We have the technology – but are we switched on?

Caroline Williams, Chief Executive, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

Here’s an interesting quote from a man who knows a thing or two about marketing in the internet age. Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, said, ‘We have technology, finally, that for the first time in human history allows people to really maintain rich connections with much larger numbers of people’.

It’s obvious of course, and the vast majority of us now shop online, search for information there and connect with family and friends through the social media. At work we readily embrace the digital age, sending e mails every day, visiting websites and using computers, tablets and smart phones as simply tools of the trade.

But how often do we take a step back and ask ourselves if we’re really using the technology to do better business? In reality, and despite their sophistication, the digital and online opportunities that we have are media. No business would use what we now call the traditional media of press, radio and TV without a strategy. Identifying the audience you want to reach, getting the message right and requiring measurable results are prerequisites for planning.

It’s not that you have to become a geek, with the technical skills to write computer code, any more than you needed to be a skilled printer to place a press advertisement. It’s about knowing how to use the digital media to generate sales.

Do you for instance actively enhance your profile by planned on line activity? Do you target your e mail campaigns to ensure maximum returns? Is your company growing its database of contacts?

Aside from e mails and interaction with your website, the social media are now a vital element in the business marketing mix. By identifying the appropriate networks and using them strategically organisations can build brand awareness and create a dialogue with customers. 

Brand building doesn’t happen by accident however. SEO, the Search Engine Optimisation that ensures more people find you when they’re looking for your kind of products and services, is a critical part of a serious online strategy.

Most of us, at home and at work, are increasingly ‘savvy’ when it comes to the internet. But even now we’re capable of taking it for granted. When it comes to business we need to make sure that we’re using it to our advantage. To make them work for you requires a certain level of technical knowledge of course, but more importantly it needs an understanding of who your customers are, and how you can best interact with them. What are the words that will make them open your e mails? Are they part of the hugely significant 50% of online network users who subsequently took off line action? In other words, because they met you in a virtual place they then went to a real place to buy your product. The Chamber’s be better@online event taking place next week will answer many of my questions; I suggest you use it to help answer yours.

As Bill Schrader said, ‘Almost overnight the internet’s gone from a technical wonder to a business must’.

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