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Marketing in the digital landscape
Online digital marketing is still a relatively new science, skill or trade, depending on your view. At least that’s what I had thought.
But, as I discovered in the course of writing this feature, I had much to learn.
To get the lowdown on how to succeed in online marketing, I pursued the successful, the entrepreneurial and pioneers who helped to set-up icons like
www.sorted.org.nz. It seemed the safest place to get the goodies on what is becoming a sine qua non for any business with aspirations on the global web and, quite frankly, growing in the tough markets which show no signs of going away in a hurry.
Mike Pethig, director of AdProtocol is as close as you get to a legend in his lifetime. He had already accumulated nearly ten years experience in website management and digital marketing, before setting-up AdProtocol in 2005.
Most importantly, he has a post-graduate degree in marketing.
AdProtocol is a Wellington-based business, which has gone from zero to $320,000 turnover in five years.
Basically, you could pigeonhole Pethig as a digital ad agency – but his claimed USP is that he designs and delivers interactive ads which have a “beneficial outcome for online users”, his most-celebrated (and used) assignment being the Retirement Commission’s
www.sorted.org.nz mortgage repayment calendar. Aside from that he produces online movies for clients – he directs, produces and uploads – does it all.
According to a keen Pethig punter: “Anything to do with online marketing, he can do the whole job from concept to delivery. Mike knows everything there is to know about digital marketing – especially since he’s one of only a select number of full-service digital agencies in New Zealand.”
Pethig describes himself as “the glue between all aspects of digital marketing, with a particular panache for the ‘usability’ side of things” – no doubt a nod to his design of the sorted.org mortgage calculator, now in the top two pages visited on that site every month.
What to measure
“In the digital landscape there’s no end to things you can measure,” says Ad Protocol director, Pethig. “The trick is knowing what to measure.”
“In digital advertising an integrated creative and media approach is absolutely critical to any campaign’s success, but so too is the campaign’s measurement and reporting. Connecting the right media and creative and gluing up the measurement is where AdProtocol comes in.
AdProtocol’s approach to digital advertising uses measurement and user patterns to help their clients develop an effective creative execution.
“Our first step with clients is understanding their objectives and outcomes. If, for instance, the campaign is about driving cost-effective traffic to a particular website or feature on a website, we might build a metrics framework that enables our clients to see the cost-per-click or cost-per-action from their ad campaign.
“With a clear metrics platform in place, the process of evolving and improving your promotion is relatively simple.
“That said, we often see advertising being used as a means to simply draw awareness of a product, brand or service. In the digital space people can create a stronger marketing approach that can influence and measure the products, the placement, its price and the subsequent promotion. It’s textbook marketing, and it works,” he says.
Pethig’s advice for clients thinking about venturing into digital promotion includes:
• Keep your offer simple.
• Focus on transactional benefits in your ads, with clear rewards for the user.
• Track your ad performance.
• Make your ads just the start of the brand experience.
Swing north to Hamilton and chat to Annie Monk, marketing and sales manager of WebSpring, for a dose of Waikato straight-talking. The company is a 2008 merger of the local Evos Group and Fox Web Works, a solid balance of design and content management on the one hand and results-driven business websites and email marketing on the other – together, according to Monk, “creating a complete online marketing solution”.
Doing “a bit of everything” does not constitute a sound online marketing strategy, says Monk.
“As with any marketing mix, the target market, the message and the branding will all influence the most effective online marketing strategy. The potential new media tools, used in an appropriate combination, and a strategy to manage each of these, will create the basis of a sound online marketing plan.
“Each of the new media has specific user demographics, with differing reasons for using each. It can be likened to booking the right radio station, with the right listenership, at the right time of day. Again, this is not obvious and it is often how a professional will be able to lend support to a business.
“The new media demographics change on a monthly basis, and are very fast-moving – and for many business owners, it seems, it is moved to the too-hard basket,” she says.
Return on investment
One of the largest benefits in online marketing, Monk notes, is its measurability of ROI.
“Unlike traditional media, it is relatively cost-effective. However, the largest resource required to manage this effectively is time.”
WebSpring is committed to providing world-class online marketing to grow New Zealand businesses, seeing itself as an ideas generator, determined, confident and passionate. “Online marketing: it’s what we do” is the battle-cry.
And they have the Westpac Business Excellence 2009 Award as “Best Emerging Business” to back that up, along with being a finalist for the “Innovation Award”.
“Traditional media promotion can remain a component of your marketing strategy, but online marketing extends the benefits of an extremely measurable format to reach a wider target market (perhaps otherwise unreachable) and extends business income opportunities,” says Monk.
Their online marketing “must-haves” include:
• A clear strategy aligned with the business plan and the marketing and sales strategy.
• Consistent messages throughout all media, including branding.
• Strong calls to action in markets with more “noise” than traditional promotion.
• Constant review and change to meet the demands of ever-changing online markets and media.
• To work with a company that understands business; not just business online.
Alex Garden, well-known to NZBusiness readers and owner-manager of Netinsites, himself would more than qualify as one who “understands business; not just business online”. He has an MBA (with distinction) from Massey University (1997), and an earlier degree, from the University of Otago (1982). More importantly, he has had a career in professional services, construction, manufacturing and telecommunications, all in the SME arena and has spent time heading-up a manufacturing company. His associates are Andy Stanton and Philip Tetley-Jones. Together they bring a set of wide-ranging international experiences and expertise to service their clients.
So who better to get good “insites” from than the above, especially with markets stubbornly remaining tough and tight, and a buck still being jolly hard to get.
“When customers make decisions in a downturn they’re more likely to go with a trusted source, so ensure you are solving their problems effectively and they will continue to deal with you,” says Garden. “Beef your online support systems so clients don’t have to go elsewhere to find the answers – think knowledge-bases, wizards, chat support and video.
“Remember that selling more to your existing customers is far cheaper than acquiring new ones.
“Market more intensively to your existing customers and ask them directly what they want. Email marketing is very effective here and can be segmented cost-effectively to provide customised solutions for specific customer groups.
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Many of your competitors will reduce their marketing budgets; so even though there are fewer customers, there will be less competition for them. So don’t reduce yours; optimise it.
“Use your web analytics software to gain an insight into what your customers are actually doing online. If they are leaving your site or specific pages too often, try to work out why. If you can’t see yourself, recruit some real (independent) users and see what they do – test and optimise,” he says.
Garden is convinced part of this optimisation process should be looking at your website presence with the “Big 3” Questions [as suggested by FutureNow (
www.futurenowinc.com)]:
• Who are we trying to persuade?
• What action/s do we want them to take?
• What do they need to see and find to be confident to take that action?
He cautions there will be fewer potential customers; “so treat enquiries and people opting-in like gold. Many companies are far too casual in the way they treat these contacts – make sure everyone goes into a targeted mailing list, so these contacts can be emailed, direct-mailed or telephoned. You may also wish to automate your responses to online contacts by setting up an auto-responder program that sends out pre-designed email messages at certain intervals.
“Because online marketing is measurable and very cost-effective, it should be a key plank in your marketing efforts when the going gets tough,” Garden adds.
What are your customers saying?
When I spoke with Sukesh Sukumaran, CEO and general manager of The Web Co, time was constrained because he had just heard that his company had been chosen as a finalist for the 2010 Vero Excellence in Business Support Awards and was hard at it getting his final submission registered. The company employs more than 16 staff across design, development and consultancy and positions itself as the “web performance partner”, providing customised solutions to each client’s unique business needs; and not by providing “off-the-shelf” solutions. Clients are educated about what is possible, rather than what they may feel constrained by in terms of technology.
A favourite attention-getter for Sukumaran and The Web Co is: “Did you know 80 percent of New Zealanders go to the Internet before they pick up the Yellow Pages? That’s a lot of potential customers!” And it’s clearly effective.
Like other market leaders in the online digital marketing space, The Web Co offers the full suite of services. It’s called ‘Plus one: Online Reputation Management’, or as they describe it, “managing your online reputation through monitoring social media, blogs, news media and reviews; ensuring your customers get the right view of your business”.
Inevitably, that is accompanied by the Web Co challenge:  do you know what your customers are saying about you online? Do they like your product or service? Or are they saying bad things about your company, damaging your reputation without you even knowing it?
“Tapping into what people are saying about you on the Internet gives you direct access to what your customers are thinking. This means that managing your online reputation is now a vital factor in managing your business both online and offline,” says Sukumaran.
His formula for success is as follows:
• Find out what your customers think about your company, service or product. This gives you vital information to plan your future marketing and PR campaigns.
• Control perception of your brand by engaging with customers discussing your business, product or service on sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
• Quickly respond and rectify any negative publicity you are receiving online.
• Identify new product or service gaps for your particular market by finding out what your customers are wanting.
“The rise of social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin means that you can more easily communicate with your target customers in a relaxed environment. For example, Facebook now has 200 million users worldwide in 70 different languages.
“Social media marketing simply means using any of these social networks, including online communities, blogs and wikis for marketing, sales and public relations purposes. At The Web Company, we can help you plan a smart social media strategy so that you can utilise these useful web channels to market your business and increase your sales,” says Sukumaran.
“Rather than having a static environment, a social media strategy allows your customers to have conversations with you about your brand, product and/or service. Because social media marketing allows your customers to participate and talk about your business, product or service freely, it can be a very powerful form of advertising.”
Kevin Kevany is an Auckland-based freelance writer. Email
kevwrite@xtra.co.nz

 

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