I feel your frustrations. You're spending thousands of dollars to get to the top of Google. Then they go and change their algorithm, or some other businesses has found a trick to get ahead of you.
Someone tells you, get onto Facebook. There are a billion people there. So you do that and you spend months posting updates, only to discover that Facebook doesn't actually share your posts with anyone (what!? I have to pay for people to see me?). And all that time and effort has resulted in everyone liking you, but not a lot of business coming your way.
Then someone says. Twitter is the go, or LinkedIn is it, or Pinterest is the way to engage customers now. You get caught up in the latest 'fad', fumble around experimenting with each new channel, put in the effort only to discover that your clients weren't actually here in the first place, or they've moved onto the next big thing. You get to a point where you ask yourself, is it all worth it?!
Those are my thoughts. I mean, I understand and sparodically use all these tools, but the question I ask myself is, why as a business do we continually change our focus. We get led in one direction, then have to change direction, and to be frank, all of this is really a lot of effort. And for how much return?
Couldn't all this effort and energy be put into really building up our business, in a more productive way? Shouldn't every unit of effort we put into our business, result in a unit of result / return?
It started me thinking. Is there a different way? Amidst the hype, confusion, and ever changing technological landscape, it's easy to forget the fundamentals. What would our business marketing look like if we didn't follow the crowd?
Step 1. Create a memorable brand name
Don’t create a generic business or product name using a common term so you can rank in Google for that keyword. Let's use one that is different, and recallable. So that if you say it once, people will remember it.
Step 2. Create a really engaging website that tells stories
People connect with people. And people understand things that matter to them. Whatever it is you do, communicate as if you were speaking one to one with them, and do so in a way that makes them stay on your website, and inspires them to come back.
One of the really effective ways of doing this, is to write regular updates using a blog. No, not a blog on the WordPress or Blogger websites that is a separate entity to your website. A blog that sits on your own website. Make your website the centre of your communication strategy. You don't need to post updates on external social media portals to tell your story.
Step 3. Tell all your friends and family
You don't need Facebook to connect to all your contacts. Do you still own an old fashioned address book? Open it up and create a mailing list. Then send an email to your mail list asking them to take a look at your website. And ask them to pass on your details to anyone who might be interested in what you do.
Step 4. Create a mailing list system
Create a mailing list system that integrates with your website. By this I mean, next to each blog add a 'get updates by email' subscription box. And allow people to volunteer for updates for those that get you and want to support you. And allow people to unsubscribe, so you don't put anyone offside.
Step 5. Network to expand your sphere of contact
You don't need LinkedIn or Twitter to network. In fact they can be so noisy these days, that it's hard to make "real" connections. For professionals, there's always networking drinks or events where you can pick up business cards. Every time I go to a networking event I come back with at least 10 business cards.
If you're a local corner store, you can go old school. Create a leaflet with your web address and a compelling message, and hand it out in person to all the other stores, and put it on the windscreens of the cars that park in your street.
If you're a retailer with a broader scope. Find out where online your target market is getting together and chatting about stuff that matters to them. Then join the conversation and softly, advise of your solution when it's appropriate, and let customers become your advocates. There are many more options, when you think outside the box.
So how is all this going to help me?
Imagine not needing to be reliant on Google or Facebook to get you in front of customers.
- You control your distribution channel. You're not relying on a 3rd party to get your message out. If Google or Facebook change their policy or start charging to get you to the top of a list, it doesn't matter, because you don't need them.
- You control the message. Because you are using your own website and email systems to post updates, you create an interface where your audience are 100% focussed on your message, completely free of any distractions from competing adverts or 'promoted feeds' that take your visitors away from your page.
- You control the timing of your message. You're not waiting on search traffic to see your message. You certainly don't need to wait for your customers to log into social media channels to get your message in front of them.
- You control the frequency of the message. Regularly updating your mailing list means you are staying front of mind. People will remember your name and come directly to your website (brand) instead of searching in Google for generic terms.
- You control your suspect/lead/customer database. You're not putting your customer list in the hands of Facebook or LinkedIn - who you then have to pay so you can communicate updates to the lists you put in the effort to create.
- You control where you invest your time and energy. Which of course you'll spend on brand building and creating more value for your customers. Continually delighting and surprising them. Which in turn will generate word of mouth - that will organically help expand your reach (more web traffic and subscribers).
- It's completely open source - there's no licencing cost. It's the way the internet was meant to be, free and open and democratic, not controlled by big advertising companies who can charge you what they like.
True. It's never black or white. Certain marketing channels need to be used when you really need to make an impact quickly.
But what I'm trying to say is, if you break it down, there are options to succeed online outside of Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. This is good for all of us to know, as these companies start to focus on revenue, capitalise on their dominance and make things more challenging for us (unless we pay).
Let's not lose sight of the fundamentals and stay true to what makes the most sense for our business, before deciding on a course of action that might really not be worth all the fuss. This does take confidence. Ignoring all those social media and digital marketing experts who tell us there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Assess what's best for yourself. Just don't fall victim to the FoMO ('Fear Of Missing Out').
Tim Vandergriend is a Digital Strategist at Redalto Communications, which providing a number of different services including web design, web app development, online marketing. For more information, click here to contact Tim.