Integrated Social Marketing

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You Know You Should. You Just Don't Know How.

Business owners should keep up with the digital age or risk extinction.

It’s a familiar pattern: over a couple of decades something completely changes business in America. Transportation moved goods and money outside a central area first by horse and wagon, then by rail, highway and air. Communication, first by telegraph, moved both information and money over vast distances in a short time. The telephone shifted business inside the home allowing consumers direct communication with businesses and to receive goods. At each juncture, businesses that didn’t adapt became extinct.

The Internet age is different. Sometimes referred to as “the great equalizer,” the Internet makes marketing tools and information previously available only to well-capitalized businesses available to small businesses and startups.

Inbound marketing has done the same thing, allowing small businesses with vision the ability to compete on many fields with the big guys. Also referred to as permission marketing or relationship marketing, inbound marketing attracts customers by offering useful information or content.

You Know You Should. You Just Don’t Know How.

Business owners should keep up with the digital age or risk extinction.

It’s a familiar pattern: over a couple of decades something completely changes business in America. Transportation moved goods and money outside a central area first by horse and wagon, then by rail, highway and air. Communication, first by telegraph, moved both information and money over vast distances in a short time. The telephone shifted business inside the home allowing consumers direct communication with businesses and to receive goods. At each juncture, businesses that didn’t adapt became extinct.

The Internet age is different. Sometimes referred to as “the great equalizer,” the Internet makes marketing tools and information previously available only to well-capitalized businesses available to small businesses and startups.

Inbound marketing has done the same thing, allowing small businesses with vision the ability to compete on many fields with the big guys. Also referred to as permission marketing or relationship marketing, inbound marketing attracts customers by offering useful information or content. Compare this to traditional, or push marketing, which uses paid, sometimes loud and obnoxious advertisements, or pushy sales people to force customer awareness.

Consider our college town where enrollment at Texas A&M University topped 50,000 in the fall of 2012: each student comes equipped with a smartphone and computer. These kids, and many adults, don’t find their next meal or product through the daily newspaper or (gasp) the yellow section of the telephone book. Static websites have been supplanted by Facebook pages, Foursquare check-ins, and reviews on Yelp!

For savvy business owners, this is a good thing. Now, a brand or business with little capital can reach local, regional, national and international audiences through several inexpensive platforms, while using real-time analytics to gain insight from their customers through comments, interests and interaction. Businesses can get the information they need, directly from their customers, to give those customers the products and services they want.

Making things even more complicated, today’s consumer not only uses the Internet as the primary means of “pre-shopping” at a business, but also will post reviews of products and service, in real time, for the world to see … forever.

A mere five-minute wait in your queue allows a bored customer to tell the world where they are, show the world a photo of your long line, and post a few choice words about your customer service or product. Not only must you be aware this is happening, you also must take action to correct the problem, mitigate the damage and pacify the upset customer. No retraction covers the entire Internet.

The secret of bringing both customers and good karma to your business is to have a strategic plan, an open mind, and a big toolbox that encompasses both inbound and push marketing, with an eye always looking to see “what’s next?”

If that sounds daunting, realize that as a business, you’re not alone in trying to develop a plan that harnesses the power of new media. Companies that excel in helping businesses develop an integrated marketing plan that includes social media use a systematic process, first learning a company’s management, products, services, customers and employees. What is your business calendar? Your vision … your fears? Your strength … your weakness?

This information is tested against several inbound and push marketing platforms to determine where your company will find leverage. Leverage is what makes magic happen, like when 2+2 suddenly equals five – or seven, or fifteen – Likes, Shares, ReTweets or +1s.

With a little help, any business can build and populate appropriate platforms and train staff to maintain, monitor and learn from daily conversations with customers. It’s important to understand that although a firm that specializes in developing integrated social marketing plans will build and then monitor and maintain your brand management or marketing program for a period of time, the best results come when you, as a business, have learned to maintain this internally.

Marketing, especially on the Internet, is a moving target. What works today will be passé in two years. A sustainable business is progressive, open-minded and listens to both customers and to the business environment. A smart, sustainable business uses every tool in the toolbox – including social and new media – and finds the right technology company to help build and adapt platforms while keeping an eye out for “what’s next.”

All the other businesses risk extinction. – by Sam White

Sam White is managing director for New Technology Working Group, an integrated marketing consulting company in B/CS. Respond to Sam at samwhite@gmail.com.