By Diane Calabrese/ Published February 2024
Return on investment (ROI)—There is no better place to begin when evaluating time and money spent on maintaining an online presence or when evaluating any business activity.
A business could spend a lot of money festooning a brick-and-mortar establishment and even go to the extreme of setting up a stage and offering entertainment. Yet the investment is ill-founded if it does not bring a return over and well above the original expenditure.
There’s no need to go wildly off-course. Many members of our industry are extremely adept at maximizing online presence, and a few of them share some tips for establishing what’s a good investment.
Start by knowing the audience. It works when giving a presentation in the real world as well as online.
“I’d say the first step and doing it well starts with understanding your top and ideal clients, who they are, what their pain points are, and where they hang out—virtually, in this case, online,” says Yujin Yoo Anderson, general manager at Steamericas in Gardena, CA. “We often try to be everything to everyone, and that’s when your presence gets lost among your competitors.”
To be effective, know who the clients are. “If you understand your top ten clients—the 80/20 rule, the ones who generate 80 percent of the revenue—your messaging becomes simpler and straight to the point,” explains Anderson.
“If you know your audience, it’s easier to find them and where to advertise,” says Anderson. “If you understand their pain points, your messaging is on point.”
Without knowledge of the target audience, marketing effectiveness will be less than it could be, explains Anderson. Take the time to know who’s out there.
Of course, it’s also important to know what a company wants to do. Hiring outside help—a web designer, an SEO [search engine optimization] consultant, etc.—can be valuable.
But the company, not the consultant, should be giving directions on what message(s) it wants to convey to potential buyers and long-time clients. Otherwise, the consultant may resort to templates that work, but do not get across the uniqueness of the company or its products/services.
What’s the first step in getting it right? “Review your online presence and identify your goals and what you want to achieve with your online presence,” says Sarah DeMarte, marketing manager at Mi-T-M Corporation in Peosta, IA.
“Optimizing online presence is crucial for any business,” explains DeMarte. “Things like a responsive website design, SEO, social media presence, email marketing, and online reviews and testimonials can help enhance your online presence.”
Authenticity is what many in search of a product or service search for in online reviews from other buyers. Hearing directly from a satisfied customer carries a lot of weight when purchasing decisions are being made.
Online reviews should always be subject to company review before being posted. Businesses want candor, not chaos.
The truth is that formulating, testing— lots of trial and error—and perfecting the ways to use online presence goes on 24/7/365. Take it out of the realm of business and consider what can happen with a zealous approach in the unrelated area of politics.
A few days ago this writer was working online when a video popped up—no click necessary—to highlight the doings of a state candidate for a primary election in spring 2024. The individual must have paid a great deal to have the ad track people in his state (and even with my VPN on, it got through). If I were in the same political party as the candidate (primaries here are restricted by party), the ad would have been annoying coming out of nowhere. Is it money wasted? It seems so.
The candidate certainly was maximizing his online presence, but was he also optimizing it? Doing it well is not the same as overdoing it.
***THINKING ABOUT LONG-TERM, RETURNING CUSTOMERS AND SOLID GROWTH REQUIRES ATTENTION TO OPTIMIZATION. HOM EXPLAINS HOW OPTIMIZATION “COMES INTO PLAY” ONLINE. “YOU WOULDN’T FISH IN FRESH WATER WHEN YOU’RE TRYING TO CATCH SALTWATER FISH,” SAYS HOM. “BY PINPOINTING WHERE YOUR ADS SHOW UP, YOU CAN TARGET BUSINESSES/COMPANIES THAT ARE MORE LIKELY TO SEEK AND UTILIZE YOUR SERVICES.”***
“An online presence needs to be optimized; it’s crucial to be consistently present, but this should be done through high-quality content that adds value for customers,” says Bruno Ferrarese, co-president at Idrobase Group, which is headquartered in Borgoricco PD, Italy.
“We are present on numerous social and online platforms where we publish diversified content based on the target audience, thus reaching all sectors where our audience is present: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, WeChat, Telegram, Skype, YouTube, industry-specific online magazines, and in-depth Facebook groups,” says Ferrarese. “We have structured targeted campaigns scheduled over the long term to convey consistent content that is a real plus for those who consume it.”
Maximizing and optimizing both start with a sharp focus on the customer. What does the customer want? Can the want be satisfied?
“The best strategy is to provide concrete answers to the real needs of the customer, which is why we create and nurture targeted and specific groups for industry professionals,” says Ferrarese. “Group members have the opportunity to engage directly with each other and with our technicians, delving into specific topics and enhancing their skills through the wealth of experiences that are mutually shared.”
When the online world began to grow and develop, it was soon given the casual moniker of “web,” and it is a web still. Make that a web with more organization than it initially had.
“Web” captures the multi-directional nature of communication facilitated online.
“Online” is the sort of appellation that leaves it to the imagination what comes next. Online signals a virtual world that increasingly finds novel links to the real world (e.g., telehealth monitoring).
It’s best to think in terms of what the possibilities are instead of exclusively about what’s in place right now. Seize the day that is and embrace the changes. That sums up advice from experts.
“We have chosen to deviate from the one-way street by opting not to interact with our clients solely through traditional channels— email and phone calls—but to provide them with a network of roads, each leading to a specific objective and offering the opportunity for immediate contact,” says Ferrarese.
**EMPHASIS ON QUALITY**
Be sure that “quality content” is part of any online presence, says Daniel Hom with Kränzle USA, who self-describes (including on his business card) as Warehouse Ninja for the company and is part of the team at Atlantic Pressure Washers in Linthicum, MD.
Hom adds that many owners “prioritize finding a good marketing company,” and that makes sense; but be sure the content is there, too.
“We live in a media-driven society, thus just having a simple website with a few pictures and a short description tag does not always cut it,” says Hom. “Short clips of your services/products highlighting your quality and what separates you from competitors is a good start.”
And back to the festoon analogy. Have content that “is pertinent and not just for attention,” says Hom. He adds that contrary to the adage, all publicity is not good publicity.
“Commenters on social media platforms will make or break your business,” says Hom. “Therefore, carefully think about how your audience will perceive your content.”
Hom sees a demarcation between maximizing and optimizing. They are “two different scales of approach,” he explains.
“Maximizing your online presence feeds into the popular notion of flooding the market, making sure that your name/label is anywhere and everywhere,” says Hom. “While this may be a way to cast a wide net, which can be helpful in the short term, the attention you receive may not draw in the audience you desire.”
Hom gives an example of how more is sometimes less. “Flash sales and limited time pricing are eye-catching, but are those customers solely opportunity seekers? Will they return when prices are normalized? Consistent clients/ customers that value the quality of your services will translate into long-term success.”
Thinking about long-term, returning customers and solid growth requires attention to optimization. Hom explains how optimization “comes into play” online.
“You wouldn’t fish in fresh water when you’re trying to catch saltwater fish,” says Hom. “By pinpointing where your ads show up, you can target businesses/companies that are more likely to seek and utilize your services.”
How is that pinpointing accomplished? “That mainly has to do with the algorithm your marketing tool uses,” says Hom. “Instead of a trial-and-error approach, being specific and working closely with your marketing team will give them better insight to your needs.”
There will always be space for refinement of online presence. “Drawing customers on a long-term basis is one objective in optimization,” says Hom.
There are many ways to create strong ties with customers, and Hom gives us a list of things to consider: “Do you mention that you offer seasonal or yearlong contracts for your services? Do you offer discounts for referrals? Are you striving to stay connected to those in your industry by means of forums? Do you have the resources and time to interact on your social media?”
The online time factor deserves a closer look. Attracting customers with the latest incarnation of bells and whistles is fine if cost-effective. But every cost center, including social media, must be tied to generating revenue.