As I am currently 40,000 feet in the air on a Southwest Airlines flight back home I started reflecting on the recent conference I just spoke at for Coldwell Banker Real Estate. Whenever I go to an event either as an attendee or presenter, I always try to take time shortly after to reflect on things I enjoyed, I learned, or would like to see done differently.
As I think back on this event, I find myself focusing on something completely different. One of the things that became abundantly clear at this event is that the way companies market themselves is evolving. See, many years ago I was a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker. Their annual convention at that time was called The International Business Conference, or “IBC.” Now, don’t get me wrong with what I am about to say, but their event had been the same basic real estate style convention for many years. People in their suits talking about how great the market is and giving tips on how to get your clients a mortgage, etc. Most of the time was spent teaching how to convince consumers that “Now is the time to Buy” and “Real estate is a great investment.”
But, this year they knew their conference needed an overhaul to match the changes that are taking place in our daily lives. The classes that would teach on a new product the company was releasing were replaced by things like 30 mobile applications for business. The neck ties were removed to symbolize a change in the mentality of leadership and that it was time for a change. I am starting to see this type of trend become more and more common at business conferences.
Why you may ask? It’s simple. Large corporations like Coldwell Banker are starting to realize the importance of having a strong presence in the social media sphere. So, instead of a conference like this being filled with real estate coaches, the speaker lineup was filled with social media advisors like myself, Chris Brogan, and even the folks at Google.
The concepts of using digital marketing to become trusted agents in a digital world is now more important than ever as consumers are using sites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter to make decisions. These decisions are based upon the following five factors.
1. What do my peers recommend? During the Google presentation Sam Sebastian gave an example home buying scenario. Instead of grabbing the yellow pages and looking for the fanciest advertisement of a real estate brokerage, the couple turned to their Facebook account to ask friends which neighborhood they should consider when buying their next home. Based on what the consumers friends and peers online say about a product or service can now be the decision whether you get the sale or someone else. Not only did their friends give them advice, but one even gave them a specific home listed with an agent. Peer recommendations are becoming more and more powerful each day. Sites like Yelp and Foursquare are more influential in decisions consumers make than ever.
2. Who has been there to assist me in a time of need in the social sphere? Someone that is not sure what to do in a certain situation may ask for help. Businesses need to be monitoring on a daily basis what others are saying about your business, your brand, and industry via services like Google Alerts, Twitter search, etc. Being a social media winner in your industry will turn potential consumers into raving fanatics who grow your business for you. The business who goes the extra mile will be rewarded handsomely for their efforts.
3. How findable are you online? When someone goes to Google and types in a term relative to your business are you showing up on the first page? If you think ranking well in the search engines is not important, ask a successful real estate agent online. One in every three unique visitors to a real estate site is via search according to Google. Understanding how SEO works and positioning your business in the search engines properly for specific keywords applicable to your business can pay off with major dividends.
4. How is the their user experience? Let’s be real here, if consumers visit your site but the user experience is terrible it will affect the possible current and all future transactions with that consumer and possibly even their entire sphere of influence. One of the things I do a lot is evaluations of websites for clients. They do not understand why their current design and site is not converting leads, and most of the time it is because of design of the site. Remember, you are on your site daily, you helped to build and design it, so you know how the site is supposed to work and how to get to the conversion state. But, have you had a stranger look at your site? Here is a good litmus test: Have friend or family member that has not been to your website go and try to go through the process on their own. How easy is it for them to navigate and get to your point of sale? When I do an analysis of a site, many times I pull it up for my wife and watch her try it out. She is a pretty savvy online user, so when I see her struggle I know we need to make adjustments. It’s important to put on a pair of consumer goggles and look at our site from their eyes. If they experience confusion, too many clicks, or slow loading pages, you will not convert them and they will go find another place to purchase their products and services.
5. How mobile are you? Piggybacking off of number four is the question: How does your site work on a mobile device? If you do not have some sort of mobile option of your site available you are missing out on one of the fastest growing sections of the online market. In the past year mobile queries have grown by 4 times according to Google. By the end of 2011 more than half of all Americans will own a smart phone device of some sort. If you are using a platform like WordPress for your site make sure to at least have some sort of mobile plugin in place. I enjoy the WP Touch Plugin which gives a quick mobile version of my blog. These type of plugin also help immensely in load time for a blog post. If your site is huge to load on a mobile device it could cost someone who may be visiting from another country $10 just to view. If that’s the case, you better have something really awesome and important to them or you will lose them and all their friends forever from visiting your site.
These five things can make or break your business online in this era of new media marketing. They are more important than knowing how to create viral videos, schedule tweets, or even upload a photo to Facebook. Keep the consumer in mind first and how to help them make more informed decisions and they will trust your business more than ever. The more they trust you, the more then will support and promote you to their peers. This is the beauty of social media and how it can be optimized to assist your business in growing online. Use it properly and it will make your business very successful. Use it improperly or ignore it and it could destroy your business permanently.
If you read this post and realized that your business is not following these steps, please contact me, and let’s get started putting your business on the right path!