SOI 2013 - Digital Moves

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DigitalDistributors are increasingly using electronic marketing to enhance their lead-generation and sales strategies.

Seth Weiner's successful formula for attracting positive attention in his Internet marketing efforts is in making his blog posts, Facebook updates and YouTube videos less about him and more about his audience.

"I think it only needs to be 25% about you and the other 75% about your viewers, your recipients, your clients and your prospects," says Weiner, president of Sonic Promos (asi/329865). "I'm not a fan of blasting people with product specials on Facebook. I don't find that to be particularly interesting. It's not like we're a shopping mall. If your company motto is you're just selling whatever product you can for whatever price you can and you're not really looking for function, certainly that particular method of Facebook marketing might work for you. But it doesn't work for us."

Here are some Internet marketing strategies that have yielded results for distributors and have helped to enhance their overall sales efforts.

Consult Supplier Partners
Weiner says creating a Facebook page for your company, and then coming up with an agreement with your supplier partners to promote each other's pages, is a great way to attract attention and position yourself as an important player in your field.

"One good way to start is to connect with your suppliers. If other suppliers see your supplier jumping on to a distributor, they're going to perhaps be interested in jumping on there as well, because it's in their best interest to be in line for a top distributor," he says. "And as far as the suppliers go, it works the same way. Facebook makes it pretty easy to increase your audience."

For Weiner and others, this strategy has not only helped to build their public profile with suppliers in the industry, but has also helped to provide enhanced relationships with certain suppliers. The key: Those relationships are now garnering terms on delivery and price from suppliers that they may not have otherwise been able to attain.

Create Fun Videos
Weiner utilizes industry-specific videos that are informational and entertaining, and then posts them on YouTube, in order to generate buzz.

Most recently, Sonic Promos has spoofed a popular TV game show and reality show. "For a couple of years, we've run a Minute To Win It video series, which involves utilizing products from our vendors into Minute To Win It-style games," he says.

"If you go to our website, you can probably see 12-13 promotional Minute To Win It videos. We also recently did a video which is sort of a mock of the TV show Undercover Boss. We only have 12 employees here, so it's hard to be undercover, but it's really kind of a fun video. That video got us 1,000 views within about two weeks of us launching it, and that was really huge. It got picked up by a lot of industry companies and other media outlets outside our industry."

These kinds of videos help put a face to your company name and let potential clients know that your company culture is a fun and personable one. "Those are good videos for showing people a little bit about who we are and how we do things, so it turned into a little bit of an online brochure, if you will," Weiner says. "And if we see videos that are of key interest to our clients, we'll share that kind of stuff, too."

Weiner has found that the best way to inform his current and existing customers about a new video is through his company's Twitter feed. "Twitter is simpler than Facebook because there are a lot fewer characters, so it's more a matter of getting people to wherever you want them to go to see the larger message," he says. "If you've got the link to the video in the tweet and it takes them to YouTube, you're off and running. In a lot of ways, Twitter is almost a directional sign."

Link Up with LinkedIn
While Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are the most popular social networks – including among distributors in the ad specialty market – others are finding digital marketing success through different outlets. Mike Beckman, owner of Proforma BPM (asi/300094), uses LinkedIn more than any other social media platform for business purposes. "With LinkedIn, you're linked with your clients and you can see who they're linked with, so you can penetrate an account much deeper," he says. "You can also reach people they're connected to in the industry."

Beckman obtained a major account last year through what began as a simple LinkedIn interaction. "I've been playing tennis with this guy for two years and he was even my tennis partner in doubles. I never did talk business with him, but I hooked up with him on LinkedIn and found out that he was in the marketing department at a large company," Beckman says. "He wasn't the right contact for me, but he put me in touch with somebody who was, and I've done over $250,000 with that company in a year."

Weiner says Sonic Promos uses LinkedIn to interact primarily with prospective customers, and sometimes with potential suppliers, but not with fellow distributors. "I tend to use that more for communication with prospects and use it less for actual corresponding with industry people," he says. "I'm not connected to other distributors on LinkedIn. We find that to be a little bit of a conflict."

Better Blogging
Ultimately, the key to successful digital marketing today is content – information that appeals to your audience and makes them want to connect with your business. Sonic Promos uses blog posts on its website in order to position itself as an expert in the industry and provide clients with helpful tips about marketing, using promotional products, and appealing to their specific client bases.

"We try to utilize our blog as a way of showcasing the products and the programs that we work on," Weiner says. "We also try to sprinkle in general-interest information related to our industry that would be worthwhile for those people who are interested in what we do and marketing in general."

Beckman uses LinkedIn and Twitter to promote his blog posts, which he tries to update on a weekly basis. He says there's no magic formula to generating business through a blog – just give people information they can use.

"Usually I try to give customers information that's applicable to their business," he says. "I did a series on the recent ASI survey on the cost per impression of promotional products. I broke it down into categories, and every week I'd do a different category."

Beckman received positive feedback on his blog series from several people. "The three responses I received were actually from customers, and one of them said they were going to adjust their order based on what they read," he says.

The key to a captive audience for any blog, according to Beckman, is consistency, noting that if he can't find the time to update his blog in a given week, he'll repost something else that's useful to his customer base.

"The thing is they say you need to contact somebody nine to 12 times to earn their business," he says. "If you're constantly hooked into a prospect somehow through digital marketing and social media, then they see what you post, so it gets you front and center."

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