I had the opportunity to listen to “Stores in a Digital World”, a webinar hosted by RetailNet Group, a retail consultancy. They provided some history and key inflection points with brands and retail, but spent most of the time talking about the future of retail and what to expect.
Since my focus as an entrepreneur and growth expert is small consumer product-based companies (>$50mm annual sales), I was looking for takeaways that I can apply in the opportunities I work with. The one major learning is not only the importance of an online presence, but also a solid grasp and execution for digital marketing. This article will explain what I believe is required for a company to master its effectiveness online.
1. Make your image distinctive. Spend the time to do your customer research, competitive and market analysis to develop a distinctive set of physical characteristics, like your name, logo, colors and packaging that help set you apart. Think strategically about what your company and product mix might look like in the future in light of the direction your industry is headed and think about how your brand needs to serve you in the future. Make sure you get your tradename, wordmark and/or trademark intellectual property locked down. As much as possible, you want to create an image from these intellectual property assets that is not just unique and differentiated, but also timeless and lasting.
2. Develop your brand pillars. This goes hand in hand with item #1 above. Determine the features and benefits of your products that solve a customer’s pain or gives them a positive experience. Think about how your product is distinctive, unique and differentiated. Out of this, you want to develop a set of brand pillars, which are characteristics about your brand that you build your company, which in combination, no one else can own or duplicate.
3. Know your niche market. I have an earlier post about Keys to Successful Niche Marketing, one of the items which includes identifying your target market. With respect to identifying your online target market, I would add the following:
- Where are your customers online?
- What are your customers’ social behaviors online?
- How do your customers use social technologies in the context of your products?
Knowing your niche market will help you determine the best ways to communicate with and market to your customers.
4. Create a solid online presence. This goes beyond displaying your product and content online for consumers to find. It’s really about creating a connection with consumers, where your values as a company and what you stand for, beyond just selling a product, resonates with individuals. Your creating useful content, signing up email subscribers, participating in social networks, creating mobile applications, gathering likes and follows, are all tools that help you establish that connection, but its using these tools to interact with your audience that is the end goal. And, don’t forget to personalize your brand. Put on your website the names and background of people behind the company. This is especially important for small brands. The more your customers can know you as people, the better a connection can be made.
5. Develop online marketing and distribution channels. This includes e-commerce, where you sell your products online at your website, on Amazon, on retailer .com portals and as of this writing,via social commerce – or f-commerce, “f” being Facebook – where consumers can shop for your product from your Facebook page. You want to be on relevant social networks to help you establish relationships with your audience and post your content at other strategic points on the web that maximize search and exposure to your customers (ie: YouTube for videos, LinkedIn profile). Its important to obtain product reviews, ratings and testimonials, because without an established brand (and even with an established brand), consumers are relying more and more on peer feedback, or ‘social proof’ that your product is worth their time and money. Rating and reviews happen typically though sites like Amazon or other retailer .com portals where you might sell your product. In the least, its important that you sell your product through Amazon for this very reason alone. Testimonials can be part of those reviews and on your website. Also, make sure you cover the basics in search engine optimization for your website and think about using online advertising.
6. Make time for management and analysis. A solid online presence engaged in marketing and distribution channels and doing additional competitive and market research means that your attention and activity is pretty distributed and fragmented across many different websites and services. Be sure to think about ways of establishing some kind of management system that helps you keep track of it all. This means identifying the right data to collect and setting up a schedule for when to do your analysis.
Copied below are a few additional links from my bookmarks that compliment this article:
- A Look at the Future of Retailing
- Is Retail Over Capacity?
- The Value Every Business Needs To Create Now
Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to brands, products or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.