With all of the new digital solutions and technology tools now in the marketplace, it's important for smart business owners and marketing execs to understand the 'must-have' solutions that they'll need to have in place in order to be more effective in reaching customers, social media fans and even investors in the new year ahead.
1. Video marketing: Since 52 per cent of all web traffic is now video based, and more people make positive purchasing and investing decisions when they see video, you can't afford to be without this in 2014. A perfect example of a company using video effectively for marketing and brand management is Apple – their videos are catchy and iconic, reflecting how the company wants to make its customers feel.
2. Strategic approach to social media: Most people know by now that they need to be active on social media – but many seem to think that merely starting a profile or exclusively talking about yourself will get you anywhere. Social media marketing cannot be self-centered; it must be integrated with other marketing tools and effective in engaging customers/fans. Also, know how to use the most popular social media options – Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus Hangout, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn. Starbucks has mastered the art of engagement, dedicating an entire page of its website to soliciting product and service ideas from its customers called My Starbucks Idea which are then voted on; its blog "Ideas in Action" give updates on adopted suggestions.
3. Cultivate strategic partnerships: Strategic partnerships can create brand new distribution channels for your company, and are equally important for business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies. For younger companies, partnerships allow them to leverage the name of a bigger, established brand. My own company, TubeStart, is an example of this. TubeStart is a crowdfunding platform for YouTube video creators, and recently announced a strategic partnership with Fullscreen, which serves one of the largest networks of video content creators in the world.
4. Go mobile: Nearly 40 per cent of time spent on the Internet is through mobile devices. Mobile isn't just some marginal "nice to have" feature anymore – digital marketing solutions and platforms that you choose must have mobile friendly interfaces. Bear this in mind when building your company website. The good news is that many site themes are made to scale appropriately with mobile.
5. Update your offline collateral: Businesses now need print solutions that connect to online tools and social channels. In other words, every single piece of collateral and other customer-facing tools should cross-pollinate other channels and connect in some way to your online presence. That means getting rid of the fax number and putting your Twitter handle on your business card; Put your social and website information prominently throughout PowerPoint presentations, and so on.
6. Offer exclusive content for loyal customers, fans and followers: This applies particularly for those in retail, entertainment, restaurants and other consumer-facing industries. For loyal customers and fans you must provide ongoing exclusive content that they only receive because of their loyalty. Content can be exclusive video content, exclusive offers and discounts, referral bonuses, etc.
7. Create an inspiring and engaging online presence: Marketing and public relations are no longer just about winning customers; companies' goals now include winning over investors and/or supporters to a crowdfunding campaign. In order to raise money or pre-sell your product, you must provide some proof of concept and competency; developing a clean, professional website and brand elements like a logo is a great start. Graco – a retailer of baby strollers and car seats – is an example of a company dedicated to building a supportive community and a memorable website user experience. The company's blog hosts contests, informational videos and product demos.
8. Incorporate search engine optimization (SEO): Some people have heard of SEO while to others it sounds like a foreign language. Simply put, SEO practices can put your website, and thus your product or service, higher in key search engine rankings. The key is to think like your customer: what do they search for when looking for whatever product you provide? Do not fill your website with industry jargon. Use the phrases regular people would use to find you. Insert keywords in website copy, press releases and on social media, but don't go too far overboard – copy should have a natural flow to it.
Josef Holm is the CEO of TubeStart, a crowdfunding community for web series and digital video. He has more than 15 years of experience working with several successful startups in Austria, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia and California