The Buying Process Has Fundamentally Changed
Prospects are increasingly going online to begin their search for potential product and service providers.
Studies indicate that up to 90% of business to business (B2B) buyers are starting the buying process with online searches, and one-third of them are using web and social media sites to gather product/service information and to secure reviews or testimonials.
Consumers (B2C) are exhibiting the same type of behaviour when making important purchasing decisions, or when trying to locate local businesses. Studies show that two-thirds of consumers are initiating the buying process online.
In both B2B and B2C situations, not only are buyers using search engines to find potential providers, but they are also being influenced in their purchasing decisions by information gathered from websites and social media conversations.
This trend is not going to reverse itself; in fact, it is only going to become more pronounced. The proliferation of mobile technology and a generation of buyers who have grown up online means that the use of online mechanisms will continue to get even more influential in buying behaviour.
What This Means for Businesses
If a business is not visible when people are searching online, then in the minds of their prospects, they do not exist. This means lost sales opportunities.
If a business is not willing to engage in online conversations and offer insights and know-how about its areas of expertise, it will not be viewed as favourably as those businesses that are engaging their communities of interest online.
Therefore, businesses that do not immerse themselves in digital marketing, and take full advantage of its possibilities, will be left behind. A lack of commitment to online marketing – and making it a core element of their day-to-day operations – will leave businesses at a significant competitive disadvantage.
Online marketing has become foundational to all things marketing, and must be an integral part of any organization’s marketing mix.
So What Is Online Marketing?
There are many terms and definitions when it comes to online marketing. Our definition is simple; using appropriate, available tools to offer relevant content that creates value for communities of interest (prospects, customers, influencers, evangelists…) with the goal of driving sustainable revenue growth.
Appropriate, Available Tools
The good news is that all of these tools are available to small and mid-sized businesses. Not having access to powerful communications technologies is no longer an excuse. The key is to apply the right tools – the tools that are most appropriate for the target audience and which will achieve the desired business objectives.
With so many choices, it is easy to fall into a black hole with your online marketing activities. This is why it must be approached strategically, with a clear understanding of what activities and tools are best suited for the given situation.
Relevant Content That Creates Value
Ultimately, digital marketing is all about content. Prospects and search engines are constantly on the look-out for timely, up-to-date, compelling, valuable content. Consumers and buyers want to understand what a business is all about, what it stands for, and the manner in which it treats its customers.
It’s no longer enough to “talk to” prospects. Organizations must engage them in a mutually valuable conversation. Instead of “talk to”, businesses must “talk with”. Online success requires transparency and a commitment to engage in a two-way dialogue. Therefore, businesses must commit to becoming content-developing organizations.
Content can be developed and distributed in many formats such as text, image, video, audio, and infographics – whichever formats are most appropriate for prospects and influencers.
Communities of Interest
The internet has given consumers and buyers access to a tremendous amount of information that assists with, and influences, their purchasing decisions. As a result, when prospective buyers go online to do research, they are exposed to insights from various sources: businesses, influential organizations or individuals, news organizations, other consumers, review sites, social media.
Of course, businesses must first and foremost communicate and be credible with their target prospects. But this is no longer enough. They must also engage in “influencer marketing”; sharing information and reaching out to those entities that are influencing prospective buyers. This requires an understanding of the type of content, and the communications channels, that will position a business most favourably with the prospect’s online community.
Driving Sustainable Revenue Growth
In today’s marketplace, online marketing must be an integral part of any organization’s business development activities. Online marketing must therefore directly contribute to the key drivers of revenue growth: lead generation and conversion.
It is not just a matter of doing things for the sake of doing them or because competitors are becoming more visible online. It’s about a commitment to do the right things, day in and day out, so that digital marketing leads to tangible business results.
Online marketing is about the long-game. It’s not about quick hits or results that don’t continue to build over time. It should be approached with the single goal of driving sustainable revenue growth.