Online marketing is fast becoming the de facto method to promote your small business. In just a few short years it has grown into a multi-billion pound business, and a recent report by Forrester predicted that online advertising will account for over a third of all advertising spending by 2016.
The tracking of impressions, clicks and conversions means the uncertainties of above-the-line advertising are a thing of the past, and those on a budget can now make sure they get maximum bang for their buck. However, as with all things online, there is a constant innovation arms race, and those who break new ground with their advertising will reap the rewards. So how can you make your online marketing stand out from the crowd?
Integrating your advertising and social networking activity is a great way to promote your business, and done right can create a great buzz online.
A great example of social marketing done right is Skittles, who have created a series of Facebook games (the most popular of which allowed users to bury a member of their staff in Skittles) available to anyone who “Likes” their Facebook page. Through the popularity of their games Skittles have amassed one of the greatest followings on Facebook, currently around 21.3 million fans.
Where traditional online marketing was about collecting a huge database of email addresses, modern, social marketing is all about encouraging people to interact with your brand through a Like on Facebook or a Follow on Twitter - both of which can be even more valuable if used correctly.
A fantastic way to draw a crowd online is to create something beautiful, technically complex or funny enough that people are inclined to share it. Creating a campaign or product with “virality” (i.e. the potential to spread organically through users sharing it) has been the name of the online marketing game in the last few years.
A campaign going truly viral is the marketing equivalent of winning the lottery, and something most of us can only dream of - but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a little of that magic by playing to your strengths and creating something that makes people sit up and pay attention.
Good examples of marketing with “virality” include the Cadbury’s drumming gorilla, Google’s annual developer conference website (which is redesigned to embrace current web trends every year) and the “Old Spice Guy” commercials, which turned men’s deodorant advertising on its head by appealing to women.
Organic virality is one thing, but there’s no reason you can’t help it along. Many businesses both off and online offer referral schemes to reward customers who introduce their friends or colleagues - by offering a generous referral scheme you can create your own army of salespeople who will work for free!
To help things along, you can even arm your affiliates with banner advertisements, business cards, referral links and other sales material. For maximum effect combine your referral scheme with your social marketing - give your customers the option to easily share referral links on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
Keep it fresh
The fast pace of online marketing can work wonders for those on the bleeding edge, but can also make those bringing up the rear look impossibly out of date in a relatively short period of time. Always be ready to embrace new social, mobile, and locational trends to keep your marketing fresh and appealing.
The trouble here is knowing when it’s time for a refresh. The easiest way to do this is to keep an eye on your contemporaries. If a competitor has an innovative new campaign, look at the technology behind it and think about how you can use it to innovate.
Target, don’t stalk
Tracking technologies have enabled online marketers to keep tabs on potential customers’ online activities. Everybody knows this happens - and even signs terms & conditions allowing it to - but nobody likes having it shoved in their face.
By all means use tracking technologies to monitor behaviour, but keep and targeted advertising low-key and un-intrusive. Nobody likes to feel like they’re being watched, and if your banner ads follow a potential customer around the web like a bad smell you run the risk of alienating rather than engaging.
As with all technologies the key to cookies and targeted advertising is to use it well, and in many cases that can mean taking your foot off the accelerator and putting yourself in your customers’ shoes.
Online marketing is a constantly-evolving beast, and has seen more innovation in the last five years than print advertising saw in the last fifty. By staying at the forefront of online marketing you can get maximum exposure for your business, and all the financial rewards that come accompany it