Many companies have very successful sales strategies but don’t see the value of having a distinct marketing plan. And yet time and time again the statistics show that the companies who market effectively grow quickly and stand the best chance of surviving in tough times. Louise Steel dispels some common marketing misconceptions.
The world of AV integration is brimming with innovation and technologies so rich and powerful, it’s a challenge to absorb them all without collapsing under the weight of some enormous communal techno-shock. And if the AV world is reliant on an influx of news and opinion that makes common sense of our complex technologies then integrators have clearly got to think very carefully about the way to present this information to the end users. All integrators need to work hard to promote the technologies, systems and services they provide.
Love it or hate it, that’s marketing - and systems integrators will disregard the need for an effective marketing plan at their peril. But where do you start, how do you reach your target audience and just how far do you go to get your message across?
In the absence of an in-house corporate communications team or an appointed marketing agency to strategise and schedule on your behalf, we’ve challenged some of the marketing misconceptions of the most ardent integrators. And before you can sigh “we don’t have the marketing budget for this”, you may be interested to learn much of this marketing business won’t cost you a penny.
The real question is: “As an integrator of top-flight communication systems, can you afford not to integrate a marketing strategy into your own bigger picture?”
A co-ordinated plan of attack
In essence, an effective marketing strategy is one that combines all the best communications tools in the box with a co-ordinated plan of attack that reaches as wide and worthwhile an audience as possible.
But, before you begin to eulogise the remarkable powers of AV, it’s imperative you take time to consider who’s doing the talking. Who are you? How do you want to be perceived by your target market? Are you a pioneer, the authority, a specialist, the trusted integrator? When you’ve established what your brand stands for, you’ll be ready to adopt a tone of voice that you can project confidently and consistently to every area of that marketing strategy.
Ah, the marketing strategy. You may think you’ve got this covered with a website and a brand name that’s recognised and respected across the AV community; and that would be your first marketing misconception…
1: We’ve already got a website
A website is a continually evolving platform on which you can present those revolutionary integrated systems to the world. We’re talking everything from awe-inspiring, 3D, HD, multifarious interactivity and hyper-efficient tech to intuitive, networked virtuality that will change the way the corporate world communicates, so your site has a lot to live up to.
You might have all this covered with content that describes and illustrates, explains and sells the undeniable USPs, but is your website really working? Is that coveted target market you’ve researched and defined so carefully actually able to find you?
The secret’s in the SEO
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is your online marketing magnet. Assess what your market will search for and incorporate those words and phrases into your text. (One can only marvel at the meat on a technical AV glossary in terms of its SEO value.) Build interesting, relevant content around it with SEO friendly heading “tags” that hook into the online search engines and encourage other websites to include links back to your site to boost your ranking and online visibility. You can see how successful you’ve been by using Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics).
If you want a shortcut to the top of the ranking tree, consider Pay-Per-Click advertising. Particularly suited to short-term campaigns, your ad will appear at the top of the search page, but you’ll pay a fee every time a visitor clicks on it. Google Pay-Per-Click for more information.
Keep it fresh
When was the last time you updated the words on your website? Search engines like page updates, they like fresh, new pages that move with the times (in the world of systems integration, we have no excuses here) and they like internal links that take your visitors from one page to another on a virtual journey of enlightenment and discovery.
If visitors know they’ll be reading the same glowing report on your prized IP video streaming tool every time they stop by, you’ll hardly be holding the online party of the year; give them creative canapés to die for and your popularity will soar. A stale site is only marginally more useful than having no site at all and could seriously damage your brand in the process, so revisit what you’re saying on your website every few months and add new pages if necessary.
2: Our customers don’t use social media
You’d be surprised at the level of moving and shaking that takes place in social media communities. If you want to be first with the news, whether it’s telling it, sharing it or hearing it, a post on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn takes seconds and, unless you’re opting for a premium LinkedIn account, it’s free.
The beauty of social media lies in its propensity to enhance what you’re saying on your website and doing in person, and with personality, potentially you’ll be reaching millions. This is where the right tone of voice and on-topic message could earn you legions of fans and potential clients, but equally you’ll be heard by tech journalists, magazine editors and professional bloggers the world over who’ll be only too happy to serve as your mouthpiece to even more.
4: We don’t have time to blog
Maybe not, but technical bloggers do. Feed them topical news and views via social media networks and your systems expertise will be exposed across communication channels you possibly never knew existed - and you’ll earn valuable SEO points for having your website linked from them too. If you do have the time, consider ‘guest blogging’; write an article and submit it to a blog that suits, then shout about that too.
5: Nobody reads sales emails
If they’re not reading yours, it’s because you’re doing something wrong or targeting the wrong database. Keep e-shots and e-newsletters interesting, yet concise and always, but always, pitch them with an attention-grabbing headline that gives them something beneficial.
But, with the best will in the AV world, your message won’t get through if your database of recipients is ill conceived or hasn’t been cleansed regularly. Filter it and assess its efficacy by monitoring responses, behaviour and email bounces by using a email distribution client, such as Constant Contact (www.constant-contact.co.uk).
Louise Steel is an professional copywriter and public relations consultant, whose clients include proAV Limited and others from the technologies sector. www.theprolificpen.co.uk)