Enter a hotel lobby, a conference room, an office reception, an airport or even an airplane; chances are you will catch all souls there talking, browsing or playing with their Smartphones or tablets or reading on their Kindle Fires. Phones, tabs and laptops have changed the face of the game of business. Technology rules our lives today-both professional and personal. Digital is big for the biggies as well as the SMEs; like it or not, in business of any kind, digital connections make all the difference.
So where do you begin with your digital endeavor? Your website.
A website is one of the most important elements of a digital branding plan for your company and is usually the starting point. A website is the first thing your buyer will check to assess you, to see what you have to offer, your capabilities, your expertise, your people and your history. If you are absent on the WWW (the World Wide Web) you are missing out on the opportunities that would have come knocking from the country and the world. For your business wishes to come true, you don’t need a genie, you need a well-thought out website that catches your buyer’s interest, keeps him engaged for some time with relevant, mature content and answers your buyer’s unsaid questions. If you are successful in making the buyer call you/reach out to you, you have hit the nail on its head. But a website is just the beginning; you have a long way to go on the digital journey.
The typical digital elements in an SME branding plan
Digital rules the roost in almost every branding plan today, whether B2C or B2B. And no, if you are thinking digital means Facebook, Facebook and more Facebook, nothing could be further from the truth. The digital medium comprises of far more elements than a Facebook. Social Media (Facebook, Linked In, Twitter) is just a part of the digital ecosystem for a brand today.
Digital typically comprises Social Media, Content Creation and Management, Blogging, Community Building, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization and Email Marketing. However, the digital world is ever evolving and you are sure to find more elements. For the time being, suffice it to understand these few a little more.
Social Media: These are social networks (some professional networks, others, social) on the web/Internet typically, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Slideshare, etc.
Content Creation and Management: Content in the digital world, is King, Queen and heir. The more you create content (text, audio content, video content, webinars – seminars on the web, freebies), integrate it and manage it well, the more you will rule the World Wide Web for your industry.
· Blogging: A blog is a web log – a log of ideas, expert information, important information, expressions and thoughts on the web. You can launch a blog of your company/brand for free. A blog being what it is, it helps you create a reputation of an expert in your field over a period of time, provided you regularly write blog posts (articles), at least once a week. Focus, continuity, relevance and sustained efforts will ensure your blog gets you attention from prospects.
· Community Building: Communities on the WWW are common interest groups. If you know the group which has the characteristics of your target market, you can build this group and create a community. You can create a new group or community yourself. The communities could be for a cause (Save Pune Traffic Movement), an interest (Marketing Masala), a shared-interest community (IT Engineers Group, Retail Community, Ad Women Community, Working Moms and so on and so forth). By targeting your target market (community), you ensure your marketing efforts reach the right audience.
· Search Engine Marketing (SEM): This is based on keywords or search words that go into creating small ads. You pay for these ads and the space and search engines like Google, Bing or others, catch the keywords and ‘show’ your ads to your target audience. This way your company and your products get seen by the right people and enhance your marketing efforts.
· Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Again, a search tool, this is something you get done for your website. SEO specialists or web development agencies and consultants can help you optimize your website and web presence to ensure effective marketing.
· Email Marketing: Post the death of the snail mail – the old way of posting letters, email marketing is the quickest and a cost effective way of reaching your target market. However, this tool is prone to inefficiencies, as it resorts to bulk marketing and hence may lead to wastage of efforts and resources. With a proper email marketing strategy however, far better results can be achieved. There are specialist agencies which do this kind of work, but the best way is to go through your digital consultant/agency’s advice and see how important this is in the scheme of your digital plan.
Digital is not free. It involves costs.
Contrary to what most of us tend to think, digital is not free in the true sense. Oh yes, you don’t have to pay a dime to open a Facebook account or a business page, or even a Twitter, LinkedIn, Slideshare or You Tube account; but to market your services and products effectively, you have to budget it separately. All these platforms have a paid ad option, where you need to pay for the ad space and the ad creation. If you get the platform right and the content right, there’s no stopping buyers from reaching out to you. Consider ‘digital’ as an investment and not an expense, and you will start enjoying the results.
Are you ready to take the digital plunge?
Digital is an alien world for many of us, fret not. The word ‘digital’ tends to push your marketing team out of its comfort zone; so resistance is inevitable; but nothing which cannot be overcome with a bit of planning, learning and persistence. To date, marketing collaterals meant printed brochures, leaflets, catalogues, press ads, magazine ads; at the most, it meant product films and corporate films and even exhibition stall designs. From there when you are suddenly thrown into a virtual world with PowerPoints, Social Media, Content Marketing towering over you, jitters are normal. But getting a handle on those is also imperative – easily achieved when you talk to the right agencies/digital agencies/consultants and get the right marketing team on board.