As advertising and brand building goes from print to the web, many B2B companies are feeling increasing pressure to reallocate marketing resources towards the new digital frontier. The company website – once a place to promote the company’s message and capabilities – is now a dynamic and sensitive marketing tool. With the advent of search engine marketing (SEM), social media and Google Ads we now talk about a company’s web presence.  Words like optimization, maintenance, content, landing pages, analytics, and conversions have taken over the conversation, tempting marketers to dive into a rapidly changing landscape of selling and promotion before they’re in the right position to do so.

So how do we make the transition into digital efficiently, affordably and without hurting our brands? Well, I’m glad you asked. The first thing I would tell you is don’t dive, wade. For instance, if you cut off print display advertising completely and throw all of that money into Google Ads you are relying on a bidding war to maintain your visibility. Approximately 80% of a company’s web traffic comes from branded searches, meaning the customer was looking for them by name. They know the name through a legacy of print advertising and packaging that has built trust over time, but a regime change in a customer’s company could throw much of that trust out of the window. Having some print presence in the right books could make the difference when Internet searches have leveled the playing field and more market share is up for grabs.

Speaking of the right books, it makes sense to do a thorough review of where you’re placing print space and where that money might be better spent in digital. Call your reps (or have your marketing agency’s buyer call them) and put them through their paces. Let them sell you again on their circulation and cough up a few metrics. They may have other ways for you to take advantage of their own online presence and as we’ve explained before, they might even give you free stuff. Take it all in and carefully consider each option. It may also be wise to ask your customers where they search for new products. Do they still use print? Which books? How often? Their answers may surprise you and guide you in a new direction.

Deciding what portion of your resources to direct to digital should also be done carefully. These days, there are more digital marketing companies than you can count and some will charge a flat monthly or yearly rate for services that fail to justify the expense. If they’re asking for it all up front, be wary. They’re the equivalent of the startup vinyl fencing companies of a few years ago. The materials were relatively inexpensive to buy and all one had to do – or so one assumed – was dig a few holes and click the pieces together. Everyone was suddenly in the business…until they weren’t. I am almost positive that everyone reading this has seen at least one installation that has fallen apart and been left to decay over the ensuing millennia.

Not every digital program fits every company. Knowledge of a specific market is essential for making a Google Ads campaign, for example, work properly. And all landing pages should at least match your company’s look and/or website with copy that shares company values and puts the user first. A picture may be worth a thousand words but to Google it’s only worth the few in its tag. Content that reflects the ad and closes the sale is paramount. In fact, there are dozens of decisions that need to be made correctly to build a strong chain of ad-to-landing page relevance and once that chain is established it needs to be monitored, maintained and when necessary, repaired. This isn’t a slap-together job with a one-time fee but it also shouldn’t cost you the bulk of your resources to be successful.

All of this is to say: take it slow and get deeper over time. Digital marketing tools can be powerful but they still require the right blend and balance. That’s why SMS has designed three basic web management services programs that gradually increase in depth and complexity (to view, click here). We understand which services companies need most and we offer them a little at a time. We monitor the results and weigh all the choices. Some companies are ready to start with more, while others still need to take their first steps. In the end the goal is to get companies balancing the right initiatives so that they don’t hurt their brand or bank accounts as they make the transition.

By all means enter the digital pool, the water’s fine. The shock to avoid is the one that comes from diving in too deep and too fast.

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