A Publication of WTVP

Many businesses overlook the essentials of establishing the solid foundation of an integrated online marketing strategy.

In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing digital marketing environment, successfully positioning your business online can be very confusing and complex. Even for those of us who work in the interactive advertising space, there appears to be an unlimited number of website choices and types of advertising available, with new options seemingly developing every day. Effectively marketing your business online is dependent on making the correct choices and investing your time (and money) wisely.

It has been our experience that many businesses overlook the essentials of establishing the solid foundation of an integrated online marketing strategy. These critical first steps will optimize your business’ visibility where potential customers are looking, and are oftentimes free or very inexpensive. Regardless of the size of your business or the number of locations from which you sell your products, the majority of your sales are likely to consumers who live or work within 15 to 20 miles of your locations.

Given this premise that the majority of business transactions are initiated near your locations, it becomes fundamental that your organization should optimize its visibility to any local shopper. The online local marketplace is influenced primarily by what has become known in marketing circles as So-Lo-Mo, which stands for social, local and mobile.

Start With Local
While each of the So-Lo-Mo segments is critical for your business to address, the first step should be local. This strategy primarily deals with managing your organic local address and phone number listings, which appear across hundreds (if not thousands) of websites, including search engines, directory sites and navigational sites. The importance of a properly managed local strategy is growing every day—Google states that one out of every five searches performed is with local intent.

As you most likely have recognized, organic listings are becoming increasingly important as search engines and directories are integrating listings into their results pages as much as possible. Customers now expect that all local information is readily available, accurate and engaging when they’re deciding where to make a purchase.

Managing your online information without the help of an expert can be very complex, as data aggregators constantly post information that is bought and sold several times. The best option, especially for businesses with several locations, is to use technology-driven solutions with an expert who has direct, white-label relationships with search engines and other online publishers. Whether you hire outside resources or choose to manage them internally, the goal is for your business listings to contain complete and compelling information, so you can maximize your exposure to individuals searching for your products and services.

Then Go Mobile
Once the fundamentals of local are in place, businesses should address the massive opportunity that mobile marketing offers, as fueled by the rapid adoption of smartphones over the past few years. Nine out of 10 U.S. adults now carry a mobile-web-capable device, and 93 percent of them are now accessing location-based information to find products and services around them. The obstacles that have previously held mobile advertising back, such as poor browser standardization and very little location-based information, have finally been overcome. We are seeing tremendous return compared to other advertising mediums for our early-adopting clients, even though the available inventory is not as large as desktop mediums.

Mobile has experienced phenomenal success because of the psychology of mobile users. These potential customers want to make buying decisions immediately. They are very open to suggestion from advertisements and are looking for instantaneous results based on their location. Properly-designed mobile marketing solutions help businesses offer immediate communication, making them as visible as possible to this new market of mobile searchers. Your business’ integrated online marketing strategy should address how mobile advertising can drive additional customers and sales.

Social at Last
Moving on to social, U.S. Internet users spend an average three times more minutes on blogs and social networks than on email, according to Nielsen. Your strategy should identify where your customers are, how to best connect with them, the goals and metrics you’ll use to measure success, and how to connect this strategy with your overall business and marketing objectives.

Most organizations view social primarily as developing Facebook and Twitter strategies. While critical, social encompasses much more, including location-based sites like FourSquare, Yelp and others. Keeping track of comments and reviews with reputation monitoring services is important, as every business needs to pay attention to what their customers are saying about them.

Reputation management not only listens to your customers, but also engages with those customers who are posting reviews about your business, allowing you to participate in two-way conversations when users are evaluating their buying options. Properly done, reputation management can highlight positive reviews and minimize negative commentary publicly posted about your business.

Regardless of your line of business, properly developing and implementing a sound, integrated online strategy is critical to your ongoing success. Once the online marketing segments of the So-Lo-Mo approach are established, your business can complement these segments with highly-targeted paid interactive advertising, including search engine marketing, paid display advertising or one of many other performance-based options. No matter which paid advertising options you choose, all of them will be more effective if you take care of the fundamentals first. iBi

Gary Richmond is interactive sales director, and Steve Jurken is interactive product director at Marquette Group.