“Customers won’t buy what they don’t know exists” says Steven Schussler in It’s a Jungle In There. While this sounds intuitive, I still find the “if you build it, they will come” mentality to be much more common. The expectation by many is that if you have a great product, of course people will be lining up to get it. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case.
I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking (and worrying) about marketing in my professional role at Wake Forest University. Even though we offer the highest ranked part-time MBA program in North Carolina (according to U.S. News & World Report) people in Charlotte still don’t realize that we have a campus there. Wake Forest University is associated with Winston-Salem, where our main campus is located and where all of our undergraduate and full-time graduate programs are located. Needless to say, our market penetration in Winston-Salem is nearly 100%, since Winston-Salem is Wake Forest. Market awareness of our Charlotte MBA programs is typically about 30%. Part of this challenge is related to the fact that Charlotte has a growing “new professional” population, with lots of people relocating to Charlotte for work. Part of the challenge is also the lack of strategy for our marketing efforts.
Most of my energy recently has been focused on making sure we are appropriately utilizing digital marketing, or as most businesses call it…marketing. In the past, many companies have separated traditional marketing channels like print, television, and radio from digital channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and paid search on Google. Increasingly, digital marketing is just thought of as marketing, not an “extra” or “bolt on” item to the marketing strategy (Abramovich, 2017). The benefits of using digital platforms for marketing include that it can be very targeted to the types of customers you are looking to reach and analytics are available to track performance.
Roesler (2015), writing for Inc., reminds us the search engine optimization (SEO) is important for digital and offline businesses alike. First, 91% of Google search clicks are made on results found on the first page. This means if you’re on page 2, you almost never get seen. Even companies without websites (YIKES) can be found if they are registered with the various search engines. This can include customer reviews, phone numbers, and directions to your business. It can also point searchers to your social media accounts, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, if that is primarily where you are promoting your product or service.
The moral of the story is that marketing is important and depending on your audience your digital presence may be the most important investment that you make.