I recently sat in on a 30 minute seminar targeted at an audience of SMEs entitled “On-line Marketing”. Although I have to acknowledge that that is a tough brief, delivering such a broad subject in just half an hour, the presentation was somewhat underwhelming! The presenter ticked the usual boxes:
- Engage your audience
- Get found on Google (aka SEO)
- etc. etc.
Undoubtedly all good stuff, but the one thing that I wrote in my notes in the whole seminar was:
Internet Marketing for SMEs: Step 1 – Forget about the Internet!
Before I hear shouts of “Luddite!” drowned out only by the deafening sound of clicking as people look for something else to read, please bear with me…
The issue I have is that although the internet offers a whole range of channels for communicating your marketing message and engaging with your market, they are just that, channels.
They give you the How but not the What, Who, Why , Where or When.
You can only use these channels effectively once you have answered a few fundamental marketing questions:
- What are my business/marketing objectives
- Who is my target market
- Why would they buy from me
- Where can I find them
- When should I communicate them
By leaping straight for the web browser before answering these questions, there is a real danger that you will just chase after the NBIT (Next Big Internet Thing) or be sold the next “magic wand”, which are unlikely to deliver any sustained marketing benefits. Let’s illustrate the point by looking at 2 NBITs: Search Engine Optimisation and Facebook marketing….
Search Engine Optimisation
Don’t get me wrong, I believe Google (as the big-boy of SEO) is a key to effective web presence, and making sure that your site ranks well on search engines is important. Not least that if someone types your company name into Google, they can find you! However, although a high ranking for a relevant key phrase may make you feel good, a page 1 listing well for some apparently relevant phrase is no guarantee of effective marketing communication – check out this post on an SEO experiment we conducted recently, and whatever anyone tells you about organic/natural search ranking they are not free. Whether you are spending your time doing your own SEO or your money with one of the many SEO companies, search engine marketing costs, and needs to deliver tangible business marketing results. Furthermore, if you have answers to the 5 questions posed above, you may well find that there are other, more appropriate channels through which you can engage with key segments of your target market in a controllable and cost-effective way. Search Engine Optimisation should not be ignored but rather considered amongst a ‘toolbox’ of communication options and (where appropriate) used as one element of a structured marketing communications plan. Despite what some agencies may tell you, SEO is not a marketing magic wand, nor your path to the pot of gold at the end of the marketing rainbow!
Facebook is a great marketing tool and there is no arguing that when used appropriately (check this post – Is Facebook right for your business?) it is a very powerful communications medium. My gripe is with the idea that a facebook page is regularly touted as a ‘must-have‘ element of any online marketing plan. Experience tells me that Facebook is primarily used by individuals in a social context. If you communicate with your target market in this context then Facebook is definitely worth looking at. If, however, your target market is B2B and you are communicating with people with their professional/work hat on, then I would argue that Facebook is at best irrelevant, and at worst is a distraction that draws resources away from other more fruitful marketing activities. BSA Marketing primarily works in SME business to business markets, and because of this, there is no doubt that my view is biased. We did have a Facebook presence for a short while but it didn’t take us long to make the decision to pull it – read more here A recent experience demonstrates my point perfectly. While reviewing a number of North West companies in B2B markets, I started looking at links to the companies’ Twitter and Facebook pages. Looking at these pages, some numbers tell a story:
Company 1 Manufacturing
Company 2 Manufacturing
Company 3 B2B Marketing
These are 3 examples that illustrate a common position. I am sure that if any of these companies had spent time asking the question “who is my target market, and where can I interact with them?”, they would quickly have established that Facebook was not an appropriate channel; The very reason why BSA Marketing does not have a Facebook page.
The internet has had a huge impact on SME marketing. It offers affordable, sustainable marketing communication opportunities to SME businesses in ways that were previously only accessible to big companies with big budgets. Nevertheless, the marketing fundamentals haven’t changed. Addressing some core marketing questions before starting to click will really pay dividends.