Social media, social networks, bookmarks, information pages such as wiki, video sites, event sites and advertising platforms are all available to help a business get their message across to customers online. Some of these platforms are free and others, like Google Adwords, are paid for advertising. So where should a business start with its online campaigns? Start by getting to know your customer’s online habits, and if you only take one action away from this blog, let it be to learn your customer’s behavioural patterns.
Every morning on the train to Nottingham I sit and consider what projects I’m working on and what lectures I’ve attended and piece together, what I consider to be, useful information. Last week I attended a lecture by Chris Lenton, Chairman of The CIM who spoke about the digital future and he started with the same message as I have this blog. Find ways to analyse your customer’s online preferences and tastes. As Chris Lenton also pointed out, humans are creatures of habit and we don’t often stray from outside of the routine we already endorse. If you can collect this sequence of information then targeting these sites can be very rewarding.
So you are probably thinking, this is all well and good to say research our customer behaviour but how and where do I start? Most businesses have a certain type of customer that they sell to. Are your customers predominantly male or female? Which age bracket do they slot in to, what area do they live in? How do they use technology? If they buy your products, what other products do they buy? and from there you can find out sites that they may visit and how they use the sites. You can research other websites that your customer buys from and target that market through Google Adwords and attract other customers that may have similar needs or tastes.
As much as I hate to admit it myself, everybody falls in to a demographic. Often the choices that you make are made also by other people with similar lifestyles. If you make a choice to shop online at Amazon for your books, this could mean that you embrace choice, that you may be busy and that you favour the convenience of home delivery, that you read buyers reviews and far and beyond these preferences that you utilise Amazon recommendations suggested by very intelligent mapping of your buying behaviour. You will recognise that this method of online tracking is widespread now. “Others that viewed this item also viewed.”
Another example of targeted advertising that I came across last night was from Habitat. I was looking at a recipe for Malaysian Randang when I looked to the right where there was an Ad specifically targeted at me. The products I had enlarged to view the previous evening were displayed one by one in an Ad box on the recipe site. My choices had been logged and used in a new ad to persuade me to take the last step in to buying.
Being active online gets better results than relying just on your own website. People need encouragement. This is why using sites that are already used by your target market is an essential addition to a marketing plan. Use the sites creatively and track the results.
Here is a fine example of a successful online campaign. it is also a lot of fun.
You may find that some online platforms are more compatible than others. A product that has tangible, demonstratable features would suit video more comfortably than a service. Although services can use video in the form of a case study or client feedback to demonstrate how a service has a proven success rate therefore creating tangibility from an intangible product.
Points I consider to be valuable when preparing an online marketing plan.
- Research the target audience’s online behavioural patterns
- Split your key customers into segments for more targeted marketing
- Consider paid for advertising and social media as well as using your own website
- Make your website functional and user friendly for customers when they click through from other sites
- Research your competitors
- Produce a marketing plan
- The plan does not have to be complex but it is advisable to set out a structured paper with budget, objectives, goals and steps on how you intend to achieve these goals
- Use a mix of creativity and evaluation and deliver consistent, clear key messages
- Develop the plan thinking of each media separately and then think of how you can integrate these systems together
- Think what you hope to achieve from your campaign
- Make an annual plan of what messages that you would like to get across on a monthly and weekly basis.