Are you rolling out a new marketing plan or looking to give your current one a face-lift? Columnist Steve Olenski outlines 10 steps to help you connect with customers and foster leads.
Brainstorming an effective marketing strategy is never easy work — you have to make decisions on who you think your target customers are, then spend an enormous amount of time gathering and analyzing data about their consumer habits. It’s either time-consuming or expensive, and often it’s both.
However, this time and monetary investment could yield game-changing results for your company. Are you starting to roll out your marketing plan and netting yourself some customers? Follow these 10 steps to be successful.
1. Survey Customers
You won’t be able to connect effectively with your potential customers if you don’t have a customer in mind. Survey current customers, as well as members of your target market, to find out how you can better present your product or service, or what aspects might be missing from what you’re currently offering.
Cast a wide net to capture those you think might be interested in your product or service, and use their data to shape your brand in a way that better resonates with your target market. Once you know who your audience is, where they hang out online and what they respond best to, then you can begin to market.
2. Research Your Competitors And Find Out Who Their Customers Are
An easy way to find out which kind of marketing campaign works and which don’t is by researching competitors in your industry.
Not only will this inexpensive effort give you some ideas to follow for your own campaigns, this research will also reveal dark spots in your competitor’s process and present new directions for you to take your own marketing strategy.
After all, just by going into business in the same industry, you’ll be going after some of your competitor’s target market — you might as well use their example to make your service and product better for their customers.
3. Target Ads
Far cheaper than most methods of advertising, Facebook and Google targeted ads prove that a little can go a long way.
While most advertising in the real world only reaches whoever comes across a billboard, bus stop or commercial, these targeted ads can locate the people who are most likely to need your service based on geographical location, demographics (including age, gender, education and relationship status), interests (based on what they’ve shared or “liked”) and browsing activity.
By investing in targeted ads and paying through their Pay Per Click or Pay Per Impression method, companies can see a significant bump in their user engagement, conversion and sales.
4. Smart Social Media
There’s having a presence on social media, and then there’s having a social media presence. When it comes to keeping customers, a little more effort on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram really go the distance.
Far too many businesses use their accounts to simply promote their own company, while smart social media managers strategize relevant posts, link to cool articles, answer customer questions as soon as they’re asked, and otherwise give online surfers the impression that there’s actually a human who cares.
These are the companies who retain their customers, give users new ways to use their service or product and help solve problems as they come up.
5. Respond To Every Email, Tweet, Facebook Comment, And Phone Call; Adjust Yourself As Necessary
When Paul English was still presiding over Kayak, one of the most valuable practices he insisted on implementing was to keep an extremely annoying, loud phone in the middle of the office to receive customer complaints. This ensured the calls were answered — by anybody, including engineers, developers, content managers, or even English himself.
At Zappos, Tony Hsieh values customer service so much that they build in customer service training for every new hire, regardless of the job. And its customer service has gone to such lengths as to go to a rival shoe store to get a pair of shoes that the site had run out of.
The point? Always answer calls, always care for your customers, and always fix problems as they come in — your customers will love you for it.
6. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing has been around since the early days of the Web, and it’s still an overlooked but highly effective means to raise your brand awareness significantly.
And with the number of affiliate networks out there, who operate on a PPC (Pay Per Click) or PPA (Pay Per Action) basis, it has never been easier or safer to find your product being promoted by appropriate publishers.
7. Establish Trust In Your Community: Publish User Reviews, Get Likes, Syndicate Articles
With so many new, competing businesses congesting almost every industry, it’s getting increasingly difficult to stand out and grow a decent-sized following. To gain support, companies first have to establish trust.
As more than 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, it only makes sense to start by publishing user reviews and sending samples of your product for trusted bloggers to review.
As your company keeps growing, start placing in-house content in big websites that publish syndicated content, like Huffington Post, Forbes, FT, Fast Company and Inc. Don’t forget to use your real name — people respond better to a human being than to a corporation.
8. Connect With The Right Influencers
Engaging with big players in your industry can be an extremely effective way to garner a wider share base. After all, if you can get the attention of a thought leader or an influencer, you have the chance to capture their fans and friends, as well as establish trust and credibility.
Reach out to appropriate bloggers or entrepreneurs at conferences or over Twitter, send them relevant and interesting blog content that might pique their interest, and once again — be a human being, not just your company.
9. Post Relevant Content On Blogs
Keeping a practice of continually and diligently publishing relevant and original blog content not only helps keep your company shining in the warm Google sun, but it also helps potential customers truly get to know your company and where it’s coming from.
The content doesn’t have to be self-promotional (and shouldn’t be), but it should offer context into why your product or service is important, suggest the best ways to solve industry-related problems that arise in the everyday lives of your target demographic, impart some valuable wisdom, and generally inspire people to share your point of view.
If you don’t have enough resources or writers on staff to keep rolling out a constant stream of content for your blog, enlist the help of a content marketing platform like Content.ly or a virtual communications platform like Commeta.
10. Craft An Engaging Newsletter To Foster Leads
One of the most time-consuming aspects of online marketing is generating leads. Often, that involves analyzing customer demographics and social media activity, putting out ads and online surveys and updating user data from year to year.
However, new companies are cropping up to simplify the process of lead generation, and, in some cases — like LeadGenius — they even do the work for you.
A great way of nurturing prospects is with personalized email newsletters, A/B test advertising and promotional campaigns. Use the data to fine-tune the efforts that work and scale your best campaigns.
Gosh, that sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? That’s why companies like LeadGenius exist — to help you develop and nurture your leads without compromising your time.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)