In the age of the Internet and digital media, Internet marketing has become crucial in driving potential business and generating sales leads. As of late, one of these tactics, popularly known as "social media" (have you heard of it?), has been top of mind for big and small companies alike. Companies are trying hard to get their content to go "viral" and create "buzz," all in hopes of building more brand awareness and ultimately, growing sales.
Since I started doing Marketing for Pangea, I have learned a few hard lessons including this one: your Internet marketing strategy depends on your company, but also your industry. I will elaborate more in my points below.
As a shellfish wholesaler, Pangea is a B2B company in the seafood industry. What I have observed about the seafood industry is that it tends to be a bit more old-school and highly relationship-based. With that in mind, I have had customers ask me about social media who aren't currently using it and are interested in jumping on the bandwagon. Before they jump in with both feet, I ask them to consider the following:
What is your current marketing objective? Marketing, at the end of the day, is used to drive sales. However, you may have a different objective at this moment. Do you have a new product? Do you have a new retail location? What is the short-term marketing objective? Is it simply driving awareness? Understanding what you want to achieve will help you establish realistic goals and expectations, AND help you answer the next consideration...
Who do you want to reach? If this is for your new retail store, do you want to reach the residents in the surrounding neighborhood? If you are trying to grow your wholesale sales, are you looking for other seafood companies? **This is a question where the industry matters. In the seafood industry, a phone book directory is still used to contact potential customers. It's not necessarily all high-tech and online. There are multiple marketing tools available, and you need to choose the one appropriate for your industry. And that could mean cold-calling or mailing out postcards. If you are considering to be online, then there's one Internet marketing tactic you cannot go without today...
Do you have the fundamentals on your website right? Before you even rush into social media, is your website complete? After doing an industry assessment, I found that not many seafood companies do their websites well. There is outdated or missing information, broken links, or images that do not load. If anyone is going to do a search for your company online, your website will be the first impression they have of your company. And once your website is complete, have you considered starting a blog? Keeping the content fresh on your site ensures that your website is active and stays relevant.
What time and resources can you devote to Internet marketing or social media? If you have the money, then hiring a third-party or agency may be a way to go, but for most small businesses, Internet marketing is done in-house and usually piled on to someone's day job. Effective social media is time consuming, and most companies have at least one person or a whole team devoted to it. Online conversations are happening in real-time, and you need to be actively engaged to capture your audience. All because you have a Facebook page or a Twitter handle doesn't mean magic will happen overnight. It takes time, years even, to develop and nurture your online presence.
Have you done a market assessment? What are your competitors doing online? Here's another industry-relevant question. Are your competitors active online? What is their online presence? If they're not on social media, maybe it's a level playing field or an opportunity for your company to get ahead. If they are, is it time for you to consider devoting some resources to your Internet marketing strategy?
So why does Pangea use social media?
Before we embarked on our social media journey, Ben and I had the conversation on objectives and expectations. Clearly, he was sold on devoting time and resources to our Internet marketing because he hired me. It was my number one priority to get our website updated and complete before we did anything else. And once I got that to a good state, I had to decide whether social media would be useful to our marketing objectives.
One of our marketing planks is to educate and build public awareness for oysters and the shellfish industry. Social media is a great tool for this because we can reach influencers, chefs, and consumers. Success for us on this objective is to see the popularity of oysters and shellfish grow, which will reward us indirectly with more orders and sales from our customers.
If you do decide to move forward with your social media marketing, there are some great tools available for free to help you get started. And if you are not sure, dabble in it a little bit. Set up a personal Twitter handle. Update your LinkedIn page. Getting your feet wet with building your personal online brand will help you think about your company's online brand.