Every business owner knows that marketing is imperative to a company’s growth and success, but not every business is up to speed with how to reach target audiences and manage marketing efforts in the most efficient way possible — particularly when it comes to the use of IT.
As a startup managed IT services provider, my company has grown a lot over the past several years, and we’ve learned a tremendous amount about marketing as a result. We learned firsthand that companies that choose the right digital marketing tools for their business typically enjoy substantial cost savings and strategic business growth.
Periods of rapid growth equal periods of intense learning for businesses, especially when it comes to what effective marketing is all about. The challenge with digital marketing is that it evolves at an incredibly fast pace. It’s difficult for even top marketing professionals to keep up with all the advancements and latest trends. Research indicates that understanding and implementing technology can help your business thrive. Business owners — who already have hundreds of things to manage and take care of any given week — face a daunting challenge in not only choosing the best digital marketing tools, but also in learning how to make the most of them.
Effective digital marketing can help you reach audiences that you otherwise would never connect with and provides you with detailed analytics that show in black and white how well your marketing efforts are working. Once your customer base begins to grow, digital marketing tools are able to track your customers in a highly organized and efficient way, including their contact information, buying habits and any potential issues that may arise, which gives your sales team the ability to be proactive with customer service and product recommendations.
There are literally hundreds of digital marketing tools available today, but you’d be hard pressed to find any marketing professional or business owner who hasn’t heard of Google Analytics, Hootsuite or MailChimp. Cloud-based data platforms offer a portfolio of services that provide businesses with insights on customers, the effectiveness of ad campaigns, social media management, and various automation, targeting, data and content services. For scaling businesses, AgilOne, Salesforce, Oracle and HubSpot are just of few of the most popular platforms online today.
Regardless of which digital marketing tools you use, there are some fundamental truths that every business owner should understand. Our company’s own growth has shown me that there are certain things every successful business owner must do.
1. Align your brand with your values.
In marketing, authenticity is everything — especially in a world where your message is circulated immediately via likes and shares. Audiences have become incredibly savvy when it comes to messaging; they can sniff out fakes in a hurry, so if you’re trying to come across as something other than who or what you really are, the only person you’re fooling is yourself. Be anything other than truly authentic in your marketing and you’ll come across as insincere and lacking integrity. Know who you are and play to your strengths.
2. Be purposeful with your choices.
Marketing endeavors work best when they’re rooted in a strategy. There’s no sense paying for digital platforms that won’t create a positive return on investment or online services that don’t provide you with the support and insights you need to take your business to the next level. We chose our online marketing platforms and services very carefully, selecting only those we knew would serve our purposes. In just the same way a business can’t be all things to all customers, not all online software and services are meant for everyone.
3. Develop great content.
I can’t emphasize this enough. When it comes to online marketing, content is king. People simply won’t read what they don’t find meaningful or engaging — not when the next distraction is just a click away. You have to create content that grabs and holds attention. To do that, be sure what you’re putting out digitally adds value to your customers in some way. Don’t try to sell them anything. Instead, find meaningful ways to show your audience how you can help them.
4. Get help where you need it.
Knowing your business is not the same thing as knowing how to market your business. Effective marketing is a highly nuanced field of expertise. In a world where digital marketing advances at a breakneck pace, part of being successful is knowing what your weaknesses are and finding the right people to help you make up for what you can’t do or don’t know. We know IT, but we’re still learning about marketing strategy — we hired a communications firm that devised a marketing plan that helped us achieve our business goals.
This point might sound counterintuitive, but because of the incredible number of digital tools available today, there’s a lot of crossover when it comes to services. Subtle differences with technology can make a big difference, so don’t be afraid to try a couple of things on for size when looking for the perfect technical fit. Keep a close eye on your SEO effectiveness, conversion rates, social media analytics and website metrics — all are great indicators of how well your digital marketing efforts are performing.
If your website is getting a lot of hits but visitors leave quickly (or conversely, if your website isn’t getting many hits at all), if your social media exposure is declining or if your conversion rates are low, it’s probably time to shake your digital marketing up a bit. Just be sure you have specific targets in mind and a desired return on investment when you do.