Like it or not, the fact is, we now live in a digital world. The people you want to reach consume more and more information on the web and through Social Media channels. Even in rural areas like Schuylkill County PA where we are located, virtually everyone uses a smartphone, surfs the web and belongs to one or more Social Media sites.

How do you market in this digital world?

Here are some basic marketing facts:

1. In order to reach your audience, you have to get your information in front of them. No matter how good your marketing materials are if you don't get it in front of your target audience, it won't get results. You have to engage your audience where they consume information.

2. People tend to take the path of least resistance. When was the last time you used the phone book? The yellow pages were once a "must have" for almost any business now it's so much easier to just "Google it". 

3. Today's consumer is overloaded with information, News feeds, emails, push notifications tweets, it goes on and on. Your message has to stand out and be laser targeted or it will just be scanned over, swiped away like that last silly cat picture.

4. You can build it but they won't come if they don't know about it or can't find it. This is just as true in the digital world as the physical world, maybe even more so. You can have the best looking hi-tech website in the world but if your content doesn't show up in search it won't matter, virtually no one will find it. 

Myths Magic and Unicorns

Before we get into the nuts and bolts, let me just give you a little safety warning that could save you a lot of heartache and money. There are many unscrupulous scammers out there who take advantage of business people that don't understand how this digital marketing thing actually works. They will take your money, hurt your digital reputation and maybe even get you in trouble with the law. Be careful, the digital world is full of crooks and scammers just waiting to relieve you of your hard earned money.

Myth - "I guarantee I can get you on the first page of Google in organic search" This is an outright lie. No one can guarantee Google search placement. If an SEO company or website service tells you this Run Away Fast and be sure you have your wallet with you. Don't misunderstand, there are many, many things that can be done to better your chances of reaching page one of search results. We spend a huge amount of time on doing just that, but there is no guarantee. Every site is different, every site has competitors trying to rank above it in search and every site has differing amounts and quality of content. If it sounds easy and all you need to do is write a check, be very, very careful. Also, beware of the listing services that promise to get you listed in some ridiculous number of indexes or get you inbound links which will make your Google rank "Soar". Do you really want to pay to be listed on the local equivalent Angie's list in Belize or some other similar place? 

Magic - " We will use our proprietary blah..., blah..., blah..., to get you ranked and drive traffic to your website." 

Look, If someone did have some magic algorithm, a piece of software or automated system that would achieve web nirvana, do you think they would really share it or sell it to you? No way, it would be literally priceless. There is no such animal, which brings us to;

Unicorns -   Fact: they don't exist. Neither do any special sauces, proprietary algorithms or special software services that will automatically drive thousands of relevant visitors to your website or Facebook page. Like most things in life, it takes expertise and a lot of work to succeed, there are no shortcuts.

The Hard Part...

We know that... We need to reach our target audience where they consume information. Our audience will use Google to try to find us. Our consumer is overloaded with information and easily distracted. We absolutely need to make it easy for them to find us.

How do we accomplish this? 

Just like a great presence in the physical world, it starts from the very beginning, with a well-conceived plan, a solid foundation, and a well engineered, well-maintained website.

Just as in building anything, a well conceived detailed plan is essential to avoid wasted time, false starts and wasted money. First you have to identify the target audience, find out how to reach them and then give them what they want. Sounds simple enough, but the devil is in the details. If you already know your target audience and where they are then great! If not, some market research is needed. Once you are armed with the audience knowledge the big question is how to reach them.

The best way to reach your target audience will be different for just about everyone but more than likely it will include a mixture of the following things;

One or more Social Media channels, content marketing, organic and paid search. Don't be surprised if it takes more than one method and some trials and tests to accomplish your goal. Remember, they are easily distracted and overloaded with information.

Once you have figured out how to reach them, you have to give them the information they want, and... you have to give it to them quickly (remember, easily distracted). This is where your website plays the starring role. 

If you are doing things properly, you are using everything from your business card to Social Media to actually send your target audience to your website

You are, right? Great! Because a whole lot of people actually do this all wrong. They send people away from their website and to Social Media Channels. 

But Wait... isn't Social Media "the New Way" to engage your audience? Shouldn't you be spending the bulk of your time and marketing budget building your Social Media following? In a word, No! 

Here's why... You don't own your Social Media presence, the social media platform does. They can (and do) change direction at the drop of a hat. All that money and effort you spent getting followers and likes can be for naught when they change an algorithm and all of the sudden only a very small part of your audience sees your message. Sound familiar?  That's because it has happened over and over again. 

You have to remember that with very few exceptions (like a proprietary app), your website is the only property you actually own in the digital world. It's the only thing you have complete control over, the only place where you decide what content gets shown. Your website is the heart of your digital presence. It only makes good sense to put most of your efforts toward providing the best website experience you possibly can for your audience. This includes everything from how easy it is to find you in search to the amount and quality of the content you are providing. And, If you are selling a product directly on your site it extends to the ease of users finding the product they want, the checkout process and even customer service. Oh, and one more thing on this subject, your website absolutely must be mobile friendly

What is Mobile Friendly? Simply put, your website must be easy to read, navigate and offer a great user experience on a mobile phone and tablet just like it does on a desktop computer. In 2014 mobile passed desktop as the most used device to consume information from the web.  If your website is not mobile-friendly, you need to make that a top priority. Google has already begun to penalize websites that are not mobile-friendly, ranking them lower in search than others that are.

So Forget Social Media, Right?

Well, probably not. Unless your target audience is unlike the vast majority of people out there, they are using Social Media. That means you need to be using Social Media to reach them. But use it correctly, as a tool not as the heart of your digital world. You should use social media to help find new audience members, engage with your audience but most importantly, you should be using Social Media to send people to your website. Absolutely, post on Facebook, tweet that tiny bit of info, share that photo, but send them to your website to get the bulk of the information. Use social media to wet their appetite, but send them to your website for the meal. Once there you have the opportunity to expose them to even more information the information you want them to see, you can encourage them to give you their email address so you can engage them directly. And you can even give them the opportunity to spread your information through their social media channels. In short, you now have them in a space you are in control of and that is the key to a successful digital marketing plan.

So, What Do I Do Now?

That depends, If you need to engage and market to your target audience and you know how to do that then you need to get to work. If you need help with any or all of the things we discuss here then you need to do yourself a favor and contact the digital marketing professionals at Cotts, Inc. to discuss your current situation and how to best proceed. 

Until next time,

Scott Williams
Director of Digital Marketing
Cotts, Inc.

 Cotts, Inc. is a digital marketing agency specializing in helping small businesses. We are located in the small city of Pottsville in Schuylkill County, PA 17901.

We build results-driven websites, expert social media content & strategies, custom interactive kiosk systems, digital signage systems and print campaigns so your business can compete in this digital world.

If your small business needs help with marketing in the digital world, reach out to us, our contact information is:
Phone: 570.399.5662