George the printer used to have it so easy. Before the days of the Internet craze, he had about five ways to convince customers to come knocking at his door. Direct mail, print ads, Yellow Pages, radio, and TV—that was about all he had to choose from (maybe a billboard here or there). Now, his options have exploded.
Take these five traditional marketing routes; the present day choices from this group alone are confounding. Will George choose a print ad in the Daily Sun or an online banner ad on dailysun.com? Maybe he’ll be their featured “weather sponsor” online or off. Will the Sun ask George to be a guest columnist or would a guest blogger be a better fit? Compound this by the mammoth beast called “new media” (social media sites like Facebook, website ads, search engine advertising on sites like Google, etc.) and you’ve got quite a mess on your hands.
With all of these options, how on earth will printing prospects know where to look to find George? Even more importantly, how will George know which of these marketing vehicles will get his print shop noticed most? And what about those people who are going to turn a blind eye to all of this and conduct a simple search online to find their printer of choice?
My advice to George would be to stop, take a deep breath, and then keep it simple. There are certain traditional truths when it comes to driving business to a printshop door. Don’t forget these, no matter how many bright, shiny new media options appear.
- Don’t ever stop direct mail. George is a printer; he needs to show off his wares. If George doesn’t use direct mail in his marketing, he might as well say he’s not confident in the cost or effectiveness of his product.
- Check in with the inbox. Email marketing is an excellent follow up tool. After George sends out a direct mail piece, he could follow up with an inexpensive but professionally produced email.
- Perk it up with PR, both offline in the form of sponsorships, speaking engagements, and press releases and online on social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.
Those three simple steps are truly all it takes for the offline world to learn about your business. If he’s consistent with his efforts in those areas, George will likely see more traffic before he knows it.
But now let’s talk about those people who start their search for a printer online. Maybe they haven’t received (or noticed) these offline efforts and prefer to seek out their printer online. If you think there’s lots of competition to get your business noticed off the computer, online is a whole other ballgame. And the struggle for “first place” is even more challenging—but it is doable. Welcome to the world of search engine services.
The ‘O’ and the ‘M’
There are two pieces to the search engine services puzzle: search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). SEO uses tactics to increase ranking on a search engine site like Google or Yahoo. Tactics include, but are by no means limited to, adding keywords to a website, linking to and from other sites, and beefing up the mention of your company name in other online arenas (such as on those social media sites we’ve talked about before). The goal is to catch the attention of what they call a “search engine spider,” which raises rank on a search engine. If George has the time and the know-how to keep his SEO work in-house, this route will cost him little to nothing.
Search engine marketing (SEM) is paid advertising. George could pay for georgesprinting.com to appear on page one of Google when someone searches for “business cards,” if he was so inclined. We’ve all seen those listings that come up on the top or the side of a search engine site in a separate “paid advertisements” box when we search for something—that’s SEM. Generally, search engine marketing is a “pay per click” service. Your account is charged each time someone clicks on your paid link.