Q&A On Best Online Marketing Approaches

Heather LutzeNot sure how to use the Web to build your company’s brand? Consultant Heather Lutze has some advice, including one tip that could rocket you past most of your competitors.

Heather Lutze calls it the MeMe Show. If it sounds a bit selfish, that’s because it is. And it could be ruining your relationships with clients.

“From talking with distributors, I see a lot of focus around what they want to sell, what they want to get rid of and what they need to produce,” says Lutze, an author and founder of Web consultancy Findability University. “The thinking is it’s all about me and my business. Salespeople need to think about their customers first and their actual business needs second.”

This is especially true, Lutze believes, in planning out a successful online marketing strategy. Social media, in particular, presents a huge opportunity, but it also requires a willingness to listen and continually connect. “One big missing piece with distributors is that they’re hesitant about social media,” Lutze says. “They haven’t fully engaged.”

Lutze spoke with Counselor about the best online marketing approaches, offering up a host of messaging, search and content ideas.

Counselor: What social networks should ad specialty companies use, and which should they avoid?
Lutze: There’s a lot of interesting judgment around social media. I encourage people to pick one or two. Pick the networks where most of your clients are. I would suggest staying away from Snapchat and Instagram. I recommend LinkedIn. Make sure you have a nice personal profile for everyone in your company as well as a business group page, and post regularly. And then I would pick between Twitter and Facebook.

Counselor: Any value in Pinterest?
Lutze: There is, just be smart about it. For example, during an ASI Show session I did, a gentleman told me that one of his biggest sellers is a pink rhinestone bag. He said he does a lot of work with colleges and sororities. That offers a great opportunity to use Pinterest. I suggested he come up with a series called “Pretty in Pink” and show off these totes in different settings. I told him to give a bunch of bags to college students and ask them to take pictures as they go through the day. It’s all about how they use it, and with Pinterest it’s about having fun.

Counselor: Social media is really about storytelling then, isn’t it?
Lutze: Yes, and companies should share their personalities. My Dad was an industry member, and some of his coolest projects were for girl scouts and other philanthropic organizations. I would tell him to take pictures when customers would come in and pick up their orders. Make sure you snap a shot with your customers. Don’t miss the opportunity to show the wonderful nature of who you are and the personal connections you make.

Counselor: We’ve talked social media, but how about paid search. Is it worth it?
Lutze: This is a tricky situation because the smaller businesses can’t afford to hire a paid search agency. So they start an account, throw a bunch of keywords in there, and get money taken off their credit card. The problem with paid search is unless you’re willing to invest in someone who really knows what they’re doing, or you’re willing to study it and do it correctly, I would suggest that you focus elsewhere. Focus on Google local, participate in social media, and blog.

Counselor: Sounds like you have to be committed to paid search if you’re going to try it.
Lutze: If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to market, that’s not going to be it. We tell clients that if you’re not willing to spend $1,000 a month minimum with AdWords, you’re just not going to have much success because you have to test variance. You have to make sure you get on a first page, preferably above the fold in paid search.

Counselor: How else can companies rank higher in Google results?
Lutze: I’ll go back to social media because it’s a big part of the Google algorithm. It’s not good enough for you to have a website that says how great you are and list your products. You have to socialize around that. So have fun. Create Pinterest boards. Pinterest boards will rank in Google. Optimize your Facebook page and your Twitter account and your LinkedIn profiles and have fun inside social. Don’t treat it like a chore. Treat it like something where you are connecting with customers who are having fun. Social will help your rank.

Counselor: Keywords still matter a lot in boosting SEO, though, right?
Lutze: No doubt. There are a number of tools you can use. I like a website called Spyfu. You can run a report on your website and see all the keywords you’re currently ranked for, as well as run some reports on competitors’ sites. When it comes to keywords, remember THBLI: title, headline, body, links, images. Make sure your keywords are in those critical elements. If you do just that, you’ll probably be 90% ahead of most of your competitors.

Counselor: If a company wants to target a few niche markets, should it have different websites focused on each of those sectors?
Lutze: You definitely want to have one core house with lots of rooms. You don’t want to have four houses. What I’m saying is four sites are too many to manage. I’d create a different page on a site that speaks specifically to each targeted market. Don’t put them all together.

Counselor: Finding time to create quality online content can be a challenge for firms. What can they do?
Lutze: One way to handle this – if you have a few people on staff – is to divide and conquer. Each person takes a page or a series of pages and they all have various deadlines they have to meet. If you’re short on people, bring in interns to help. A lot of students are looking for job credits. Remember that an online post, like a blog entry, doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. It has to be about 300 words. It’s not about how much you’re creating – it’s the consistency by which you create it.

Counselor: Can you give an example of a B2B company with a good online marketing approach?
Lutze: I actually worked with an industry member company that runs a website for Florida state parks (shop.floridastateparks.org). We met for a day with their team and went through the nuances. We figured out that people were mostly searching online for things to do in Florida, not for items. In the end, they did a brilliant job of coming up with a content marketing plan that was focused on families with children. They had this huge epiphany that they could connect with customers in a much more meaningful way if they understood their end goal, which is having fun with their families. Upfront, it wasn’t about selling hats and backpacks.