Online channels: an effective way to grow your business?

By Daniel Taylor

These days, it seems like the marketplace is overflowing with digital and social media marketers, each one outdoing the next in telling you how online channels are going to transform your business. Companies dutifully start blogs, business pages, Twitter accounts even – without necessarily thinking of how this is going to translate into the bottom line. Amidst all the digital clamour, we get back to basics and ask whether online is truly an effective way for you to grow your business.

Daniel Taylor

The Reach Conundrum

The internet gives us access to more people. And more people means more customers, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t always that simple. The online world is seemingly infinite, a mass of competing noise and information. How, then, does a company hope to be noticed? Does the internet help you, or does it make it that much harder to get through to the target group you are looking to reach?

Undoubtedly, going online is getting you more reach – but taking that as a sign that more is necessarily better is a dangerous assumption to make. If I have a million followers and no sales, how effective am I? As ever, it is about basic principles; putting yourself in front of the right people, not the most. Greater reach is meaningful only if you know how to convert these numbers into actual sales.

The irony of the online space is that it widens your potential customer base while making those target customers that much harder to pin down. When all is said and done, any successful online presence will keep a careful eye on the metrics that matter – the business coming in as a direct result – without being seduced by the vanity markers of the social media frenzy.

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Talking Money

Another often cited benefit of online channels is that they are a cheap (or even free) way to attract new leads. While I think this can indeed be harnessed to great advantage, again, it is not without qualification. The internet is not something you can use to simply generate a mass of new leads overnight; indeed, with organic reach declining across social media, the best chance now lies in investing the time in slow-burn techniques such as search engine optimization and content marketing – long-term strategies that can yield great results but take concerted time and effort over significant periods of time.

In other words, while online channels may indeed be a cheaper source of leads on the face of it, businesses must accept that both the time investment and timescales involved are significant – at least if companies want to see any meaningful results. Again, it is a tradeoff of pros and cons, and it is ultimately up to each business to decide for itself whether the outcomes merit the effort.

Online Best Practice

 Now that we have had the opportunity to discuss a few of the pros and cons of the online model, it is, I think, worth taking a moment to consider some best practices that businesses might like to consider if they do choose to work on building their online presence. Here at Burton, Van Iersel & Whitney, our communications expertise reaches across both traditional and digital platforms – with that said, allow me to share with you a few of the most important things we have learnt along the way!

Make it personal

 In my view, harnessing social media, blogs and other online channels effectively means applying face-to-face etiquette to your marketing strategy. What does this mean in tangible terms? It means that the online ‘face’ of your brand should come across as precisely that: a face-to-face interaction with another person. The most effective strategies are those which build a familiarity with the client and show a real understanding of the specific audience.

 Modern consumers are not going to be enticed by traditional advertising methods that operate on a ‘buy this because it’s great’ principle. Instead, companies online need to be demonstrating that they understand their target audience, know their pain points, and genuinely want to help. Life these days is fast-moving, and consumers are more fickle and impatient than ever before. In this rapidly evolving environment, success belongs to those who can build a real lasting relationship with their customers – one of the reasons why blogging and content marketing can be such an effective long-term strategy.

Address your audience

 If you fail to engage your target audience, you lose the interest of potential customers. This is why it is important to prioritize consumer engagement over direct sales pitches. In today’s online space, anything that sounds like it’s directly selling or sales-pitchy has already failed before you even started.

 So how do you engage a consumer? You write engaging posts or share interesting facts or articles that relate to your brand or product. If you have a company that sells DIY products, for instance, a DIY blog that provides useful tips on home projects is a much better use of your online platform than simply sharing sale items every week. More than anything, it’s about understanding your customers, crafting a targeted message, and appreciating the power of strategic communication – which is something that a lot of people underestimate.

On that note, I do hope you’ve enjoyed this brief introduction to online marketing channels – if you enjoyed this read, please let us know your thoughts in the comments below and, of course, get in touch if you’d like to know more about how we can help you in your business.

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