Marketing channels are changing rapidly. I mean like weekly. Today it’s Facebook and Twitter. Tomorrow it could be Pinterest. Next week is completely up for grabs so get ready to use that “learn spelling” menu option because it won’t be a word in the dictionary. The essentials of marketing, however, remain constant. Especially what I call the first commandment of Internet marketing.
Know Your Audience
While it seems basic, it’s a rule that many companies fail to follow – especially when it comes to websites. My company, a web design and marketing firm, does a lot of Internet marketing in SoutheasternWyoming. We target our marketing at what we call “buyer personas.” It’s amazing how websites miss the target.
One of my favorite examples was a children’s dentistry website that had online activities for very young kids. Their menu had links to coloring-book-style pages that could be printed. Maybe you’re thinking “Well it’s dentistry for kids so how is that not appropriate?” Ask yourself again, is it really a toddler between the age of six months and 3 years that this website was hoping to attract?
The most important buyer persona for this client was Millennial generation moms. (More on how we know this in a second.) A six-month-old is not going to Google “pediatric dentistry,” hit the top page in their search results and then go ahead and book that first appointment because it offered them a page they could print and color. The moms will find the site however, and the printable coloring pages won’t be a big draw.
A mom who has been chasing a toddler all day wants an obvious “make an appointment” button next to photos of an attractive lobby with deep couches. Give these moms a promise of big screen televisions that play reality TV while they sip designer drinks. Iterate through slides of toddlers having super-fun, first-dentist-visits alongside a blog post about why early dentist appointments help to ensure life-long dental health. In short, make your website appeal to the person who will actually be booking the appointment.
This advice should beg the question of how you identify the correct buyer persona for your products or services. Here I must invoke the second commandment of Internet marketing.
You Are Not Your Audience
Clients frequently tell us they don’t need research because they already know. So we ask them how they know. Even if you are in fact a Millennial mother of a toddler, are you going to stake your entire marketing budget on the notion that YOU epitomize that market segment? No, instead you incentivize existing customers to fill out a one-pager questionnaire in your lobby that asks them questions about how they found you and how they spend their time online. You find creative ways to reach out to potential clients. You wait until you have a representative sample to draw from and then you look at the data.
With this particular client, we discovered that over 80% of the people who bring their children into the dentist were moms and the largest age category was between 25 to 35 years old. Right there we’ve drastically narrowed our target audience. At this point, we could have drawn upon existing research to understand the online habits of younger moms.
However Internet search and social media habits vary across the country – between rural areas and urban – so we also performed local surveying to understand the online habits of Southeastern Wyoming moms. No big surprise that the overwhelming majority regularly used Google for Internet searches and Facebook for social media purposes. Surprisingly, a relatively high percentage still use Yahoo!. And unlike other areas of the country, non-Facebook social media channels were largely ignored. No need to waste our client’s marketing budget experimenting on Twitter and Pinterest (at least not this month).
This kind of research removes some of the guesswork form your marketing strategy – always a good idea when marketing costs money. We can launch a successful Facebook ad campaign that targets mothers in Southeastern Wyoming between the ages of 25 and 35 who have children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. We can then poll everyone who makes an appointment to find out how they heard about the business to determine whether our campaign was successful.
For marketing veterans, you’ll know that it doesn’t end here. You’ll be asking about market segments that a client is missing. Is the survey sample large enough? Don’t assume that younger Southeastern Wyoming moms won’t be on Pinterest in another month’s time. We can, however, safely assume that toddlers won’t be booking their own dental appointments, lured by the offer of a printable coloring book.
Google Places is a free business listing for businesses with a physical location that matters. Service providers and retailers that serve a particular geographic community should care about Google Places. When folks navigate to Google and search for that service or product, Google Places spits out all listings in their geographic area – usually on the first page.
I’m going to use the example of a Cheyenne Technology small business client. Comfort Systems Heating and Air is located at 1515 East 13th Street Cheyenne, WY 82001. When Internet-savvy folks want heating and air services in Cheyenne, they browse to Google and type in something like “Cheyenne heating and air.” If they don’t type in the word “Cheyenne,” Google will make a best guess at where they actually are and Google is pretty good at figuring it out. Comfort Systems want’s to be at the top of that Google Places listing.
The Google Places results list includes all Cheyenne heating and air businesses registered and validated with Google. An example is shown below with Google map icons and information to the right of each listing.
Understanding the importance of such a Google listing to Comfort Systems, we registered the company with Google Places, validated the listing via the post card route and waited for the company to show up at the top of the Google Places listing. This did not happen.
Instead, the listing was buried on the second page of the Places block, drastically lessening the company’s chances of getting business from the listing. We were confused given that some of the businesses showing up on the first page of the places listing weren’t even in Cheyenne. So we did a little research. According to Google, businesses are prioritized in that Places listing according to relevance, distance and prominence.
Relevance has to do with how relevant the company’s reported services and goods are to the terms entered by the user into the Google search bar. So if a user is searching for heating and air and the business includes that search term prominently in its Google Places description, this is the right first step. Researching this topic more, we discovered that Google Places also looks for keyword matches in the company’s associated website content and other online listings as well. We had that covered of course being an SEO-savvy organization. Other experts recommend that you upload images within your Google Places listing and name those images with the same keywords. So for Comfort Systems, relevance wasn’t the problem.
As the title suggests, the distance criteria equates to how far the business listing is from the location term used in a search (i.e. “Cheyenne heating and air”). If the person searching for the service or product didn’t specify a location in their search, Google calculates the distance based on what Google knows about your location. The distance criteria turned out to be an important one for us. While we had the Comfort System’s street address listed at 1515 East 13th Street Cheyenne, WY 82001 with Google Places, that address was NO WHERE TO BE FOUND on the Comfort Systems website. Why? The Comfort Systems shop is not where customers go to find them. That’s just where the business has equipment shipped and where they pound sheet metal. So while we had email addresses, local phone numbers, contact forms and the term “Cheyenne heating and air” all over the website, we didn’t have their actual Cheyenne street address.
As it turns out, Google looks for address cross references in the company website and other online references when ranking the Places listings. Our remedy was to add their street address to the footer of every website page. We also surrounded the address information with hCard microformatting tags so that Google would be crystal clear that this was, in fact, their physical address.
Prominence is based on information Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). When it comes to prominence, time and a lot of hard work go into the establishment of relevant back links and there’s no short-cutting this step. With Comfort Systems, we’re targeting the key phrases such as “Cheyenne heating and air” and we’re back-linking from Facebook, Twitter, blogs like this one and partner websites whenever the opportunity arises.
In conclusion, we recently tweaked the client’s website, Facebook fan page and other online sources to reflect that physical address. Now we’re waiting to see what happens when Google picks up on our changes. I can assure you that that you’ll see us trumpeting our success all over Cheyenne when the ranking rises. And Google, did I mention that Comfort Systems is located at 1515 East 13th Street Cheyenne, WY 82001?