By Bridget McCrea
The tED magazine/Baird research for the first quarter revealed that 70 percent of distributors and manufacturers are feeling the “margin pinch” brought on by online-only competitors that sell solely on price. The question is, how does an independent firm – that can’t go up against the likes of AmazonSupply on price alone – set up an online presence in a world where web customers are shopping on price?
One way companies are circumventing this issue across various industries is by positioning themselves as top experts online. Using blogs, white papers, online videos, links to outside sources, customer success stories, social media posts, and other types of content, companies can turn “price shoppers” into “information shoppers” and prove their value in the cluttered, price conscious environment that the web has become.
Here are five strategies that your company can start using today to become a top expert that customers rely on to run their own companies more efficiently and effectively:
- Develop a plan of action first. Rather than throwing darts and hoping that some of them stick, kick off your positioning strategy by determining how you are going to brand your company and its offerings online. How do you want people to see or perceive you? What do you want them to think of first when they visit your website or your social media platforms? Come up with a solid profile that matches your brand and that highlights your firm’s expertise, experience, specialization areas, and so forth. Then, make sure any material you publish on the web is aligned with that profile.
- Make use of free online tools. Create accounts on all of the major social networking sites, including LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Squidoo, and others. You can use a resource like HootSuite (which charges a monthly fee for usage) to tie all of your social networking under a single umbrella and use it to post consistent information on each of these sites. You can post information about new products, new value-added offerings, industry news, and useful tips that customers can employ to run their own businesses. Be sure to post regularly (as in, at least once a day, if not more) and repeatedly. “One expert I know posts every single tweet three times, knowing that not everyone is going to read it on the first attempt,” advises Phillipa Gamse, author of 42 Rules for a Web Presence That Wins and a Capitola, Calif.-based digital marketing consultant.
- Get interactive online. Social networking isn’t a one-way street. One of the best ways brands have found to leverage such platforms, in fact, is by creating 2-way communication streams with their current and potential customers. Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, allow you to share knowledge by participating in groups (search for them within the social networking platform and join those that are most relevant to your target audience), commenting on the posts of others, and answering questions posted by other users.
- Use content to leverage your firm’s expertise. It’s no secret that Internet users have tired of straight advertising and prefer instead to be courted with rich, meaningful content that’s both valuable and relevant. You can take advantage of this trend by publishing a regular blog (use a free platform like WordPress or Blogger to set one up), writing regular white papers (long-format, technical reports on specific subjects), how-to articles, and special reports, posting customer testimonials online, and writing up short “case studies” showcasing your distributorship’s capabilities. “Regularly posting a variety of content formats,” says Gamse, “helps distributors break out of the ‘commodity’ mentality and become the voices of their industry rather than just the low-price leader online.”
- Develop video content that tells your story. You can enhance your distributorship’s credibility online and entice customers into the fold by developing simple, informational videos that zero in on your area of expertise. Keep your videos to 2-4 minutes in length and use either a computer video cam or handheld camera to shoot the footage. There are numerous editing tools online (Camtasia is a popular one, but there are many others) that you can use to pare down your footage and add elements (voiceovers, music, etc.) to the shows. Post them on your company’s website, on sites like YouTube, and across your various social media platforms. “Because YouTube is actually the world’s second largest search engine, it’s a great place for distributors to post how-to snippets and other clips,” says Gamse, who adds that videos are also effective support mechanisms for the written word. Embed them in your email newsletters, use them with customer testimonials (so viewers can actually “see” your customers and “hear” what they have to say), and multipurpose your efforts in as many ways as you can think of.
McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.Tagged with tED