At this point in human history, you probably already know that your business should be online. Whether you are a micro SME, or a multinational corporation, an online presence is no longer optional. But just in case you aren’t quite sure, allow me to convince you.
In 2011, the United Nations declared access to the Internet as a basic human right. More than half of the people on Earth (59%) are active Internet users and 600,000 more are getting online every day.
The global penetration rate of social media is about 51%. There are approximately 5.15 billion mobile device users worldwide. In fact, back in 2014 the number of mobile device users worldwide overtook the number of desktop users.
Ok, so we’ve safely established why you should be online – it’s where your customers are. Now, there are many options available for online promotional tools, so to select the best promotional tools for the situation, organizations need to first consider what is available and appropriate to the brand, market entry strategy and target market.
Online tools at your fingertips
With virtually unlimited access to a global market, the Internet—and the many online platforms that have emerged—has revolutionized the advertising industry. Using social media, pop-up ads on search engine websites, mass marketing email campaigns and vertically integrated multimedia powerhouses, organizations have a new arsenal of advertising tools at their disposal.
Marketers do not have to spend a lot of money on advertising and public relations campaigns. Less expensive options are available. For example, market segments can be reached by email. Online marketing with its referrals and networking opportunities is a powerful yet inexpensive way of reaching target markets.
Content is everything, everything is content
Content is the cornerstone of online marketing. It involves creating and sharing relevant and engaging information with the target audience through articles, blog posts, videos, podcasts, webinars, and other formats. The goal is to support business and marketing objectives by influencing the customer’s opinions before they are faced with a buying decision. It is important that content is offered in places where customers and potential customers spend their time, such as social media or search engines. A balance between content that is educational and content that generates leads is ideal.
With a daily onslaught of information, people often scan it quickly to find the good content and weed out the bad.
Content must provide something of value to consumers in order to keep their attention. People are no longer passive recipients of information.
They seek, consume and respond to content and promotions online and expect rapid responses to their enquiries and feedback.
For international initiatives, an organization must consider how content will be created and adapted to suit the needs and interests of the local target markets. There are various ways to approach this. For instance, corporate headquarters could create the content and share it with the local offices for adaptation, or the staff from headquarters and the local offices could collaborate on content.
SAP Content Audit Results in New Content Development
As part of their content evaluation activities, the application software company SAP conducted an audit of their content. The audit revealed that the majority of SAP’s content was tailored to late-stage buyers. Data gathered about online audience behaviour indicated that only half the content was being used—the other
50 % prompted no downloads, no page views and no digital feedback. They also found that local teams only used about 20 percent of the content that was provided by headquarters, even when it was translated into local languages.
Based on these results, SAP decided to stop creating content at the corporate office. Instead, they would help the local teams create their own content.
Your audience won’t find your content without good SEO
To achieve Search Engine Optimization (SEO), content must include keywords and phrases that the target market uses. Marketers can check Google AdWords to see the number of people using specific phrases related to their brand.
Successful marketers connect with international markets on the customer’s terms. That means using their preferred digital channels and communicating in their preferred language.
That also means translating content or creating entirely new content for a particular market. These efforts encourage market driven distribution of the organization’s content.
It may be the case that little or no budget is specifically allocated to content creation. When this occurs, organizations can use less expensive approaches, such as co-creating content with a partner organization and using the skills of existing team members. There are other creative options such as repurposing existing content or using content generated by customers—perhaps a testimonial video about their positive experience with a product or service—and posting it on the organization’s website or blog.
Pam Didner, author of Global Content Marketing, recommends creating content based on personas.
Persona development is about understanding the perspectives of buyers and describing their needs, concerns and interests to help with product and service design and marketing.
A well-crafted persona provides insights into appropriate wording, images and concepts for a particular market segment. The types of details that could be included in a persona are:
- Budget range
- Device usage
- Communication preferences
- Job description
- Recommended key words
- Pain points and challenges
- Needs and desires
Personas tend to be based on market segments. For example, Intel, a multinational corporation and technology company based in the United States, has six global personas for its consumer promotions and two for business promotions. The key goal is to identify the interests and challenges that a particular segment shares. On their website, Intel provides a sample persona for a consumer they call. The profile has a photo of John and describes him as being a 28-year-old programmer who loves tropical fish, works long hours, eats out five times per week and uses technology to simplify his life.
Content created for sales training—sometimes referred to as sales enablement content—is particularly important for business-to-business relationships as knowledge about products and services needs to be transferred to sales partners.
Websites, Blogs and Newsletters
One of the most effective and critical online promotional tools is the organization’s own website. Many marketing experts recommend an online marketing strategy that begins with optimizing the organization’s site, including search engine results. A spider, or bot, is a program which analyzes website content and then indexes it so the website can be easily found by a search engine. The higher a site is ranked by the search engine, the more likely it is to appear on the first page of search results and therefore, more likely to be visited by the person performing the search.
Organizations are encouraged to launch a newsletter, email distribution and a blog from their website and encourage viewers to sign up for them in order to gain lead information.
Newsletters, emails and blogs are inexpensive ways to keep in touch with customers and are effective as a way of maintaining their loyalty and interest in an organization’s products and services.
More about Search Engine Optimization
Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo are the primary method of navigation for Internet users. The purpose of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to make it easier for an organization’s target audience to find its website. This is achieved by making it clear to search engines where to send users to find the information they are seeking. Website masters can achieve SEO by following best practices such as those described here:
- Create unique titles for each page on website.
- Summarize each page’s content.
- Create Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) that contain short, relevant words that users recognize.
- Use a simple directory structure that helps visitors track their location on the site and go from general content to more specific content.
- Have a 404, or Not Found, error message that provides users with links back to the site’s home page and other most popular pages.
Use key words and phrases that both new and experienced visitors will use in search queries to find the organization’s site or its products and services. Longer keyword phrases often convert better, because they catch people later in the buying cycle. A person searching for “shoes” is probably browsing, and not ready to buy. On the other hand, someone searching for “best price on Air Jordan size 12” knows what they want and is ready to make a purchase.
- Create quality content that is unique and easy to read.
- Construct site so mobile users are sent to mobile version rather than the desktop version.
- Use webmaster tools to identify site performance issues