In the past few months as I’ve started digging into the world of online marketing I’ve definitely picked up on the trend away from traditional marketing. Sure, Search enginge optimization (SEO) is still a must which means paying attention to key words and purchasing Google AdWords, etc. However, where SEO used to be the end all be all of online marketing just three years ago, there is now a push toward the consultative approach online. “Content is king” is the new slogan for online marketing in a world where blatant sales pitches on most social/business networking sites are considered inappropriate. The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that I’ve seen the same trend in the real world.
Do we still need strong branding and a professional corporate identity? Absolutely! Having a great corporate image especially within your target market is still a must, but it is not enough on its own. Most successful sales people have learned to be trusted advisers or consultants as opposed to aggressive prospectors. Accordingly, real world marketing has to involve positioning your company as the expert in your field through seminars, speaking engagements, releasing regular podcasts/vodcast and publishing white papers.
Networking is also huge both online and offline – especially down here in Texas where the best sales professionals have turned it into an art form. But participating in networking groups these days is not just about exchanging business cards, it is about really understanding each other’s businesses and establishing ourselves as experts in our industry that our networking partners can feel confident in recommending.
Online membership in social networking sites like LinkedIn or in some industries even Facebook is also a must. It is almost as though having a strong profile on LinkedIn, Plaxo, Xing, Zoom Info or one of the other sites for a professional is equivalent to having a web site for a company. And the profile (practically a resume in some cases) is not enough – if you really want to establish your expertise, you need to blog about interesting topics and participate in forums on these sites.
The online network is not a substitute for the real world network – more of an extension. One of my favorite social networking experts Erica O’Grady can be found at all kinds of interesting real world events – I know because I follow her religiously maintained profile on Twitter.com (and am occasionally lucky enough to see her in person).
Perhaps the ultimate proof of the online world converging with real life is one of my husband’s favorite sitcoms – NBC’s “The Office.” In last week’s episode, Dwight spent a lot of time on SecondLife.com escaping his real world woes over losing his girlfriend. I’ve heard a lot of people pose the question “Does SecondLife have potential business applications?” From a marketing stand point, should we be considering purchasing billboard space and offering seminars on SecondLife now? It looks pretty interesting for those of you in the B2C world especially. Imagine hosting an Isagenix seminar or an Arbonne party at a virtual home on SecondLife where you establish your knowledge and expertise to more than just a local audience.
So what is my point you ask? This new online world may seem overwhelming at first, but really it is just employing all the same basic strategy that we are using here in the real world. Interesting that while The Office’s Michael is fighting his company Dunder Mifflin’s move online, the message in recent episodes has pretty much been the inevitability of that move to adapt and stay competitive in today’s market place. Michael’s “limitless paper in a paperless world” slogan pretty much says it all.