Google AdWords. Online reviews. Display ads. Social media. Content and push marketing … With so many outreach channels — online and off — to choose from, how does a business owner prioritize limited resources for marketing their business? Your tactics are going to differ based on what you offer, and how you make most of your sales.
Service providers should consider Google AdWords
If your company provides a service that people commonly search for, you’ll do best with well-placed Google AdWords or Bing Search buys. These businesses are the same ones that historically have gotten a lot of value from advertising in the Yellow Pages: lawyers, doctors, accountants, locksmiths, hair salons, plumbers, and other service providers.
The commonality between all of these companies is that the customer already wants to buy their service when they start looking, so they’re competing to be the provider that gets picked.
This tactic, called pull marketing, targets someone who is already in the buying process and attempts to reel them in.
Google AdWords, Bing Search, or Yelp Promoted advertising is useful for service providers because these online ads help you stand out from the crowd. They’re even more effective on mobile because it’s harder to distinguish between a paid placement and an organic search result on the smaller screen.
Mobile also happens to be where most people go to search for a service provider.
Cultivating online reviews
Managing your online reputation also falls in the category of pull marketing, but this strategy is more long term, and can’t be solved with money alone. Instead, it’s about winning the ground game — getting the most people to review you online. Often, it’s as simple as asking kindly: with a sign by the register, a note on the receipt, or even a discount offer.
Another key to online reputation management is to engage with customers on a personal level.
If someone leaves a bad review, keep in mind when you write a response that your audience isn’t the person you’re responding to, but rather every potential future customer who is doing research about your business.
Engagement needs to be meaningful and sincere. Don’t only respond to negative comments. Be sure to thank some reviewers for leaving you positive notes, too.
Push marketing strategies
Not every business offers a service where a search very quickly results in a conversion. In this kind of situation, a pull strategy might not be ideal. Instead, consider using a push marketing strategy.
A push strategy is more passive. Instead of trying to suck a consumer in when they’re in the middle of a purchasing decision, you instead rely on your marketing to create positive associations around your brand. Your goal is to pop up so often in your customer’s internet meanderings that by the time they’re ready to make a purchase, you can actually sell to them because they’ll recognize (and maybe even trust) your brand.
Google Display Ads
Traditional push marketing strategies relied on display network advertising implemented via media buying companies. Depending on your business this still might be a good idea — but the biggest (and most effective) display network of them all is Google, and there’s usually not a good reason to look elsewhere.
Google’s tracking, targeting and analytic capabilities are a powerful asset unmatched elsewhere in the industry.
Google Display Ads are an ideal way to get started implementing your push marketing strategy because you can get so specific with how you target individual customers. Taking a moment to play around with the Google Keyword Planner is a good idea for anyone thinking about how they can better market their business, but it’s especially useful for figuring out how to position yourself to get more traffic.
Find a specific audience with social media advertising
For companies that have a very specific picture of their target audience, social media advertising can be a great option for push marketing that doesn’t feel as in-your-face. This type of ad buy is really great if you know your audience very well, and feel like you already know what you need to zero in on them and get your message in front of the right pair of eyes.
A big question to ask yourself when considering advertising on each individual social media channel is whether or not your target audience truly hangs out there.
To go with an obvious example, a personal beauty product is going to have a lot more success with Instagram than they are with LinkedIn, but for a B2B CRM platform, the reverse is probably true.
Social media platforms are powerful because they have a large store of data on the organic behavior of their users. This lets you get ultra-specific about who you target, which results in more effective campaigns. The beauty company can look for Lady Gaga fans on Facebook, while the CRM platform can seek out leads who follow a certain number of marketing thought leaders on Twitter.
At the end of the day, effective social media advertising comes down to how well you know your ideal audience.
There are entire guides on how to successfully deploy content marketing, but the quick version is that you create attention for your brand and product by making something that people will find engaging. Engaging can be defined a lot of different ways: informative, instructive, humorous, inspiring, interesting, useful, beautiful — the list goes on.
If you’ve done a good job, you’ll have made something that people want to share, link to, or otherwise engage with.
The trick with content marketing is that it doubles as both a passive marketing and SEO-boosting strategy. Each new item of content is like acquiring another piece of digital real estate. If it’s well written (or well made) and provides real value to people, then its value will only grow over time as other people link to it. If it, in turn, links to your other pieces of content, your entire portfolio will get a boost with each new successful piece.
Each asset helps to directly build your brand, while your entire network helps you jump in the search result rankings for the keywords that matter most.
How do you decide which business marketing channel is best for you?
Every marketing strategy comes down to two questions: who is your target customer and how do they make their buying decision? If you’re trying to reach someone who watches a specific late-night TV show or reads the sports section of the local paper, then ignore all of the above and go with a print or TV ad buy.
If you decide to pursue a digital marketing strategy, however, your first step is to figure out what you’re trying to do with it. If you’re trying to pull customers in after they’ve made the decision to buy, then look at what you can do with paid placement via a product like Google AdWords to show up at the top of their search. If you need to be on their radar earlier in the process, consider a push or passive strategy.
Regardless of what you choose — from Google AdWords to traditional print marketing — knowing your customer (and how they buy) is the key to successfully choosing the right place to market your business.