Looking back at lessons learned last year and expected trends for this year, columnist Wesley Young cuts through the clutter and suggests ways to make your marketing strategy simpler, clearer and easier to execute.
As I scoured articles proclaiming the top trends in marketing for 2016, one thing that struck me was how many new technologies and new products were being pushed out, all in the name of bigger and better. It was a bit overwhelming.
For the local business owner, marketing has become so complicated. Audiences are fragmented over hundreds of different media outlets, apps, platforms, search engines, social media sites and business listing products.
Yet technology is constantly evolving the way media is accessed and consumed, and it remains critical for businesses to use technology to stay competitive. Large businesses have the resources to utilize every new martech innovation and reach out through every available social media channel.
For the local business, instead of being a jack of all trades, doing a few things well may be more productive. For many, simplifying their marketing strategy may make it possible to take advantage of effective new technologies in manageable, bite-sized pieces.
Here are 10 strategies that will help you simplify and focus your search and marketing practices and make them more effective.
1. Use Social Media For Engagement Only… Or Not At All
Extensive use of social media, with its free access and huge audience, can be tempting. But social media has yet to prove its worth in the search space in helping consumers find new local businesses.
Facebook is trying to change that with the launch of a new local search site, but it is still in beta mode, and the functionality of searching for local businesses on its current platform via Places is limited.
The exceptions may be Pinterest and Instagram, graphically oriented social platforms that are conducive to discovery of new retail products and food. In fact, Pinterest recently announced that it was only providing full customer support for businesses in the Retail and Consumer Goods sectors.
Otherwise, social media is effective at engaging with existing customers, keeping them updated on what’s going on, and reaching out to them with deals and offers. Engagement keeps your business top of mind and helps with retention and as a surrogate for branding.
It does take time to do it right, and time is a commodity many SMBs do not have. According to the Local Search Association (LSA) and Thrive Analytics‘ 2015 Local Marketing Outlook for Home and Auto Emergency Related services, 64 percent of SMBs said the biggest challenge with digital marketing is time and knowledge to engage in effective marketing. In fact, 60 percent of SMBs that manage their own social media reported their content was updated only every six months or more.
Outdated or inaccurate information risks losing customers and is a poor reflection on the business. In that case, it may be better not to have a social media presence.
A study by Google demonstrated there was no real correlation between media usage and influence. In other words, just because a lot of people use Facebook or click on your business site, it doesn’t mean they will buy from you. What matters is the consumer experience and matching content with what consumers want or need.
Alternately, use your social media pages like an enhanced listing and redirect any traffic towards one place that is updated, such as your website, where the consumer experience matches the experience you’d want them to have in your store.
2. Consider Mobile-Only Website Designs
Mobile has already overtaken desktop in both local search and Google search. Instead of investing in responsive sites or multiple sites for different screens, simplify and design a site just for mobile devices.
Mobile sites are still accessible on desktops — they might have more white space than a regular website, but they function fine on a desktop. Low-res graphics meant for smaller screens may appear grainy, such as this one on American Airlines’ mobile site, but uploading higher resolution images will solve that. Macy’s mobile site looks good on a desktop but would function better with vertical scrolling only.
For those who plan to use their mobile site for all screens, these are easy adjustments to make. The design will satisfy Google’s algorithm for mobile search rank and the 67 percent of consumers who demand mobile-optimized sites. And it will simplify not just your strategy, but your customers’ experience, as well.
This strategy can be extended to other marketing formats such as emails, paid search ads, display ads and listings.
3. Don’t Be A TMI Marketer
We all have friends who share TMI (too much information). Don’t make the same mistake in your marketing. I recently heard a radio ad that sounded like they hired a speed reader to read the script. The messaging was lost, and the call to action was rushed.
Consumers today are faced with information overload that clutters decision making. Here are some ideas for simplifying your customer experience that will help drive consumer action towards the path to purchase:
- Use single calls to action in ads to drive action. If your best leads are calls, use call-extension-only ads where clicks go not to a landing page but dial a phone number. Use text to describe the action that needs to be taken, such as “make a reservation,” and have the click go directly to the e-commerce reservation interface.
- Provide simple choices in enhanced listings, with the most requested actions and information only, and provide extensions to allow people to act immediately — including directions/maps, phone numbers, online ordering/reservations and hours of operation. A link to your website will help those who need more detailed information.
- Highlight the most requested information prominently above the fold on your website, so it is easy to find and easy to access.
Simplifying your customer experience simplifies and focuses your marketing, as well.
4. Funnel Everything To Your Top 20 Percent
How does simplifying your marketing world by 80 percent sound? Based on the 80/20 rule, or Pareto Principle, 80 percent of your results are driven by 20 percent of your marketing, including search visits from keywords, calls from call extensions in ads, and ultimately, sales from advertising.
Thus, it makes sense to identify and invest in that Top 20 Percent. If you do nothing else, at least test the rule and see where the cutoff for your best-performing marketing assets lies.
Many of these tips are derivative of this idea. But there’s a second lesson here. The fact that this principle isn’t cited more often is a testament to the volume of distractions we constantly face.
The repeated call to return “back to the basics” demonstrates a need to be reminded, again and again, to reset and look at what has worked in the past. It’s just become too easy to be caught up in always looking ahead.
5. Get Specific On Your Target Audience
Targeting simplifies your message and matches your marketing with those most likely to respond. But not all targeting is created equal.
Marketers today think they are doing a pretty good job at targeting. But according to Forrester,however, while 66 percent of marketers feel they are doing an excellent or very good job at personalizing advertising and marketing; only 31 percent of consumers agree.
One problem is that not enough data points are being used to drive relevant search ads to the right audience. A study by VentureBeat found that the amount of data being used for targeting varied widely among those using email marketing, a digital channel that is highly amenable to personalization.
About 50 percent of marketers used 10 or fewer profile segments for targeting, while the other half used up to 100 segments, including 10 percent that personalized on an individual basis.
While collecting more data points may seem counter to simplifying, doing this work up front will streamline the entire process to cut out unnecessary and wasteful efforts. It simplifies the choices you make in reaching that audience.
In today’s data-driven world, very detailed profiles can be created and targeted. The more you know about your ideal customer, the better you can deliver relevant search results and advertising.
That means when paid search ads are delivered, they are not driven just by keywords, but by many other factors such as geography, demographics, past search history and other profile-specific information of the user.