Recently, I moved to Whidbey Island where a large naval air station is located. On a regular basis, fighter jets (EA-18G Growler) zoom over my house. Unless I’m looking up at the right moment, and it’s a clear day, I don’t see them pass until they ‘re miles away, and the roar of their engines have disclosed their location.
The whirlwind evolution of digital marketing is similar. Just when you catch wind of a new trend, it’s passed or morphed into another approach for reaching and engaging customers. Unless your company is at the cutting edge of the latest technology, it can be challenging to know what marketing strategies and tools are applicable for your business.
You might wonder whether it’s enough for your business or organization to have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter or do you also need to be on Snapchat, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, and Tumblr? How does inbound marketing differ from outbound? Is email and newsletters passé? Will customers pay attention to something they read in print or should it appear on Reddit? And WhatsApp?
No doubt, the ubiquitous accessibility and availability of digital technologies and techniques — internet, mobile, messaging, social media, SEO/SEM, display ads, CRM, podcasts/webcasts, and much more – make it challenging to settle on a marketing approach. However, if you strip away what’s new and concentrate on what’s constant, you arrived at products and services, which are tailored to meet the needs of specific groups, individuals, companies or organizations.
Understanding how your audiences or customers obtain information, make decisions, and become loyal to a specific brand, product or service is the key to determining effective marketing approaches.
Let’s look at three scenarios.
Neighborhood Aquarium Store
For the most part, the customer base of a local aquarium store, which sells fresh and salt-water fish, along with aquariums and associated supplies, is within a 10- to 100-mile radius. Customer might come from farther away, especially if they’re seeking a special type of fish or live coral, but most customers would drive an hour or less to shop at the store.
If the store has a good reputation, and offers the products and services most commonly purchased by fish enthusiasts, it probably depends on word-of-mouth, local advertising and search ads to reach current and potential customers. To boost awareness, the owner might publicize special events (i.e. customer appreciation days, new offerings) and sales via local newspaper and radio ads, fliers included with purchases, physical banners and signs, and possibly email to previous customers.
The store owner, recognizing competition from large box stores, such as PetSmart and Petco, probably has a website, which presents hours of operation, location, and types of fish and associated tanks, food, and accessories that are offered. To enhance the value and reputation of the store, the website might have educational articles, question and answer sections, downloadable coupons or announcements of upcoming sales. This content could also be shared via social media channels.
Because the primary customers of the store are people in the surrounding area, there might not be a need for extensive outreach via paid display ads. On the other hand, there could be an opportunity to use blogs, forums, social media to enable local fish enthusiasts to collaborate and share pictures and videos of their aquariums.
Because most regional aquariums depend on tourist traffic, they need to be more aggressive in their advertising, reaching larger audiences – possibly international – who are in the process of planning a trip or might be interested in visiting the aquarium in the future.
To compete, a regional aquarium needs strong branding and messaging that differentiates them from other aquariums, focusing on exhibits, location, activities for children and families, accessibility, and possibly other attractions within walking or driving distance.
The core goal of a regional aquarium is probably visits so they would want to make it easy for visitors to find hours, location, parking, pricing, and options for purchasing tickets. Their marketing efforts, therefore, would likely center around their online presence from the quality of their website and home page banners to search and display ads (with extensions), banner ads on travel and tourist sites, blog, social media, and editorial in online publications. They might even use remarketing to encourage people who browsed their website to plan a visit. These ads could offer savings on ticket prices when visitors click to an associated landing page, and complete a form.
To make their website highly engaging, and therefore a place someone might want to visit in person, the aquarium might have a video and photo library, along with a livecam to view an exhibit in real-time. This content, coupled with blog posts can be shared on social media to reach potential visitors. In the same vein, visitors can be encouraged to engage with the aquarium via these media sites.
Because a regional aquarium would appeal to a broad range of people from ichthyologist to young children, the aquarium would want to engage on the range of social sights including Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, and more. And if the aquarium analyzed their visitor statistics, they might find patterns, indicating many people coming from various regions and countries. Using this information, they might want to translate some of the pages on their website, especially visitor information, along advertise in other countries, in print publications and online.
In the same vein, the aquarium might do inbound marketing, nudging casual browsers to obtain more information by visiting landing pages to view a video, learn about special offers, read a blog post, download a fish fact sheets, and much more. The aquarium might also have a mailing list, which enables them to periodically reach subscribers with updates on exhibits, conservation efforts, special events, and other activities.
Finally, the aquarium would want to foster a strong relationship with its local community, which could include print, radio and TV advertising, educational programs, volunteer opportunities, outings to local beaches or conservation centers, and events that coincide with holidays.
The marketing strategy adopted by a seafood supplier would depend on whether their audience is consumers, retailers, restaurants, or food processors. Consider a supplier of king crabs. If the audience is consumers then the supplier might have a storefront, and their key concern might be the perishability of their product. Their key audiences, therefore, would be area residents and tourists who could request their purchases be packed in ice, and shipped to their places of residence. The seafood supplier, in these instances, would probably use local advertising, online search and display advertising, physical banners and signs, reputation, and word-of-mouth to market their crabs.
Changing the audience to retailers and restaurants would necessitate extending the reach of marketing campaigns to target independent grocery stores and supermarket chains, retailers like CostCo and Sam’s Club, seafood wholesalers, restaurants, and food service suppliers like Sysco. Depending on the ability to fulfill orders, a humble supplier of king crabs might simply target regional restaurants, grocery stores, and retail fish markets. If this is the case, they could employee sales representatives to complement their marketing efforts, and for the most part, their success would depend on building relationships, rather than a shotgun approach of marketing to a large audience with a percentage turning into customers.
Business to business marketing hinges on identifying issues, which can be solved by a company’s products or services. A restaurant may want to add crab dishes to their menu, but without a fresh and constant supply they could be hesitant. Recognizing these concerns, the supplier of king crab could have daily or weekly delivery services and offer advice to chefs on the best way to prepare whole and shelled crab. The supplier also has an opportunity to become an “expert” in their field, developing an extensive website with recipes, preparation tips, videos for how to shell crabs, and question-and-answer section.
This content could boost both the supplier’s organic and paid search results, generating more business. In addition, they could do inbound marketing to drive visits to their site, and foster relationships with existing customers by producing a newsletter, which is distributed via email and posted online. They could also bolster awareness on B2B social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Here’s a fun fact: The picture above is of a Pterois or lionfish, which is a venomous salt-water fish, native to the Indo-Pacific. However, they’ve become an invasive on the East Coast of the United States and the Caribbean because people relocated them from their fish tanks to the ocean, and they’re very aggressive.
In Florida and other parts of the world, there are lionfish derbies to “harvest” them using spear-guns. Even so, there are concerns the lionfish population is growing faster than they can be culled.
Who would have thought a beautiful, ethereal lionfish would earn the title “menace!”
Finally, if the king crab supplier decides the optimal buyer of their product is a food processor like Trident Seafood then the target audience becomes considerably smaller, and could comprise less than a dozen companies, which would hinge more on face-to-face selling then broad marketing and promotional efforts.
All the Fish in the Sea
I touched on just a handful of marketing considerations, based on whether the fish being sold can fit in a 10-gallon fish tank, swim in a 120,000-gallon salt water exhibit, be fileted and displaced in a refrigerator case, or frozen and shipped hundreds of miles.
Identifying your key audiences or customers, and then understanding how to reach and engage them is key to choosing marketing strategies and vehicles.