Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
We've asked a coterie of marketing experts to join Entrepreneur's Team Digital to provide answers to your common questions about building an online presence. Got a question? Ask it in our comment section below or on Twitter using the hashtag #TeamDigital. Each week, we'll spotlight a different topic, and twice a month we'll host Google Hangouts (see our June 12 Hangout) where Team Digital members will chat about best strategies for managing an online reputation, marketing through social media and using mobile techniques to attract customers.
In this week's column, our Team Digital answers: What's one marketing tip that even savvy businesses overlook?
Remember to listen. Proactive listening is by far the most underused online marketing tactic. Too many companies have lulled themselves into believing that social-media monitoring is just waiting for someone to say something bad or ask a customer-service question. But strong social listening involves proactively listening for marketing and sales opportunities, stepping in front of demand, not just following it. Search for people mentioning the need for what you do, not just your brand name, and step in front of consumers looking to purchase.
Build out your company story and team pages. These days, consumers want to connect and support not just a product, but the company and mission behind it. Too often companies throw together "About Us" sections that are sterile and less than compelling. Businesses need to spend time and resources putting up pictures that reflect their team and culture, and shaping the "why" behind the company for everyone to consume in a beautiful way.
Invest in phenomenal content. Brands tend to put all their focus on the "top of the funnel" where brand awareness happens—and the "bottom of the funnel" where people respond directly to offers and promotions. You'll often see brands put a ton of the effort into designing a beautiful homepage and optimizing conversions, but then half-ass it when it comes to the content in between. The thing is, the middle of the funnel is wheresellinghappens. Your content can inspire, inform, persuade and motivate—but only if it's good. Make it extraordinary.
Arrange for face time. Relationships are more powerful offline.There are countless online marketing strategies but business comes down to relationships and there's no better way to strengthen a relationship by taking it offline as often as possible. Use LinkedIn or Facebook to get a new connection? Great! Call them, meet them in person and get to know them on a personal level. It will do wonders for your business.
Measure your online marketing efforts.Too many businesses spin their wheels with their social-media efforts and have no idea whether what they're doing is impacting their revenue and growing their business. Start by determining your objective and a timeframe for which you want to achieve it. Next, what social platforms could you use that align with your objective and target audience? Put metrics in place that allow you to know whether you're getting closer to your goal. Then, in what ways can you measure those metrics? It doesn't have to be complicated, but always have a way to measure the success of what you're doing.
Don't forget to be human! I think as marketers we sometimes forget that (most) of our content is being read by other other humans. If you want your message to stand out, ditch the Franken-speak and talk to your audience the way that other humans speak. Add some humor. Keep it light. Don't take yourself too seriously.
Guest blog as part of your content strategy.Online marketing is about producing amazing content that benefits your target audience. These days, most companies understand the importance of this, but they fail to take their content strategy off their own website domain. Guest blogging builds your brand awareness, authority and credibility, driving high-quality traffic to your website that persists over time (i.e., doesn't stop when you turn off the budget). Furthermore, it builds inbound links to your website, which boosts your organic search rankings, further building equity in your online marketing initiative that'll stand the test of time.
Use data to drive decisions. So much of what online marketers do still today is make campaign and product decisions based on gut or outdated notions when it's never been easier to let markets, splits test and conversion funnels make the most profitable decisions for you.
Offer a free information product, that has value in your customer's mind.One of the major online marketing mistakes that people make is not cultivating an opt-in email list. One way to create an engaged group of fans and followers is to offer a free download of an ebook, podcast or other short-and-sweet information product, in exchange for the visitor's first name and email, with signup to your list. The key is to offer a product that speaks to a major question, pain or concern your audience has.
Craft a powerful title for Your LinkedIn profile. That tiny one-liner under your name is the most important element in your LinkedIn profile. Why? Because unless someone clicks on your full profile, your name and title are the only things visible on LinkedIn lists, such as the list of "People Also Viewed" and “People You May Know,” as well as when you accept someone’s invite to connect. So your title had better do a good job of communicating your positioning and brand. Plus, professionals are using LinkedIn as a search engine when they need services, so your title must stand out by saying what you do and for whom, as it does for this designer: “Helping Law Firms & Financial Services Companies Elevate Their Brand & Bottom Line” (instead of the more generic, and much more common, “Graphic Designer”).
Stop arguing and test.Often times, you'll find people who engage in arguments about whose idea is superior to the other. A heated debate will ensue and might even lead to people resenting each other. More often than not, this is due to too much 'gut feeling' and to please the ego more than anything. Instead of arguing over which idea is better, take the time to test your theories. You'll be wrong most of the time, but when you're right, you're moving the needle on your business. And when you have the data to back up your theory, no one can argue with you. Test, test, test. Then test more.
Don't use generic emails. How often do you use a "firstname.lastname@example.org" email? Unfortunately, you're losing clients by the truckload. Want to try something new? Put an actual address to the email -- of an actual employee. Let that employee know he might get slammed when the email goes out, and offer help. But then, reply to every person who replies. The sales and engagement will increase by mind-blowing factors. Customers want to feel like you know them -- like they can talk to you. Give them the ability to.
Target your marketing to different audiences. Many companies blast their customers with ads and messages that aren't relevant to them, which makes their efforts useless.It's important to segment your audience on each channel whether it's email, Facebook or banner ads to understand what message your business should send to what group. If the content your business is sending to your audience matches their interests or buying habits, the more likely it will be engaging and result in a purchase of your product or service.
Guide the digital experience and contextual click path from a stimulus all the way through a desired outcome. Customers discover brands across a variety of screens whether it's via TV, smart phone, tablet, PC, etc. Most brands, however, consider a limited journey from discovery to either Google Search or ultimately to the company's web site. Consider each screen to guide a natural, frictionless journey through a variety of scenarios. Create a series of likely outcomes that take advantage of the screen and make it efficient and engaging to travel from point A to point B,C or D.
Remember that there's a person on the other side, who has a life full of commitments, stresses, activities and deadlines.They are not thinking about your brand 24/7, despite the fact that we'd love them to. So we have to insert ourselves into the conversation and add value to their lives...their complete lives not just the part that affects the brand. Jim Joseph, Cohn & WolfeFollow @JimJosephExp
More from Entrepreneur
Our Franchise Advisors are here to help you throughout the entire process of building your franchise organization!
Schedule a FREE one-on-one session with a Franchise Advisor
Choose one of our programs that matches your needs, budget, and timeline