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Wednesday / June 29.
HomemibusinessGoing Digital

Going Digital

In the August edition of mivsion, we ran an article on the ‘Brave New Age of Social Media’ which is revolutionising the way companies promote their businesses. This time round, we’ve taken a look at strategies you can implement to further enhance your online communication with customers.

Digital media has presented more opportunities than ever before to facilitate efficient communication with your customers. However, to the uninitiated, this new marketing ‘space’ can be overwhelming. How much information should you upload to your website… how often should you update it… how can you get prospects to pay you a site visit… and what is the protocol with how often you should send customers electronic communications?

While there is no hard and fast rule to creating your digital presence, you do need to develop a comprehensive strategy that spells out how you are going to use this valuable medium. You then need to commit the resources to manage it on an ongoing basis.

One thing is for certain, digital media is not passive. You can not simply expect to “build it and they will come”. You have to engage your customers.

It comes down to the way in which you – or your web developer – optimises your site…

Effective marketers draw customers in by actively participating in the digital spaces their customers already operate in. They do this by researching their customers’ current web activity then employing diverse elements that include search engine optimisation, online advertising, multiple micro-sites, electronic newsletters with online response mechanisms, and emerging media such as mobile, streaming video and viral video.

Connect With Customers

While you can communicate a simple message to your customers through a press advertisement or a flier, an interactive website has the potential to back that message up with more in-depth, relevant information by starting a conversation with the customers you most want to talk to.

To do this, your website needs to be loaded with relevant, up-to-date product information and news. It needs to demonstrate your expertise and build confidence in your abilities amongst your target audience. And it needs to tell your customers how to go about doing business with you.

The trick is to offer bite sized chunks of information that link through to more detail so your customers can quickly navigate their way to the areas of knowledge that most intrigue them.

To create interest and excitement, consider including video presentations that demonstrate technical points or procedures and interviews with specialists. Competitions that engage your prospects’ and customers’ interest and blogs that enable them to seek advice and make comments will all help you build a relationship long before they set foot into your store.

Well selected links to external online resources created by industry groups and suppliers will support your own site and assist your customers to gather further information about eye care should they need it.

Aside from trade advertising and mailers, Transitions Optical is one company in the optical space using digital media effectively to connect with its customers.

Transitions Optical’s Marketing Manager, Ms. Kate Mulcahy says a well-optimised traditional website that demonstrates features, benefits and product information, can drive business to your practice. “By informing, educating and engaging consumers about lens options and eye health, websites drive them (consumers) into optical practices and open the airwaves for dialogue with their eye care professional.”

Consider for example, the benefits of a video that demonstrates the harmful effects of UV radiation on the eyes, interactive product demonstrations that clearly show the differences between specific lenses, and interviews with contact lens wearers that help customers overcome their pre-existing concerns over CL technology.

Microsite Links

As supplements to a primary website, microsites can provide a platform for specialised information and act as a hub for specific consumer campaigns intended to drive viral or word-of-mouth marketing to promote a new product or service.

As an example, a major optical supplier that represents a myriad of optical products may want to draw attention to one specific new brand. Rather than promoting the brand on a page within the main website, they will create a microsite with its own web address that can be easily and effectively promoted across all other print and digital mediums. An optometrist may pass on the microsite web address or link it within his/her own site. In this way customers can research the benefits of a recommended product and feel confident about the optometrists suggested procedure.

Online Follow Up

Digital marketing benefits are not only used in the pre-sale. Websites and microsites can be just as useful following a consultation. Consider the patient who goes home with a script for an entirely new product – or a patient with an eye disease who requires surgery. An informative website or microsite, created with the customer in mind, will help them prepare for the product or procedure, reassure them of the benefits and remind them of any ongoing care required. This not only increases your customer’s personal satisfaction, but could also save you time in handling unnecessary follow up conversations.

To be effective, a website – or a microsite – needs to draw people in just as effectively as it pushes information out. After all it is no use investing in a website that no-one will ever visit.

One strategy to attract customers to your website is through the use of search engines like Google.

Search Engines

Search Engine Marketing is a form of internet marketing which aims to improve the positioning of a website on the search engine results pages (SERP) through the use of paid placement, contextual advertising, paid inclusion and Search Engine Optimisation.

You’ll be familiar with paid search engine advertising. They are the ‘sponsored links’ you see whenever you do a Google or Yahoo search. Advertisers bid for the best placement at the top of the page or on the right hand side of the screen. Large corporations spend a lot of money and manpower trying to outdo each other in these searches. Most consumers are savvy to this and bypass the ‘sponsored links’ to look for the top search results that appear organically.

This is where Search Engine Optimisation (SeO) kicks in. A good SeO strategy ensures you feature as high up on the organic or natural search results pages as possible. It comes down to the way in which you – or your web developer – optimise your site with codes, videos, links and keywords (the words people most frequently use when they look for your information). It’s a complex process and one well worth delving into with a SeO expert.

The mivision website (mivision.com.au) is a good example of how effective a good SeO strategy can be. In six months since the sites launch in February this year SeO has resulted in visitors to mivision’s website increasing by over 350 per cent from 2,397 in February to 8,655 in August1.

By using a complex strategy of keywords for each article the website attracts strong interest from eye care professionals from, not only mivision’s key audience in Australia and New Zealand, but around the world. In August, 75 per cent of the 8,655 visitors to mivision.com.au came from Australia with 25 per cent being drawn from 92 countries headed by New Zealand and the United States.

To ensure your target audience finds your website through an organic search, you need to think strategically about the words and phrases your customers will type into a search engine to try and find your service. Type in the word ‘optometrist’ into Google and you will uncover 22 million results. However, if you add a practice location, say ‘Port Macquarie’, to the search field your search will uncover 8,600 results with the most relevant appearing at the top of the first page.

Online Banner Advertising

Taking your product or service to your target audience through display advertising on webpages, particularly through banner advertising, is a popular way to increase brand awareness and product demand. These banners can be made from either static or animated images and can include audio and video elements with links back to your own website.

As digital marketing continues to evolve, display advertisers are using the computer’s cookie and browser history to determine the age, gender and interests of users.

The results enable them to place their ads on sites most likely to be visited by their target audience. Facebook is particularly adept at this – it is most unlikely that the banner advertisement that appears on the Facebook page of a member profiled as a teenage woman will ever appear on the Facebook page of a member profiled as a married, middle-aged man.

In the optical world, you may choose to run online advertisements that promote children’s frames on websites targeting young mothers whereas you’d choose to promote frames for sportswear on an active lifestyle site.

“By using the targeting abilities of the online space, both in terms of audience and a contextually relevant environment, it is possible to extend your campaign and encourage greater brand involvement throughout regional audiences.

“During our ‘Live a life less Squinty’ campaign we are sponsoring Weatherzone.com.au with a Squinty Index forecast and investing in banner advertising across major websites like Bigpond, Yahoo7! and Ninemsn. Both of these tactics are quite simple but are successfully providing a fun platform for consumer interaction,” Ms. Mulcahy said.

Moving Forward

It’s been 20 years since the dawn of the digital age and the internet continues to evolve – rapidly!

Web 2.0 applications like Facebook and Twitter facilitate user-generated content that connects individuals and businesses from around the world, but Web 3.0, the next generation, is just around the corner. This incredible technology will act as a personal assistant – storing and analysing information about the user’s likes and dislikes then using that information to generate tailored responses to their enquiries.

One day soon, you’ll be able to ask your computer where to go for dinner – and receive an intelligent response based on your personal taste and your current location. Similarly, your customers might end up searching online for ‘fashion optics’ and be presented with a selection of frames, colours and lens options to suit their lifestyle and sense of fashion – along with directions to make the purchase from your store.

Digital strategies and options will become more diverse as technology develops. By embracing these technological changes you will reach more customers in new and more interesting ways and your business will not only move forward, it will grow as a result.

References
1. Google Analytics Dashboard date range 1 Feb to 28 Feb and 1 Aug to 31 Aug 2010
Tracking Visitors

Google Analytics makes it easy for you to improve your website and understand your site traffic. Google Analytics is a free service and provides you with a detailed breakdown of how many people go to your site, how often, when and from where.

To receive this service go to www.google.com/analytics and follow the prompts.