As 2009 draws to a close, we must accept that the interactive market has changed. The challenges of online marketing have evolved in many and unpredictable ways over the past decade. SOS (same old stuff) marketing no longer cuts it. Here are five important interactive marketing realities that require adjustments to ensure that your marketing remains relevant and effective:
- Online marketplace has matured. This is reflected in the end of e-commerce’s double digit revenue growth. According to eMarketer, U.S. retail e-commerce revenue was $132.3 billion in 2008, an increase of 4.4 percent over 2007. It is forecasted to be $131.4 billion in 2009, a 0.6 percent decline and it is projected to be $141.3 billion in 2010, a 7.5 percent increase. This means that future growth must come largely at the expense of competitors or other distribution channels.
- Online presence is required regardless of where business is transacted. Consumers gather information online first. This presence isn’t limited to a Web site. Depending on your target audiences, it may also encompass a blog, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, or one of many other online destinations.
- Marketing is a multistep process.This is the case for most purchases. As a result, marketers must think more at each step of the purchase process. This requires more easily accessible product information to help consumers understand how to fulfill their needs and provide post-sales support.
- Consumer trust is low. Consumers continue to talk and listen to their friends, colleagues, and other consumers. Less than one in 10 completely trusts advertising, based on Nielsen’s July 2009 Global Online Consumer Survey. By contrast, roughly one in three consumers completely trusts recommendations from people they know.
- Prices continue to erode. This is due to increased disintermediation and transparency between customers and sellers, resulting in smaller margins. Further, 70 percent of customers want excellent service and 65 percent want a trusting relationship, according to Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and “The CMO Survey” from February 2009. As a result, customers are only willing to pay for products and services where they perceive either excellent value or important product differentiators, regardless of distribution channel.
Seven Point Checklist to Get Your Marketing Back on Track
It’s critical to adapt today’s marketing to meet current market dynamics, but as Fleetwood Mac sang, “don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.” To get your marketing on track for the future, here are seven points:
- Listen to the conversation. Through the use of online social media tools, consumers are more willing and able to share their views about your products, brands, and organization. Use multiple forums to hear what’s being said about you and your competitors and why. Remember the conversation is multidirectional. Use Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and other relevant social media forums to listen to your target audience. Also, don’t forget to collect feedback from your own sales and customer service staff.
- Provide content related to your offering that consumers and prospects find useful. Use your Web site, blog, Twitter, and other vehicles to distribute information. Have a plan for distributing new, relevant content on a regular basis. Think like a media entity editor whose goal is attracting prospects when and where they’re focused on needs related to your offering.
- Deliver continuous communications via a variety of distribution channels. This includes e-mail, social media, and mobile. Since your goal should be relationship building and engagement, move away from constant promotional blasts. Increase your informative content to promotion ratio. Think in terms of information rich newsletters and behaviorally triggered messages. Don’t forget to include social sharing tools in your communications to encourage sharing and to extend your reach.
- Use events to connect with prospects and consumers to extend your relationships. These events can be live or digitally delivered. Consider the use of social media tools like Meetup, video, and Webinars. Tap these events to provide more education about your offering, engage new prospects, and test new products. Remember that these tools provide the means to share content and comments after the event.
- Continually test different aspects of your marketing. This includes new tools. Since the market is continually evolving, you must constantly look for new ways to engage prospects and close sales. Remember to track performance to determine which promotions and tools deliver the better results.
- Use offline marketing to support your online efforts. This includes offline advertising, retail outlets, live events, and your product packaging. Consider how you can use each to extend and enhance your online efforts.
- Measure the results of your marketing efforts. This will help determine which programs are most effective in expanding your audience and closing sales. At a minimum, track traffic or participants, the number of prospects and customers, response and conversion rates, and revenues, costs, and profitability.
In the dynamic interactive marketplace, keep yourself in the know and continually adapt your marketing to ever-changing trends. Continually assess your marketing to determine whether it’s cost effective, attracting the right audience, and effective at driving sales. Use metrics to stay on track and tweak your marketing to meet evolving needs.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and productive 2010.