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Beacon Technologies’ close relationship with Google often grants us access to many of their education initiatives like the live Google AgencyLand webinars which are open to qualified Adwords companies and their clients. We recently attended one of these team trainings entitled “Five Rules of Consumer Engagement,” taught by Google’s Jim Lecinski and inspired by research conducted amongst Google customers in the Fortune 100. Lecinski asked the group an essential question to set the stage and because his answer will help many of Beacon’s customers, I feel it’s worth sharing. Q: How do you know when your company is ready to tackle the next phase of online engagement?
If you’re like most marketing directors, you’re feeling immense pressure to experiment with whatever hot social media tool everyone is talking about these days whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, or bebo. And although it’s true your brand shouldn’t fall victim to a trend; before you encourage customers to form an online community geared towards self-expression and entertainment, be sure you’ve mastered the first two phases – Digital Brochureware and Online Sales Channel.
In the mid-90s, companies mostly used their website as a place where potential customers could get more information, almost like an online brochure that made it easier for visitors to know what you have and what you do without having to hunt down a sales representative.
The next iteration of the web happened when companies started enabling their sites with eCommerce functionality, which was the next logical step; they now see what you have, let them buy something from you. A handful of brands led the way like Amazon and eBay and revolutionized online shopping; while others cling to their brick-and-mortar only strategy and have yet to develop an online sales channel. Perhaps their hesitation is due to regulatory reasons, but often it’s the hefty price tag of the necessary software to do it right that many shy away from, which is why Beacon recommends using BeCommerce.NET, our branded version of the AspDotNetStorefront for an eCommerce solution. Completely search engine friendly, BeCommerce.NET provides all the latest features, bells and whistles and integrates nicely with third party software like accounting systems, inventory control systems and in-site search. Depending on the cost of your products and/or services just a few online sales can justify your investment into this type of long term technology.
Lecinski recommends that companies only enter the third phase with social media sites, an initiative he dubbed “Creating a Community for Self-expression and Entertainment,” after they’ve focused on their financial goals first by offering the ease of doing business on the Web. Because no matter how exciting it is to have diverse groups of people engage with your brand and insert it into their daily fodder, you want and/or need to sell something, right?
According to a recent Luxury Vehicle study conducted by Google, customer conversion on the Web was 23 percent more likely if the dealer targeted clientele with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, i.e. paid placement on search but also utilized the power of boosting organic rankings. I have yet to hear of a Twitter campaign that resulted in that type of sales increase, although any online marketing tactic from email blasts to links into your site from Facebook can be tracked if your site is properly configured for Google Analytics. The lesson here is not to be blinded by the hype so that you replace your paid online advertising budget in your marketing plan with monies for social media efforts. Just have all your “fishing lures” working together and then use Google Analytics to gauge your plan’s total effectiveness based on online conversions, sales and in the case of some of our SEM clients, more foot traffic into stores.
And once you start thinking across sales channels, i.e. using the Web to drive traffic into stores and/or tracking traditional marketing success via vanity URLs, you enter into a league with best-in-class retailers who can access a single view of all customer data whether it comes from eCommerce, stores or call centers – everything is integrated in one database. Having this high level view paints a truer picture of brand engagement which will allow your company the opportunity to segment your multiple channel customers which are often your most valuable consumer group.
So don’t settle for tweets and chatter only, follow steps 1-2-3, focus on the right business decisions first and you’ll reap the financial rewards – contact Beacon to find out more about BeCommerce.NET, Google Analytics, email marketing campaigns and PPC.