Post by Maria Ogneva, Director of Community
If there’s one thing that you should take away from this post, it is that Marketing (online, social or otherwise) is not a drive-by shooting. Marketing is holistic, and great marketing plans take time to develop and nurture. This is true for online, as well as offline marketing; new media as well as older, more traditional forms of media.
So what does holistic mean? No, we’re not offering Feng Shui techniques for your product or some magical marketing plan. Holistic simply means that you know what your brand stands for and you understand that the tactics you use to market your brand must work together to position or change the positioning of your products. You know the audience(s) you want to target with your message, and know you must keep that message consistent across all the channels you incorporate to deliver it. All of your marketing functions should move in lockstep, reinforcing each other.
Example: Launching An Eco-Fashion Line
You’re a company launching a sustainable, eco-conscious fashion line of clothing. In marketing your product line, you’ll probably want to emphasize sustainability, the purity of organic fabrics and your product’s contribution to reducing waste via green practices. You’ll want your packaging (or labeling) to convey those qualities in the terminology used to describe the garments, as well as the package design.
Most eco fashion lines have higher retail price point than mass-marketed clothing lines; your marketing must convey a socially conscious, environmentally responsible message that establishes why your clothes are worth paying a premium.
If you have (or wish to have) an online presence (which I presume you do, because you are reading this blog), you’ll want to reach the same consistency. When you’re designing your site, the eco-conscious message should be front and center, and all the design elements should convey the message as well. In addition to having e-commerce and informational functionality (a simple means to an end), you need to produce original content that shows your leadership on the subject matter. Blogging, in addition to establishing you as a thought leader, is a great way for search engines to discover your site.
This brings me to the next point, which is search engine optimization (SEO). For any retailer, wholesaler or manufacturer with a website, SEO is a key component in developing a holistic, cohesive marketing plan. SEO should absolutely be front and center to any online marketing strategy. You may have a great product, and even a great looking site, but if no one knows about it, what good is it? Without getting into too much technical detail, search optimization allows you to lift content from your webpages (page titles, page and product descriptions) and help the major search engines read and index this content. An indexable architecture becomes very important, as well as a wealth of content around the necessary keywords.
So in the case of an eco-conscious fashion line, your blog should cover topics related to green living, eco fashion, sustainable lifestyle and eco trends. But on the back end of your blog, each page title, meta description and permalink should contain terms that will help it index through search engines. For e-commerce sites, this extends to product descriptions and categories.
Because your target market is an upscale customer who cares about social/environmental issues, he or she will probably want to interact with you and other like-minded customers on and off your site. The great thing about a passionate consumer is that she is engaged and happy to share, learn and interact. Adding social tools to your site is key, as they allow users to connect to the community that lives on your site, as well as communities that you have formed outside of your site.
Community management, which is an area of passion for me, is all about building and maintaining a community, both inside your site and externally. If you have a robust commenting system and allow your users to contribute content (which you absolutely should), you should keep a handle on all of your comments and other content that these users are producing. Thank your users for contributing, answer questions, resolve concerns, but remember to allow your users to express themselves freely. Heated conversations are a sign of passion, so don’t interfere, as long as the discussion is productive. Moderate and guide, when necessary, but never stifle. You should be present on sites and communities where your target customers are, and take the time to interact with them there. If you discover that your target market is not on Tumblr, but is on Facebook, that’s where you need to be. Interacting, being helpful and sharing links to your site (only when relevant of course, otherwise it’s SPAM) isn’t only good for your name recognition, but is part of your SEO strategy through the link-building and track backs that commenting in forums creates.
Reaching out to bloggers and conducting online PR goes hand in hand with community management and provides fantastic SEO results via link-building and content syndication. Remember, though, to be selective about the bloggers you approach – just like all the channels you select, it must be consistent with your brand’s message. Do your target customers use smartphones? Well, you should think of ways to interact with them on their phones. Social and geo-location apps allow you to stay front and center in the customer’s mind, engage and entertain, as well as harvest important behavior data (more on this later).
One very important caveat to all of the above: it works, but it won’t work immediately. If you expect sustainable success, it has be built over time. SEO, community building, online PR and content creation reinforce each other, but it will take some time to see the results you want. You have to keep doing it every month for at least six months, to gain traction and see results. Placing your product on one of the characters in Desperate Housewives may provide a rush of one-time traffic, followed by a drop-off; however, building these ties to the online community, while keeping your message “on brand”, is going to increase your traffic consistently, month over month, without an abrupt drop-off. That’s why we say that effective marketing is not a drive-by shooting: it’s not transactional, but rather takes time and effort to build and nurture.