On-line and Off-line Marketing: What Is the Perfect Balance?
By Stephanie Beck
Some of the biggest concerns as business owners at this time of year are focused around what changes and plans need to be made for the future. At this time of year marketing contracts are due and many owners struggle with where to invest the most marketing dollars on-line versus off-line. ROI plays a big factor in the decision making process, and some owners are concerned with how to measure the ROI when it comes to on-line tools like Social Media. Everyone is talking about Social Media and while you cannot ignore the power Social Media has on today's market, most business owners would say they just do not know whether it is producing paying customers.
When it comes to On-line marketing, generally you will find frequent discussions around websites. Are they outdated and not producing? Should they be cut or should you invest the dollars to get the numbers back? If the social media campaign is strong enough, is a website still necessary? Keeping up with the changes now more than ever, a company needs new fresh content on a consistent basis to stay on page 1. This requires an investment of time and money but how much is enough?
What about the off-line marketing? Postage is going to increase again so what about the ads in publications? Are they needed? Will my brand survive if we cut our print ad campaign? Off-line marketing also includes your live seminars, tradeshows, educational classes and trainings. Can't most of the education be handled on-line? How many tradeshows are necessary to keep a strong image and appearance without customers seeing it as a weakness? Should we be trying to mail out a million catalogs each year?
So, you may find yourself with more questions than answers at this time, therefore let's look at a few facts and put together some strategic tips to consider before making those decisions.
Is off-line marketing necessary? The short answer is yes. Print advertising is still a vital role for any marketing campaign, especially when you are a B2B. Here is why I say this, not all niches have followed the masses to on-line or Social Media tools, YET. I do add the 3-letter word YET to this sentence because the fastest growing trend is still on-line marketing. If you are not at least investing some of your marketing dollars for on-line and social media campaigns you have a lot of catching up to do. But knowing how much to allocate to this is another big question. If your IDEAL customer is in a professional market, your best choice to reach them may still be off-line marketing. Although I do think one instance of this type of marketing has become extinct; that big yellow book has followed the way of the dinosaurs. Let's face it, when was the last time you "let your fingers do the walking"? Think about it, when you wanted to find a business did you grab your smart phone or keyboard first? So, this presents a great argument for on-line marketing over newspapers and phone books, but what about the trade publications? What about those publications that are specifically targeting your IDEAL customers?
Tip #1: As an owner, before you make any final decisions, you still need to evaluate your target audience, engage them, and connect with them on their terms and by whatever means necessary. So it makes sense to have print ads in trade publications if that is where the bulk of your IDEAL customers are. You do need to be sure to evaluate those ads, measure the response rates, and examine the verified postal circulation so you know you are reaching your maximum number of IDEAL customers and that goes for any type of marketing you implement. If your ads are not producing but the circulation numbers support a wide number of your IDEAL audience, consider adjusting your message. Content is still king! If you have not evaluated how your IDEAL customer is communicating lately that could be your biggest answer to producing your desired results.
What about on-line media? How does it work best for my business? Websites and Social Media, is one more important than the other? If I have a strong following in Social Media do I really need a website? Well, here are some items to consider. Fact: There are almost 1 billion active Social Media users every MONTH. That is a HUGE data base and remember it is a FREE data base. Again, this makes sense as long as your IDEAL customers are using those sites. Don't just jump on the band wagon before doing your research. Join the site or at the very least search the site to see how many of your IDEAL potential customers are using that tool. Just because Facebook has 800,000,000 active users doesn't mean it's the best place for your business. The percentage of Facebook users that are your IDEAL customers may be very small. Other sites like Linked In, You Tube, or Twitter may be a better fit.
Tip #2: Research the Social Media tools. Look for ways to connect through groups and organizations that support your profession. See where your competition is and evaluate who are doing all the interacting and connecting. Even if your numbers are small it is worth at least dedicating a small amount of your time and marketing dollars to developing these tools because, as mentioned before, this is the largest growing marketing trend of the future. Just make sure you are investing in the right Social Media tool to reach the maximum amount of your IDEAL customers.
Fact: There are over 200 million Google searches a day looking for products and services related to your business and almost 27% are local searches. Over 44 million of those local searches or 82% are followed by an action such as making a call, ordering a product, or booking an appointment. With the amount of searches on-line every month, it is more than just having a website. Marketing on-line isn't an option anymore, it's a requirement. The first thing people want to know is the name of your website when they meet you. It is more than just a credibility factor. You need to be communicating with your customers and potential customers in the manner by which they want to connect. Your site needs to be more than "here's my product/service, here's how great we are, here's my big savings offer, and don't you want to buy it?" That worked 5-10 years ago, but it is "old school" in today's market. So you need to make sure you are communicating the benefits of how your product or service is going to make their lives so much easier! Still confused about whether to have a website or not? With this much traffic on the web, why wouldn't you want to be a part of it? If you are not receiving your desired results evaluate the message you are communicating and to whom. Your website needs at least 3 things to survive:
- Traffic producing keywords and not too competitive so you get buried on page 17 of Google. However being on page 1 of a keyword term that has ZERO searches per month isn't going to get you any traffic either.
- A lead capture device – something for your IDEAL customers to register or sign on or opt-in where you can trade valuable FREE information for their name, phone and email address. This is so you can stay connected and continue to share valuable FREE information.
- Update your content speak to the "pain" points of what your customers, your customer's friends, and potential customers are looking for answers to. Videos are the most popular forms of communicating on the web, therefore if possible include a conversational type video speaking to your IDEAL customer when they first arrive.
You really do not have a luxury any more of ignoring on-line marketing campaigns or putting it off another year. If you haven't done so already, you really need to invest into creating an on-line presence.
Tip#3: One thing to keep in mind whether it's your Social Media or website, you are only communicating to one person at a time, so when you are creating content make sure you speak as though you are having a conversation with one person. Do not speak in general terms to multiple people. Social Media is about being social; people like to speak to humans. Whether it's in a social forum or on your website, IDEAL customers like to feel there is a human on the other end. Remember this when you are posting, emailing, following, tweeting, updating, blogging, etc...
Finding what works for your business and plans for future success takes planning and being consistent so your IDEAL customers can find you on a regular basis. Social Media, On-line and Off-line marketing need to be coordinated and when your plan includes all types they need to work together to maximize your success. For example, we recently completed a very successful on-line and off-line marketing campaign for a customer. They are CE providers for Chiropractors; although having the website and Social Media presence established was nice for finding leads; the majority of their IDEAL target market, in this case Chiropractors, only use on-line tools to research. It was the print media and dare I say the old school telephone follow ups that when blended together with the on-line marketing, produced the successful results.
As with any marketing the one factor that remains the same, consistency, is the key to success. Make the plan and follow it. Keep content updated and fresh. Your expiration dates, especially for on-line marketing, are extremely short-lived. So no half-hearted commitments, implement the right tools that will connect you with the right people at the right time and get the right results you want. Coordinate all of your marketing so it is interconnected and feeding each other. Put your on-line contacts on all of your off-line collateral and be sure to "talk, tweet, post, blog, or update" any photos, videos, and information about your off-line marketing events! The more you work these together the more success you will have connecting, engaging and keeping your IDEAL customers happy!
About the Author:
Stephanie Beck, Owner of SRB Solutions, an online and Social Media Marketing Business, has been working for over 10 years in Sales and Marketing as a Massage and Spa Industry Professional for many top name companies including Biotone, Scrip Companies and Bon Vital, Inc. Stephanie has written in-depth protocols and taught several classes for massage and spa products throughout the US. She has served as a published guest columnist for Massage Today and Marketing Matters. She and her husband live in San Diego, CA. If you have any questions about branding or marketing, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.