The "Always Connected" Customer
Like it or not, the always connected customer is a concern for your small business. Even if your business is local, and you get most of your customers through referrals or personal networking, ignoring the Internet and the always connected customer is tantamount to putting your business on a starvation diet.
Here's why: Technology has given today's customer more tools for researching and buying products and services than they have ever had in the past. And businesses and consumers -including your customers and prospects - are using those tools regularly. Just look at these statistics:
According to an Oct 2013 update of a Pew Internet & American Life study, 35% of Americans age 16 or older now own a tablet or and 24% own an ereader. When you look at households with incomes of more than $75,000 a year those numbers climb, with 50% owning tablets and 38% owning ereaders.
Another report from Pew Internet released in Sept. 2013 found that 63% of adult cell owners now use their phones to go online with 34% of these cell internet users indicating that they mostly go online using their cell phone.
Then of course, there are the legions of men and women who log on from their desktop or laptop computers at work and at home.
What are all these people connecting to? More important what are your prospects and customers connecting to? Besides the news, weather and latest viral video, they are using their devices to gather information about products and services they are interested in and the companies that sell them before they talk to a salesperson or make a purchase. The hot prospect you met at the local trade show is very likely to look up your website, look for you on Facebook and "Google" your name and business before deciding whether to do business with you. If they can't find anything on the smart phone, tablet, or their computer, or if what they find looks outdated or unprofessional, they will probably take their business elsewhere.
The bottom line: Even if you think all your business comes from referrals and in-person networking, you still need a website and a social media presence and they need to look professional. If you market to local walk-in customers, you need to be sure you are found in local search on smart phones as well as on computers, and you should be considering using an SMS service to send coupons and special offers to build repeat business from customers who want to hear from you.
Multi-touch marketing is fancy term for a very simple concept: You need to reach customers and prospects multiple times and in multiple ways throughout the buying cycle. (Other terms you may hear that mean the same thing are "integrated marketing" and "convergent marketing.") Multi-touch marketing is nothing new. In fact, there's an old marketing adage that says a customer needs to hear about you 7 times or more before being convinced to buy from you. The difference today is the number of devices and types of media that your customers could be using. You need to be findable on the devices and in the media they are using.
For instance, someone searching for an alarm system for their business may log onto a search engine from the office computer and search for information to help guide their purchase. That search might lead them to links to websites of companies that sell alarm systems, pictures of alarm systems, and to reviews of alarm systems. They might check out an eBay ad that shows up, too. Shortly before lunchtime, the customer's smart phone beeps and he see a text about today's luncheon special from a nearby fast food place. He orders and picks up lunch, and then gets busy with other tasks. A few days later, he looks again for information - this time using a tablet at home - and this time, he wants to see how the system gets installed, so he goes to YouTube.
The next day, he heads over to the county business association's annual trade show to network and schmooze - and picks up some sales literature from a company selling alarm systems, but doesn't leave them his business card. Instead, if he remembers, he checks out the company's website and searches for the seller's business name to see if anyone is commenting about them on the web.
Marketing effectively to this customer (and pretty much any customer) means using multiple marketing methods to get on their radar screen and interact with them at multiple points through the buying cycle. Depending on what you sell, in addition to in-person networking and referrals, you may need a mix of content marketing to educate prospects, traditional ads, pay per click ads, an informative website with case studies, social media pages, product reviews from satisfied customers and marketing materials on video and slide sharing sites like YouTube and SlideShare.
To figure out which specific media "touches" you need, log onto the Internet with a personal computer, with a smart phone and with a tablet. With each device, search for what you sell. See what competitors show up. Search for your business name and then search for the competitor's business name and if you know them, the names of key people in your competitor's businesses. Do their websites show up? A Facebook page? Pinterest posts? LinkedIn profiles. Click on the links and see what's there. Note the types of information (i.e., how-to, buyer's guide, product specs, video, etc.) and the media that show up most frequently. Look at the paid ads on the top and right side of the search page, too. Are your competitors advertising on the search engine?
Next, search with each of the three devices for the kinds of questions prospects ask you before they buy. Again, check out the links in the "organic" (unpaid) results, and check the links in the paid ads.
Finally, if you are a local-only business search for what you sell plus your town name.(Example: Pizza Centereach, NY).
These three types of searches are the types of searches someone looking for the products and services you sell will do on whichever device (computer, tablet or phone) they have available to them. Analyzing the results will help you see how and where you need to show up in digital media to grow your business.
If you are a local business and you don't show up on Bing and Google go to https://www.bingplaces.com/ and https://www.google.com/business/placesforbusiness/ and follow instructions to get listed. Those local place listings are important because they show up on smart phones, and often with clickable links for placing a call to your establishment.
Adhesive Marketing is a term I use to describe marketing that sticks with your customer and reminds them about you. This has become increasingly important because being "always connected" leads to information overload and brand forgetfulness. The customer who was thinking about calling you after reading your website, may have forgotten your name after a few days and after having checked out a couple of other websites and videos. Adhesive marketing is the glue you need to use to make your name stick with prospects and to bond with customers so they buy from you repeatedly.
For the last couple of years, big companies have been buying "interest-based" ads and ads that "follow" you from site to site on the web to make their products memorable. As a small business you may not be able to afford such extensive advertising to get your products remembered. But nevertheless, you do need to get your marketing to stick.
Fortunately, there are more affordable adhesive marketing tools.
Email in its various forms is the easiest and best adhesive marketing tool for small businesses to use. Make one of your primary goals on all digital marketing channels be to get prospects to identify themselves and give you their email address and permission to send them email. Then, communicate with them regularly. This lets you stay in touch, making your name and products familiar and your phone number (which should be in every email) readily available.
Use a reputable email service provider like Constant Contact, to send your mail. Service providers not only help ensure your mail gets delivered, but most also provide you with design templates to use to make the emails you send look more professional. Some, including Constant Contact, offer services to integrate email and social campaigns. (Disclaimer: Business Know-How is a Constant Contact solution provider and we use Constant Contact ourselves for email and other marketing outreaches.)
Other useful tools for adhesive marketing include cloud-based contact management and customer relationship management software such as Batchbook, InfusionSoft, and SalesForce.
Plan, Don't Panic
If you are like many small and micro-sized businesses and aren't marketing online, don't panic. But don't bury your head in the sand, either. Instead, plan and prioritize. Analyze your competitors' online activities and ask your customers about the digital devices they use and how to they use them. Put your digital footprints in place one by one, and don't forget the "glue" to make your digital marketing efforts stick.
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