Marketing on the new frontier
Kevin Kevany looks at online marketing in a world of hyper-connected, super-empowered individuals. How seriously should we be taking online marketing? Every owner/manager of an SME anywhere in the world struggles from the morning alarm – usually at least six times a week – right through to collapsing on the bed late, just to get on top of yesterday and today.
Kevin Kevany looks at online marketing in a world of hyper-connected, super-empowered individuals.
How seriously should we be taking online marketing? Every owner/manager of an SME anywhere in the world struggles from the morning alarm – usually at least six times a week – right through to collapsing on the bed late, just to get on top of yesterday and today. Tomorrow needs to take care of itself, right now.
But try this for a perspective – and it comes from the depressed United States, as it reels under the ‘Wall Street occupation’. Thomas L Friedman is one of that country’s best-read and respected commentators; a three-time Pulitzer prizewinner; author of books such as The Lexus and the Olive Tree and The World is Flat; and a New York Times columnist. Back from a visit to Silicon Valley at the end of October, he cited the reality of the new phase of the IT revolution as the saviour of the world economy.
“Silicon Valley is being transformed by another technology revolution – one that is taking the world from connected to hyper-connected and individuals from empowered to super-empowered. It is the biggest leap forward in the IT revolution since the mainframe computer was replaced by desktops and the web. It is going to change everything about how companies and societies operate.”
He describes this next phase as being “driven by the convergence of social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Groupon, Zynga – with the proliferation of cheap wireless connectivity and web-enabled smartphones and ‘the cloud’. Holding and constantly updating thousands of software applications, which are then downloaded by users on their smartphones, making them into incredibly powerful devices that can perform myriad tasks”.
Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, reckons “it makes it easier and cheaper than ever for anyone anywhere to be an entrepreneur”. And to prove it, Friedman quotes an article in Fast Company:
“Within a month of posting his idea of grafting the body of an iPod Nano onto colourful wristbands, turning them into watch-like devices that wake you up and play your music, on ‘Kickstarter’, the Web-based funding platform for independent creative projects, the moneyless Scott Wilson had 13,500 people in 50 countries paying him nearly $1 million, before Apple bought the company off him.”
Ah, you say, but that would never happen here. Fact is, coincidently, it’s happening right here in Parnell, Auckland, as we go to press.
Social media campaign case study
Richard Conway, BSC Hons, runs Pure SEO – an online marketing agency and ‘Search Ranking Experts’. The business won the ‘most outstanding fledgling business’ category in the recently announced 2011 David Awards. And justly so; he arrived at New Zealand’s door with $200 in his back-pocket and two years later his company has four staff and 50 clients, with a number of ‘blue chips’ in the mix.
Pure SEO’s main focus is on search engine optimisation (ranking websites higher on Google) – which Conway says is now being impacted more and more by social media.
“We do undertake social media campaigns for businesses; however, we do this in conjunction with a digital creative and branding agency in the same Parnell office – Waking Giants, led by Grant Difford,” says Conway, “who is also an ICEHOUSE Business Growth Centre ‘resident’ with an online site selling office chairs.”
Conway is sympathetic to the difficulty SME customers face when deciding to dip a toe into the online marketing pond.
“There is a huge disparity in both cost and ability. Search engine optimisation is in its infancy in New Zealand; therefore it is far easier to get good rankings – not to mention a competitive advantage – in a far shorter space of time than would be possible in the UK or America, where the majority of companies have already implemented SEO campaigns.”
He is that confident in their effectiveness that they don’t need contracts. But you get the feeling that they get so involved with their clients that the relationship and the role they play becomes more important than a piece of paper.
“We tailor each and every approach to online marketing by ensuring it meets the company’s goals. Then we help the client to decide which of the appropriate tools they would be comfortable with, bearing in mind not every company needs or can deal with a full suite.
“Too many companies push the lot at clients, and they think they’d better take everything – leading to inevitable failure. Our promise is ‘bang for buck’ in achieving your goals. And we also teach you skills like dealing with negativity through to leveraging a Facebook page.”
In a unit in the same building, Grant Difford has social media, not only in New Zealand, captivated. He has – still with days to go to revealing what his ‘hurtbox’ site will offer – triathletes, cyclists and the curious around the world agog at what he might offer on launch day at the end of the month.
‘Hurtbox’ is a term used by cyclists and triathletes to describe the point they reach when they feel they cannot continue, but push through.
“Because that term resonated and intrigued this community of triathletes and cyclists, plus their event organisers and sponsors across ten or more countries, we already have an established brand, event sponsorships, and even the prospect of a hill in a major event being named ‘Hurtbox’,” says Difford. “Not to mention a highly-interested and intrigued market, which we have consistently reached on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogging and other media, tweaking their interest and anticipation over six months. And we have yet to introduce our premium products,” adds Difford, himself a triathlete.
He has even managed to captivate the attention of champion athlete Samantha Warriner, World Cup-winning triathlete, without telling her anything more than is out on the social media space. The marketing message reads simply:
Before. During. After.
Our goal is to bridge the gap between the athlete and the onlooker.
In those darkest moments you seek security and warmth, protection and comfort.
We provide that confidence to endure just a little more.
Performance clothing range coming soon!
What is particularly interesting is that Difford reckons to have spent only ten hours or so in working the social media campaign. That’s exceptional. But the joint approach with PureSEO has been ‘textbook’ (not that the textbook has been written yet!).
It also has the advantage of being tightly-targeted.
Websites-made-easy creates websites from scratch. “But we also offer a whole chain of services as a ‘one-stop-shop’,” says Bowie Ng, social media specialist for the company.
“SME owners cannot continue to ignore social media as a marketing platform. Technology has greatly changed our culture and customers demand information and expect the answer instantaneously.
“In many developed countries, more than half the Internet users are also social media users. For a company to continue to thrive, it must continuously grow its market.
“Would you ignore a bazaar where there is a huge buzz? We are specialists in helping you establish an online presence, and then continuously build it up.
“Anyone can sign up to social media networks such as Facebook; but to become known on Facebook is another matter. Many people walk into this scenario with the misconception that managing an online extension of their company’s persona is easy and free.
“Imagine having to get 100 friends to actually say that they ‘like’ the look of your new shirt today? An online presence is no different; it still requires effort to build and maintain relationships, but social networks have the advantage of allowing you to ask more than 100 people at the same time.
“Building ‘social pull’ is essential to the success of any social media campaign,” says Ng. “You must highlight important or significant information to force a positive reaction. In this sense, this is no different from making TV commercials. Within a 20 second slot you must generate enough interest to coerce a reaction. If the 20 seconds is not interesting enough your client will simply flip channels and completely disregard your existence.
“The Internet is an ever-growing place and the mobility of the Internet is a trend to watch and tap into. Tablets and smartphones have made online access freely available and through employing specialised apps, interaction between the company and client can take place after minutes,” Ng says.
Do I hear you say, “Okay I’m inspired; I will get up a bit earlier and give this a go; but I don’t want to expose myself as being a little clueless in this area and I fear getting sucked into something I don’t really need?”
Cue Henning Dorstewitz, Google’s global communications and public affairs manager for Australasia. “Google AdWords is extremely useful for that SME owner/manager. She or he gets to decide what to spend and when to spend. You switch it the instant you feel you are about to run out of product, or if you feel you need to alter your strategy.
“And you know what every click costs through to the outlay you make per conversion to being a customer. That means you have instant knowledge of what is working, unlike say an advertisement in the local newspaper, where other influences might be involved.
“You can also limit the targeting of your offer to your own city, thereby cutting out the costs in lost time and productivity while explaining why, say, your ‘free delivery’ does not extend across the country,” says Dorstewitz, who agrees the trend is to reaching customers on smartphones and tablets.
He believes the simplicity and control that AdWords provides is captured in three words:
• Transparency – you can see what every cent is doing for your business.
• Flexibility – you can gear up or down to meet your changing needs in an instant. Competition amongst advertisers sets the rate at the time. You can choose to wait for it to drop.
• Targeted – you decide who you want to communicate with and when, excluding ‘others’.
AdWords ads are displayed along with search results when someone searches Google using one of the advertiser’s keywords. Ads appear under ‘Ads’ in the side column of a search page, and may also appear in additional positions above the free search results. That way, the AdWords user will be advertising to an audience that’s already interested in his/her business. Advertisers can also choose to display their ads on Display Network sites in the growing Google Network. And, they can choose the exact Display Network placements where they’d like their ad to appear, or they can let ‘contextual targeting’ match their keywords to content.
There’s no minimum monthly charge with AdWords. Google has on its website a manual written for the owner manager of an SME, showing all the options available (10 Popular Online Marketing Options), with lots of tips and guidance beyond ‘How to’ instructions. You are left to set your own pace.
“Overcome your inhibitions. Distinguish yourself as a first-mover; but moving at your own pace. By getting ahead of your competition, you create exciting new opportunities which, in a way, ‘start the game again’,” says Dorstewitz, who estimates that a typical online budget would build up to about ten percent of sales, while for a large company it would be around the 20 percent mark.
Kevin Kevany is an Auckland-based freelance writer.
Email [email protected]