Risk and Opportunity in Today’s Divergent New Media Landscape
For close to two decades, businesses have had an onslaught of online marketing technologies hurled at them with repeated warnings that companies must adopt or risk death. From the August issue. By Douglas Karr, CEO of DK Media
Companies responded a few different ways:
- Some adapted immediately, leveraged the technology, and the results were astonishing. We’ve all read the case studies and seen the media put the spotlight on these stories.
- Some adapted and lost everything. While this doesn’t get publicized, it may be a much larger percentage than most companies would like to admit. Turnover on technology companies, especially SaaS (Software as a Service), is significant... a warning that many companies weren’t able to fully leverage the solutions to build their business.
- Some didn’t adapt and lost everything watching their competitors adopt.
- Some didn’t adapt and did okay.
The term new media has become synonymous with marketing strategies that are developed to acquire inbound marketing strategies. Those strategies may include combinations of organic search, paid search, video, mobile, pay per click (or paid search), and social media (including blogging). Advanced techniques utilizing analytics, split testing and multivariate testing are often applied to optimize and target specific audiences in order to increase conversion rates.
TERMS TO KNOW
Inbound marketing - marketing that brings leads directly to your sales team and/or closes the sale online.
Conversion - a conversion is the event when a visitor changes into a lead or a lead into a customer. Conversion may not just be about a sale. In a search engine strategy, you convert a search into a visitor, a visitor into a lead, a lead into a customer and even a customer into a higher value customer. The conversion rate is the number of conversions divided by the total number of prospects.
Organic search - these are the search results in search engines that don’t require you to pay to be there. Organic search results have a high return on investment but require a combination of onsite optimization and off-site promotion of your content. Search engines rank content on popularity - so companies are deploying more sophisticated strategies to increase popularity, including public relations, infographics, video and social strategies.
Search engine optimization - how your site is presented to a search engine can have a large impact in what terms your site is ranked for. Optimization of a site ensures that your site is found under the keywords and phrases for which you wish to be found organically.
Paid search - also known as pay per click (PPC) marketing, these are the advertisements that run on the right side of the search engine results page. PPC can be expensive, but many Paid Search agencies have expertise at improving your position, optimizing your content, and lowering your overall cost per lead.
Call To Action (CTA) - these are small embedded graphics or messages used to drive the visitor to your landing page.
Landing pages - these are pages specifically designed to convert a visitor into a lead or even convert them into a customer. They typically consist of compelling content, which may include video, and a registration or conversion form to take the lead or order.
Video - video marketing helps to improve conversion rates on landing pages, can be utilized to improve search ranking (YouTube happens to be the #2 search engine by popularity), and is a great social marketing strategy to explain complex subject matter or build a personal relationship with the viewer. Since many people don’t take the time to read a web page and equipment and hosting has become affordable, video has become quite a popular strategy.
Mobile - over 30% of all email is consumed on a mobile device. There’s also evidence that consumers are researching their next purchase and even making their next purchase via smartphones. In addition, text messaging continues to build in popularity.
Social Media - prospects are developing an expectation to interact with businesses online, and social media and blogging are affording businesses that opportunity. Businesses are becoming commonplace on Twitter, Facebook and geographic networks like Foursquare, Gowalla and Google.
Blogging - blogging continues to be a centerpiece for a great inbound marketing strategy incorporating search and social media online. Blogs allow companies to publish an unending volume of optimized content that people are searching for online.
Analytics - analytics is providing more and more information for marketers to improve their online strategies. World-class analytics companies like Webtrends have affordable solutions that will help monitor your site’s traffic, your mobile application traffic, your search traffic, your social traffic and even actual page traffic within Facebook.
Testing - simple A/B tests where titles, images, layouts and content are exchanged can help businesses increase conversion rates drastically online. Multivariate testing tools can test thousands of combinations and automatically target the appropriate audience with the right content.
Those in the industry continue to shout from the rooftops that their solution is the answer to your problems, if not the answer to every problem. I believe we can all agree that the world is changing. Let’s look at Facebook. 750 million users are on Facebook with over 50% logging in daily. Ridiculously, even 1 in 10 pets have social media profiles. More importantly, a growing number of those users (and pet owners) are expecting your business to be there so they can take advantage of offers, communicate, and provide feedback to your company.
There are a few issues, of course. First and foremost, Facebook is not within your company’s control. A few months ago, a client of ours had their page disabled when a consultant with administrative rights had his account suspended. The additional administrators, including my company, had our accounts and pages suspended. The chain of events and number of companies that were impacted was devastating. Even worse, we all just sat there wondering what to do next. There was no one to call, no customer service form to fill out...we were out in the cold. Luckily, a few of us had connections and put the word out. Within hours we were back up.
Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ (which isn’t live but already has 10 million active users) and other social platforms continue to show healthy growth as well. Many consumers and businesses have a presence on one medium, some are on all. That’s the second problem your company is faced with. The prospective customers that you are trying to reach are splintered across thousands of mediums... from hundreds of traditional media sources, to dozens of large networks, to tens of thousands of blogs, to a few search engines... the task to reach them is simply daunting.
Third, expectations of consumers and businesses have significantly changed over the years. We used to be able to batch and blast, hide behind a logo and a catchy slogan, and leave a 1-800 number for the complaint department. Our sales people were evangelists and educators, with an opportunity to introduce your product to prospects who may have neither seen nor heard of it.
The online market has provided consumers with the opportunity to research their own purchases without the need for interference from a pesky salesperson. Utilizing search, they can identify ratings, reviews and prices, and within their networks they can discover where to buy things and identify the company that will provide them with the attention they need. Big box retailers find their sales down 6% year-over-year, while mobile purchases are climbing by double-digits. Your sales team winds up being the last person they will contact. Your sales team is left either to take the order, defend the gaps, or barter the price.
The complaint department is now the Internet, where the negative reviews travel at the speed of light and are quickly dispatched to thousands of influencers who can bury your brand in 140 characters or less.
All the while, the number of options, solutions, technologies, and mediums continues to explode. Your company is deluged with companies that control a niche, but want to fight for a greater share of your marketing budget. We have email marketers fighting search engine marketers for the same marketing dollar. Digital agencies aren’t keeping up, either. Graphic design firms are recklessly stamping SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on their sites...yearning for more of your money but failing you miserably because they lack the skills.
Companies must adopt marketing strategies that meet the prospect’s intent and lead them to a purchase. There are a dizzying number of strategies that are necessary to accommodate the point at which the prospect is in the buying cycle:
The dilemma, of course, is that because your audience continues to splinter, your marketing team requires additional resources and is pushed to understand how to develop more and more strategies – video,mobile, pay per click, search engine optimization, social media, blogging, inbound marketing, multivariate testing, analytics, etc. More vendors are fighting over fewer dollars. Companies are being pressured into dumping a lot of energy and resources into a small number of mediums that often lead to poor campaign results.
Business leaders now look at the online market with disdain and mistrust. Their marketing teams are questioned frequently, “What are we doing with [insert video, mobile, search, social, etc.]” The sad irony is that this is occurring at a time when companies could be leveraging the mediums and capturing market share.
Thankfully, technology is here to help. If companies partner with the right partners, those partners will understand that taking less of the company’s budget can lead to better customer results, which will lead to greater opportunity for all of the parties included. For instance, search engine marketing professionals should be encouraging clients to invest in landing page optimization and lead-nurturing strategies so that the relevant leads that are pushed to the web site don’t simply fall through the cracks.
Every agency or consultant should be hired on a retainer where your company’s success is the only path to their security. Stop giving agencies $120k a year and look, instead, for agencies that you can pay $10k per month. Those agencies will adjust your engagement and ensure your success because their revenue depends on it.
Are your rates for technology and vendors rising? Technology is advancing to the point that your marketing dollar should reach much further than it did a year ago. Companies like Amazon are lowering the costs of their infrastructure to customers, not increasing it. So should your company. Solutions for marketing automation used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, new solutions cost hundreds of dollars per month per user. Expect more for your money or find new vendors.
As your company drives its strategy and builds momentum, the cycle of adoption should always be:
Analysis - analyzing audience and competition to develop a strategy that capitalizes on the areas where the most opportunity exists.
Implementation - implementing the strategy flawlessly, ensuring there’s a long-term strategy and understanding of deliverables, and that key metrics are identified and measured accurately.
Optimization – continuous improvement of the strategy based on the analytics provided.
Promotion - once the strategy is working, how can you amplify the strategy to meet the maximum number of relevant prospects?
Automation – often forgotten, automation and integration are the keys to improving your team’s productivity, reducing overall costs, and allowing your company to tackle the next strategy.
Online marketing is an incredible opportunity for your company to invest in now to obtain long-term growth and win market share. Online technologies are allowing us to collect information on our prospects, Customers and competition. Online allows us to communicate effectively, collaborate seamlessly, organize and archive exceptionally. Used effectively, online marketing makes your company more discoverable, more personable, and more authoritative... regardless of your competitor’s marketing budget.
Just as diversifying your investment portfolio can minimize risk and provide above average results, so will your marketing strategy. Invest wisely and reap the rewards.
Douglas A. Karr is the author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies, chief blogger and founder of the Marketing Technology Blog and CEO of DK New Media.
Posted: 05/15/2013 04:12:00
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