Whether you own an offline or online business, it is undeniable that the internet has grown to become a sprawling wealth of information for your potential customers. 10 years ago, if you wanted to find information on an up-and-coming product; a drive to the shop stocking the merchandise would have been your best option. Now, you can find it and buy it in seconds on a computer or mobile phone; the latter conveniently found in your pocket at nearly every waking hour. It also works the other way around; consumers could be looking online for information regarding a product to eventually make a local, offline transaction.
Nowadays, if you launch a snazzy TV advertisement or announce special business offers, potential customers may also be looking for this information online within minutes. If they are then not met with the information they desire, they could go somewhere else and find information advertising a competitor. Likewise, a customer could find a special promotion released online, only to be turned away in store by one of your sales representatives who have never heard of it.
Aligning your offline and online marketing efforts are crucial in this day and age, especially if you’re a start-up, when every potential customer is important. This post isn’t about proving that aligning marketing efforts is important; no-one can deny that a divide between your offline and online marketing efforts can only be confusing and detrimental to loyal customers. Its purpose is to give a guide to making sure you optimise the opportunity that other people miss out on.
I’ve compiled a list of what I believe are the top five tips for making sure that your two different sales fronts are working in coalition to drive customer purchases:
- Don’t alienate the departments. Years ago you would build a website and then leave it for years, or perhaps send an email to your design company saying a new product has been released. With the current web-savvy world, not only should the web department be aware of the promotions before they are released, but they should also play an integral part in creating and improving the promotion, ensuring that it is adapted for web-use. Once again this applies vice-versa; if the online department want to release a promotion, the shop floor and offline sales department need to know what is going on and how to approach customers who enquire about it. Integrate your teams and ensure everyone down to the person behind the counter is aware of everything.
- Make sure your search engine campaigns align with your offline marketing efforts. If you mention any particular phrase or deal in an advert, make sure you appear in search results when someone searches for them. People could drive past a billboard and only catch the tagline, or part of your brand; you need to make sure that people who are relying on a hazy memory can easily find your online presence.
I’ll back this up with a true horror story on the type of business that you could potentially lose by not doing this. The company in question was Sony Ericsson; one of the biggest phone manufacturers in the world with a strong and savvy marketing team – or so you would assume. They launched their expensive ‘Spark Something’ TV campaign in October 2009 and even went so far as to suggest users search online for the new promotion; with the line “Search ‘Spark Something’” displayed at the end of nearly every advert.
It seemed an out and out success; by the end of the month Google’s own keyword tool estimated that over 20,000 people had searched for ‘Spark Something’. But there was one problem; Sony Ericsson didn’t appear on the first page of results for the keyword ‘Spark Something’. A number of other sites which had nothing to do with phones however, did, including a travel blog and a company which specialised in web management. Sony Ericsson effectively spent huge sums of money getting customers to search for something which wasn’t even there. A monumental example of how not integrating your offline campaigns with your search campaign can come back and bite you!
- The world is bigger than your shop or office. With the internet, word travels extremely quickly and into places you simply cannot control. Things slip and Chinese whispers begin on the forums and in blogs. If unanswered this can end up with thousands of pages of content on other people’s websites; some advertising old promotions, or even writing negative reviews. Your customer service team would be working extra shifts if someone was outside your shop shouting at people not to buy from you. It would be a marketing disaster; so take this practice online and work on reputation management.
A great way to do this is by making sure you keep a tab on sites which mention your brand. Google the brand name or better yet, set up a Google email alert. This alert will email you weekly or daily with all the websites that Google has found to have mentioned your company name. You should not only deal with this online but also take the online feedback and approach the issue offline, ensuring your customers are happy on both fronts. Once again, switch this around and make sure offline customer feedback is used to improve your web marketing.
- Do you think that because you have a small local business without a website, this doesn’t apply to you? You have obviously never heard of O2O (online2offline) commerce; something that a TechCrunch editor has marked as a Trillion Dollar Opportunity. Get yourself listed in Google maps and other search engines with keywords relevant to your business. You’ll then appear when people are searching for something related to your business, within reachable distance of your business. With mobile phones and 3g laptops, people are searching for products within the area before they have even arrived. After all, if a local offline directory offered you a free listing, you would jump on it in minutes!
- Businesses always seem to push what has proved successful offline into the online arena. However, most don’t use the vast opportunity of switching this around. You have a platform to test marketing campaigns through analytics quickly and cheaply in the online world, so test what works best. This can be done simply through one of the most common and simple advertising methods online – buying banner space on a website. Design a number of creatives and use your analytics to find out which one your users react well to, and integrate it into your next billboard or newspaper advert.