It’s clear that the buying process is fundamentally changing. Both business buyers (B2B) and consumers (B2C) are increasingly using online means to assist in the buying process; using search engines to find potential providers, doing research on websites, subscribing to e-newsletters, engaging in social media conversations, etc.
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 the use of online mechanisms will continue to get even more influential in buying behavior.
How Does that Impact Your Business?
If a business does not take advantage of online methods to offer insights about its areas of expertise and points of differentiation, it will not be viewed as favourably as those businesses that are engaging their communities of interest online.
Online marketing has become foundational to all things marketing, and must be an important part of any organization’s marketing activities.
Businesses that do not immerse themselves in online marketing, and take full advantage of its possibilities, will be left behind. A lack of commitment to online marketing – making it a core element of their day-to-day operations – will leave businesses at a significant competitive disadvantage.
Online Marketing Tools
There’s no shortage of tools for online marketing, as an example:
- Websites that are optimized for search and conversion
- Email/database marketing using opt-in lists or lists generated by third-party providers
- Social media
- Online advertising
- Multi-media content such as videos and infographics
If you are not making effective use of online tools and tactics on a day to day basis, your business development process is under-leveraged and you are likely leaving money on the table. The key is to apply the right tools – those that are most appropriate for the target audience and that will drive the desired business results.
Marketing 101 Principles Are Still Essential
Even though online marketing provides a new set of tools and mechanisms to drive revenue growth, it does not mean that Marketing 101 principles should be abandoned. In fact, these principles are as important as ever for long-term success.
- A well thought-out, strategic marketing plan is still critical for ensuring online marketing activities are aligned with business objectives and strategies.
- Online marketing strategies must be rooted in an organization’s growth targets and must clearly contribute to predictable and sustainable revenue growth.
- A clear understanding of an organization’s target segment(s), and the decision making process for each of the target segments is essential.
- Developing/having access to a database of target prospects that can be nurtured over time.
- Organizations must be very aware of what competitors are doing and saying online. Competitive analysis is an imperative for online success.
- An organization must know exactly what distinguishes it from competitive offerings, and must have a clearly differentiated positioning strategy that sets the tone for its online communications.
- A comprehensive communications strategy that seamlessly integrates online and offline activities is a must.
- Online communications cannot be executed in an ad-hoc, sporadic manner. Consistency and frequency still matter.
- Online marketing metrics must be directly linked to growth objectives.
The Bottom Line
The way that your prospects buy is changing. They are searching for and evaluating their options using information they find and receive online. This allows them to make more informed decisions and makes the buying process more efficient.
This presents an opportunity for businesses that commit to making online marketing an integral part of their business development process. However, like anything in business, it requires sound planning and hard work. It may seem daunting, but the results are worth it.
The first step on the online marketing journey is to acknowledge it is critical to your long-term success. Once you make the commitment, take advantage of the readily available tools and technologies to optimize your business development efforts.
Just don’t ignore it – the risk of doing nothing is too high!