by Krista Suozzo Digital Marketing Manager
For the past six months, we’ve addressed a variety of digital marketing engagement tools that brands from the largest agencies and corporations to the smallest Mom and Pop shops are using to connect with consumers. Regardless of industry or target market, businesses are implementing new methods of communication for connecting with clients and prospects alike on a very personal, interactive level. This shift in marketing strategy is showing no signs of slowing down; in fact, social media marketing experts are anticipating that an even larger portion of business owners will begin adopting these techniques and refining their use in 2012.
Now that you’ve learned a little more about the benefits (and potential failures) of using Google Places (now Google+ Local), Linked In, Facebook, video, content and email marketing, we hope you can better determine what makes sense for your individual business needs. Given your current marketing initiatives and your plans for growing your practice moving forward, you can adopt the tools that are right for your clientele – and your budget! Although we’ve touched on a lot of high points about these concepts individually, we want to leave you with a few important thoughts to help ensure your marketing efforts come full circle.
The digital and social media marketing revolution is certainly in full swing, but we want to remind you that these strategies are not intended to replace traditional methods you might already be using. If you’re connecting with clients and prospects through word-of-mouth referrals, newspaper/radio/television ads, direct mail efforts or otherwise, these newer avenues are simply meant to work in concert with other marketing initiatives. After all, with such a wide variety of touch points available to reach your audience, clients and prospects will have individual preferences for how they like to communicate.
One of the keys to using any of these digital marketing methods is to understand what’s being said about your business and by whom. A great way to do this is to create Google Alerts for terms such as your business name, your own name or other relevant keywords specific to your practice. A Google Alert is simply an email sent to you when Google finds new results – such as web pages, newspaper articles, blog comments, or social media feedback – that match the search term you entered. These alerts allow you to monitor any activity on the Web related to your business with minimal time and effort. Simply visit www.google.com/alerts to enter a query, define how often you want to receive email alerts and enter your email address. Once you’ve set up an alert, you can always go in and modify its criteria or remove it in just a few simple clicks.
By listening to what your clients and prospects are saying, you can react accordingly in a timely manner and keep the communication flowing. According to Paul Gillin, author of “Social Marketing to the Business Customer,” opening up the two-way communication process continues to be one of the top priorities you should address as a business owner. “[The top challenge for social marketers is] the same challenge it’s been for the last three years: Stop talking and start listening. That’s a big task. Marketers are trained to deliver messages, not to iterate and respond. But that’s what they’ve got to do in the future. There’s no other choice.” This increased awareness will allow you to respond to your business’ stakeholders and continue building credibility and positioning your practice as a leader in the field.
By taking the leap into the digital marketing realm, you must recognize that you’re giving clients, prospects and others a reason to provide feedback about their experiences with your business. Because you’re a dedicated, caring professional always looking out for the best interest of your clients, you’ll likely have a number of satisfied customers willing to provide positive reviews. However, there may be prospects who know little about your services who are looking for more information. In order to be successful, particularly using social media, you need to be willing to engage in conversation with these individuals and use these tools as a method of showcasing your value.
Remember, these conversational opportunities encourage you to project your true voice. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. If a prospect or client reads a post or tweet, you’ll want them to know that it’s you and that their experiences with you online and in the office are cohesive.
Just as you would track response on a direct mail postcard or the ROI of a seminar you hold, it’s important that you understand the results your digital marketing efforts produce. This goes beyond simply the number of “likes” on Facebook or views of a video. Is your audience engaging with your brand or sharing information with others? Are your efforts resulting in phone calls, appointments, sales and referrals? As these marketing strategies have taken shape, a number of companies and business owners have made the mistake of simply using these methods just to use them, rather than to create meaningful dialogue and engagement that generates bottom-line-boosting results.
If you’re not comfortable attempting to track and measure results on your own, there are a number of both free and for-pay tools that offer a variety of monitoring and analysis features. Some tools not only track the relationships you’re cultivating and how they grow but also let you build profiles around prospects to determine their level of importance to your business.
As an insurance and financial services professional, it can be challenging to figure out how best to communicate with clients and prospects. These digital avenues we’ve discussed are changing the way individuals and families research, connect and interact. At the same time, it’s changing how you, as a business owner, must think in terms of your comprehensive marketing plan. Not every tool is right for every agent, but a thoughtful mix of traditional and digital strategies can help you rise above the competition and stand out for all the right reasons.
FOR AGENT USE ONLY. NOT FOR USE WITH THE GENERAL PUBLIC. 12114 – 2011/12/22