Dustin Thompson is founder of 2020tek and Konnected Interactive and a member of the Eden Prairie MyFirestorm chapter. I asked him to be a guest blogger for our site and share some of his expertise with his fellow 'Stormers. Here is what he has to say...
The importance of networking cannot be understated. Getting out into the community and meeting other professionals is the key to business success. Creating trust through long term relationships will bring the qualified leads that you target at a fairly low cost per acquisition. MyFirestorm is a great venue for building these long term relationships with other business professionals but your lead generation cannot only live in the offline world anymore. The need to have a strong presence online is one of the biggest factors in continued growth and no one is predicting that this trend will fade anytime in the future.
So why have an online presence for your business? The answer is simple, 80-90% of individuals and businesses go online to research their buying decisions. No matter what industry you are in your potential customers are online looking for who can provide the best solution to their problem. This huge opportunity presents you with the ability to reach a wider set of potential customers and at the same time target customers in different stages of the buying cycle. In person networking can plant the seed in potential customers setting off a chain of events that lead to an eventual purchase. However most of these potential clients will go online to see what other options they have and who presents the best fit for them. If you are able to have a strong online presence you will be able to give your unique selling proposition to them again or possibly for the first time if someone else has planted that seed.
What does a strong online presence look like? That question is thrown around endlessly in today’s market, mostly because there are an endless number of “consultants” and “gurus” who believe they have the end all answer. I believe that your online presence may look different than the company next to you or down the road. A company should develop their online presence by first stabling their goals, these may already be clearly defined by your marketing plan but if they are not you need to spend some time developing them. You should never adopt an online marketing tactic just because you see others using it, this will only lead to problems in the long run. The online marketing world is growing everyday but some of the most heavily used tactics include, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Social Media marketing, blogging, mobile device application development, and social bookmarking. What mix is right for you again depends on what you want to accomplish, if you are looking to drive targeted leads ASAP you should look at Search Engine Marketing but if you want to create greater brand loyalty, social media may be your best bet. Remember that when developing or redefining your online marketing strategy to work with your in house team or consultant to develop your long term goals for the project and then see which tools will work to meet those goals.
Every time I go to a networking event I go around and meet as many people as I can. When I tell these people that I provide internet marketing consulting I am amazed that how many of these individuals tell me that they have been doing that since the stone age and are doing great with it in house. However when I get back to my office I will do a very basic audit of their website and online presence and discover that they were lying to me or just unaware of the options they have for marketing in the online world. Developing great connections offline can get you a great head start for your business but as your mature and look for new opportunities the internet can provide an almost endless opportunity. Make sure that you are treating your online networking as well as you do your offline networking.
Dustin Thompson is the founder of 2020Tek LLC, a Google Apps Solution Provider and Konnected Interactive ,an Online Marketing Firm. Dustin helps companies reduce the cost and complexity of IT through the adoption of cloud computing and grow their business online through web based marketing initiatives. Learn more about his solutions at Minneapolis SEO and 2020Tek.