NZTE Export News, November 2010

When YikeBike was planning the global launch of their super-light folding electric bike, they had a marketing budget equivalent to the tea and coffee expenses of many competitors.

Using the power of online marketing, YikeBike turned attendance at the 2009 EUROBIKE tradeshow in Germany into a huge global launch. YouTube, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other tools were all employed to attract worldwide attention, including being named as one of the top inventions of 2009 by Time Magazine, featuring in everything from Wired Magazine to the Discovery TV Channel.

The Internet is an ideal tool for New Zealand’s typically small but nimble exporters like YikeBike. It’s also an easy way to waste time, effort and precious finances. So what’s all this online marketing about and what are some of the key considerations when including it in your marketing mix?

Kiwi exporters have used online promotional tools like websites, email and online advertising and PR for a number of years. The new frontier is the much-hyped social media, where you can build and sustain global brand awareness quickly and cheaply.

Social media covers a broad range of websites that are community-based, enabling people to share all manner of information using video, images and text. They include well known channels with millions of members like Facebook, Flickr and LinkedIn, to niche online communities like Kohtakte (for Russian speakers) and Wakoopa (Software/gaming enthusiasts).

Ignoring the hype

It is important not to get carried away with the social media hype. People, particularly those with a vested interest in promoting it, tend to get over-enthusiastic about new mediums like social media. The past is littered with confident predictions that radio would be buried by television, cinema by video, TV by the internet and so on. All of these mediums have carried on, changed significantly in some case, but continued.

New mediums really just add a new layer, a new way of reaching your audience. The basics remain the same – you need to know who you are talking to, and have something relevant and compelling to say to them no matter what the medium – but there are some specific skills you need to develop for each new trend.

The trouble with social media is that it is so easy, the cost of entry so much less than traditional media models like advertising. It is cheap to put up a website, free to create a Facebook page or Twitter account.

Low barriers to entry mean the sheer number and noise on the social media landscape is incredible. Every man and almost literally his dog seems to have a Facebook page.

No marketing tactic, especially something as low cost and far reaching as social media, is likely to be effective without a few basics in place. That includes having a good idea of who your target audience is and what drives their buying behaviour; and developing a relevant and compelling story about your product. Unless you have this in place your efforts to Tweet or Facebook will be just adding the noise and delivering little value.

Share your expertise

If you have these basics in place (for more on the fundamentals of online exporting see NZTE’s online guide), then the key in using social media effectively comes down to three words: share your expertise. Being willing to give away some of your knowledge to prospective customers is what makes social media channels come alive, rather than boring people with what you had for dinner or watched on TV that night.

All kinds of companies are taking advantage of social media to drive their marketing. An example David Meerman Scott (no relation) offers up, in his excellent social media primer “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”, is US company the Concrete Network. It provides a service that links builders and homeowners with concreting contractors.

By offering all manner of useful information on their website: articles, tips, videos, photo galleries, pouring calculators and so on about everything from patios to driveways to pool decks; they have attracted a great following. Using tools like Facebook and Twitter to promote their site, they have achieved a typical rate of 1 million visitors per month, which delivers plenty of customers to their contractor customers.

Using social media to share useful ideas, articles, case studies, surveys, images, videos, interviews etc about your area of industry expertise has a number of benefits. It enhances the credibility of your brand, raises your brand awareness with influencers like the news media and best of all, give you a valid excuse to engage with existing and new prospects.

A cautionary note

Whether it is becoming mainstream or not, there are some important differences to consider with social media. Companies struggle to ‘control’ the message with social media, in the same way they can with an advertisement in a magazine.

With something like blogs companies have to truly communicate i.e. try to achieve a shared understanding between them and their audience. That’s because everything is two-way, instead of simply sending messages out to your audience, social media allows people to see your message, comment on it and send it to other potential customers with criticism or endorsement.

Transparency becomes really important with social media – it is hard to ‘spin’ things. You can’t just simply promise to customers and then not deliver. That’s because people are out there watching and talking and can share much more effectively than ever before.

Delivering the experience

As marketers we are often focussed on building up excitement and expectations about products. The marketing challenge is seen as raising brand awareness, generating demand in the form of leads and then doing what we can to move the sales process along.

Too little effort is given to thinking about the experience being delivered to the customer. In a highly connected world this is becoming crucial. It is so easy for a customer unhappy about your product to share that with others, so it’s easy for negative information to be shared amongst the network of customers you are targeting.

Hyping up a new technology product and then not delivering a good experience is a recipe for a disaster. Customers will share their experience directly and instantly.

That’s why YikeBike have been incredibly careful that their initial customers had a very positive experience since they started to ship in September. More than most they know the enormous power of marketing online.

 

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