By Esraa Haidar
The online world can be tough to navigate sometimes, especially if you are trying to sell or market a product or service. There are so many websites, tools and strategies out there that promise you customers and sales contracts. Sometimes they work, but the truth is, there’s more to online marketing than simply having a Facebook page and creating some Google Ads.
Online marketing at its core is about creating great brand recognition, so that even if a customer doesn’t make a purchase in a given moment, they are well aware that your products exist. For a marketer, that is often more than enough. To build brand awareness, here are a few tips:
- Online = Offline. Just because it is online does not mean we forget the basics of marketing. We still have to know who our target audience is, where are they located ( in this case which websites are they on), what their preferences are, and so on.
- Your website is your hub. With the burst of social media sites, some startups might find it satisfactory to have a Facebook page alone. But how much information can you really put on a Facebook page? Be sure to invest in creating a useful website that clearly showcases your products and services and your portfolio of clients as you grow.
- Create your image. Make sure you have a consistent image online and the way to do that is to make sure what you have on your website is consistent with your Facebook page. And keep your information current, both on your company page and personal pages. You don’t want people searching for you online and thinking that you are still employed for your ex-employer just because you forgot to update your LinkedIn account.
- Social media should be social. In order to truly engage in online marketing you need to engage with your customers through social media sites. Ask them how the food was, or what they thought of that sweater they bought. Engaging your customers online requires time, monitoring, and incentives, so make sure you have these three components. There is no use in having 10,000 fans on Facebook if none of them are interacting on the page.
- Create your own content. People love images, interesting information and something that is not copied because they probably saw it somewhere else. Get creative, because in the online world everyone’s attention span is generally far less than in the real world.
- Monitor. Keep your eyes open because you don’t know when someone might decide to say something about your product or service and you’ll need to make sure you are there to respond, whether it’s negative or positive. People like to feel pampered, especially online, so if someone says something nice, about your restaurant for instance, you should at least say thank you. Monitoring also helps you know how successful your campaigns were, so that you can improve them next time.
- Experiment. Marketing is not a quick fix or one-size-fits-all solution. Even if Facebook Ads gave your competitors great results, they might not work for you, so make sure you have researched the marketing tools you are going to use and don’t spend all of your marketing budget in one place at once. What might work today might change tomorrow since the pace of the online world is so fast. Your customers might be all on Facebook today but suddenly decide to have Google + accounts. You want to be ready for this.
- Stay up to date. Online marketing requires that you know what is going on not only in your industry but in other industries as well, such as what the hottest websites are, whether there is a new online phonebook directory in which you should register, or a new social media platform or service you should sign up for.
Generally, online marketing is similar to greeting your customer when they enter your store. You want to give a pleasant smile and introduce yourself, but you do not want to bombard them with questions and follow them around; you want to leave a good impression even if they don’t make a purchase. Marketing has transformed over the years and we as entrepreneurs need to remember that with this online revolution we can no longer rely on brochures and billboards. Word of mouth has become the “ word of the web,” and customers are creating our marketing strategies without us realizing it. We must learn to adapt and accept the fact that online marketing is going to be a new phrase on our yearly budgets.
Esraa currently owns and manages Consult-E Marketing, which provides companies with innovative marketing solutions throughout Lebanon. She is passionate about making change in people’s lives, and established Consult-E because she wanted to help small companies succeed. Esraa is part of various entrepreneurial organizations in Lebanon, including Bader, the MIT Enterprise Forum, and Cisco Entrepreneur Institute in Lebanon. She was also a finalist in the MIT Arab Business Plan Competition in 2010, and recently received mentorship from the Mowgli Foundation.