By MIKE GINGERICH
Companies often come to us wanting to know how to succeed in growing their business online. They recognize that marketing and sales have changed in the past 10 years in a drastic and significant way. From primarily print driven and direct sales person to person, to now being online and global. As well, the shift has included moving from locally-focused markets to facing competition internationally via e-commerce sales. The changes have been fast, swift, and widespread.
So what counsel do we offer? We largely look to five key items that we share again and again. These five items are crucial for businesses to adopt and integrate in order to stay relevant and grow.
Blogging is your online identity and footprint. It is the voice that speaks from your website and communicates regularly to consumers, customers, and the world. Every company website needs a blog. The ability for a company to produce relevant, engaging content on their blog enables that company to be found in search engines and adds more and more volumes of shareable content that consumers then take further and share more via social media. Businesses need to be blogging about features of their products, their special offers, events, and other relevant items. As well, in addition to offering value through content, a blog is truly valuable only if it also serves as a hub that includes active consumer interaction via comments on posts, social sharing tools to increase the reach of each post to others, and the ability to convert visitors to leads via e-mail opt-ins and lead capture features.
Social media is a new norm. It is here to stay. Social networks foster person-to-person communication and the multi-channel methods of interaction then allow businesses to intersect and become part of this community. Social Media provides opportunities for businesses to be further found, for individuals to ask companies questions and to get support questions answered. Social media is becoming a source of breaking news, information, and a gathering place all at one time. Social media helps companies because as businesses post and engage consumers, those consumers, in turn, further share their views, interactions with, and loyalties to companies among their friends and network.
While this may look like a strange addition compared to the two prior points, it’s another key and related asset that weaves in with the others and yet stands on its own as well. By visual media we are referring to the use of images and video online. Images and video are important and vital to communicating on blogs as well as in social media. Yet, not just as an addition, visual media has now created its own social networks. Images and video are central to platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, which have gained massive amounts of users in the past year alone. These networks are thriving on their own and they also drive traffic and awareness to other sources such as websites and blogs. When people are busy and inundated with content, images can communicate and differentiate. Taking seriously the need to communicate visually is critical to the online success of any business today.
While it may seem like the “old man” in this group of digital tools, e-mail continues to be an important and valuable tool that businesses must leverage to compete. E-mail marketing is the ability to send bulk e-mail messages to hundreds or thousands of customers or interested parties that have at some point opted in to allow this communication. Study after study shows that a business that takes seriously finding ways to grow their e-mail list by capturing leads and then sending relevant and timely messages to the list offers a great way to grow sales, inform consumers, and remain top-of-mind.
Mobile sites and apps
Get used to it. Mobile is here to stay. With nearly one out of two Americans using a smart phone and the percentages rising monthly, mobile is going to be an important part of any businesses online strategy. First off is to ensure visitors to your website and blog get a clean and helpful experience when on their mobile device. Mobile is not simply a website or blog in a smaller fashion but intentionally narrowing down information and presenting in order to best communicate in the smaller and unique space. With smart phones, data plans, and app stores becoming commonplace, businesses wanting to compete need to understand the needs of their customers and communities, and deliver the type of mobile experience via mobile sites and apps that increase interaction and loyalty.
In summary, each of these five items is important in its own right in this digital age. The priority for each will be driven by the needs of one’s customers but each has important value. When collectively implemented in ways that complement each other, these five keys help drive business success in this digital age.
Mike Gingerich leads the Social Application division of web design company, Digital Hill Multimedia (http://www.DigitalHill.com). He is a co-founder of TabSite.com, a leader in Facebook fan page tools for businesses. TabSite offers brands the power to boost Facebook marketing with contests and promotions. For more information on TabSite, please visit www.tabsite.com.