarketingtrends.co.za, Rubin explains,“For our WebPR articles we make sure that the content is relevant and valueadding and we’ve had a high hit rate of articles being published on sites like BizCommunity with incoming links to our site. From just one article publishedrecently we got six referrals, of enquires on our reputation management tool –saidWot (www.saidwot.com).

“This online PR is vitally important because the first thingpeople do to research your company is to Google your company name and look atyour website which should reflect an accurate and up-to-date company offering.They will also read the articles you have posted that appear under the companyname when conducting this search on Google. The entire Longtail teamcontributes to the company blog which is linked to the website,www.longtail.co.za. The focus of the blog is on eMarketing trends which allowsfor two-way conversations with people who are interested in the services weprovide, and commenting on the articles we publish.”  Longtail also makes extensive use of search engineoptimisation to ensure that prospects who are actively looking for informationon their services, end up at their website. “These are people who want toself-refer to your company and you have to make sure that your web page isoptimised so that you come up near the top of their search list,” says searchmarketing manager, Melt du Plooy.

Longtail complements online tools with talks and workshops,which offer targeted networking opportunities and the chance for the company toposition itself as an industry expert. “What we’ve found works really well isto partner with a reputable person or brand. In our case we joined forces withjournalism legend, Tony Koenderman, to present three workshops called ‘Crackingthe Digital Code’ that focus on the tools required to put together an effectivedigital campaign,” explains Rubin. Both she and Du Plooy point out that it’s no good creatingthe opportunities for people to self-refer to your business if you don’t closethe loop by getting back to them quickly. Du Plooy says, “You can’t expect goodSEO to work if your website is not up to scratch. When people access your webpage, they should be presented with professional, up-to-date information andcontact details that are easy to find.” As Rubin adds, “You have to reply toevery query, email or blog posting – even if it’s just to say that you got theperson’s correspondence and will revert with an answer. And don’t leave it toolong – these leads are hottest when they’re new and you have to grab theopportunity.” Undoubtedly, creating opportunities for prospects toself-refer can be a time-consuming and labour intensive business – but Rubin isadamant that it’s worth it. “The beauty of digital marketing is that it’s easyto track and measure, so you can be sure of the exact return on investment thatyou’re getting,” she says. And that’s good news for SMBs with tight budgetsthat are looking to save money.
Contact: +27 11 465 6111; www.longtail.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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