One of our most compelling speakers at the 2012 Local Search Association annual conference was Mary Boysman, VP Brand Marketing and Advertising at Aspen Dental, a fast-growing, multi-market health care provider.
Speaking to a crowd of local search leaders from around the world, Boysman described in detail how she and her team developed a comprehensive strategy that drove meaningful local leads for her business and elicited support from the highest levels of her organization.
The presentation left the group buzzing because it outlined the type of innovative and integrated local marketing plan that many local search providers are trying to explore and develop with their clients.
I want to share some of the key learnings I walked away with after Boysman’s presentation. It’s a model for local businesses everywhere looking to navigate the complexity of today’s fragmented media environment. Let’s talk through the steps it takes to create a powerhouse marketing organization.
1. Develop An Understanding Of The Company & Its Target Customers
The first priority is to clearly understand your company’s mission and create a marketing plan to help achieve it. Pinpoint ideal customers by drilling down their ages, genders, education levels and incomes to create distinct “customer target profiles.”
Then, research those profiles intensively to determine associated attitudes towards your company’s services and the specific obstacles in the way to getting target customers in the door and spending on services.
These findings inform strategic marketing messaging and programs that address those concerns directly, as well as provide insight on the types of media channels that should be used. By having clarity on your company’s mission and target customers, you’ll be able to start thinking about ways to bridge gaps between the two.
2. Evaluate & Reconfigure Media Mix
Just a few years ago, many companies’ advertising strategies relied nearly entirely on print; newspapers, magazines, direct mail, and Yellow Pages. But, with a deep understanding of your target customer, you’ll be able to identify areas to diversify and expand the your marketing approach.
Think about refining your advertising model. You may find that directories continue to deliver sales volume, but newspapers do not. Or you may find your magazine spend isn’t performing as well as direct mail. Reallocate your budget where it makes sense and build out your advertising portfolio to channels you’re not reaching if the research supports it.
By adding channels over time, you’ll be able to continuously track progress and position the company to reach a greater number of target customers in the places they are searching most – whether through television commercials, direct mailings, or search engine-sponsored ads.
The choice and designated spend on each platform should be carefully planned based on understanding the attributes of each channel and how they contribute to ongoing success. It’s all about moving consumers through an engagement continuum from building awareness and response to making purchases and recommendations.
An integrated and multi-platform media mix will ensure the strongest visibility for your company. It’s vital to understand the inter-relationship of all media and how they drive awareness and response. It’s also important to create a fluid planning process that allows for implementation of major initiatives but is also nimble enough to adjust for changing trends.
3. Grow digital & Mobile Presence
Digital plays an important role in how target customers find company services. Track Google query demand in your vertical and build out your company’s digital presence to match increases in that audience. Launch a fully optimized website, social media channels, organic and paid search, digital advertising and sponsored content and digital promotions to better connect with new and potential customers.
Also, invest in a presence on local sites including Citysearch, SuperPages, Yellowbook and YP.com. It’s a must to have an associated and integrated strategy for all of these initiatives along with key performance metrics to understand what success looks like for your clients.
4. Measure & Contextualize Results
Measuring success is critical. Don’t lose advertising budget because you can’t prove that what you’re doing works. Keep track of traffic to your company’s online properties – including total Web visits, unique visits and total calls and clicks for each platform.
Determine which marketing tactics are working to convert consumers into customers – whether it’s downloading a coupon or buying a product. Map out increases in revenues to justify the return on investment on advertising activities.
Remember that knowing the cost per click or the cost per call isn’t enough. The best marketers understand how much revenue a call or click generates, not just the cost of the call or click itself.
Additionally, make sure to reserve some budget to test out new tools and tactics on an ongoing basis, even if you’re not assured they’ll initially drive leads. While it’s important to make sure that your marketing influences actual sales, it’s equally valuable to try new approaches. Otherwise, you’ll quickly fall behind your competition in engaging the newest advertising trends.
Follow an approach in which you constantly analyze the outcomes of advertising efforts and make adjustments to capitalize on the positives and dial down on the negatives.
5. Look For The Right Advertising Partners
Finding the right partners is key to ensuring your success over the short and long-term. Make sure you and your team are keeping tabs on the latest new and emerging media and exploring innovative approaches. Meet regularly with local search sales representatives to learn more about their latest offerings and what they can do for your business.
Remember that tying your advertising budget down to one or a few channels simply because of habit or personal relationships is not the right approach for your business. Also, try networking with other advertising leads in similar verticals so you can exchange ideas and advice.
Above all, make sure every advertising option you utilize makes smart business sense. When it comes down to it, proving how media drives revenue is what your job is really all about.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.