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Presentation "Zen and the Art of Online Marketing"

Author: Carl Heaton
He is our senior instructor and originally from Manchester UK. Carl teaches our Web Design and Online Marketing Courses.
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For the Web Courses Bangkok Open day on September the 25th I presented a short seminar on online marketing, Not wanting to make it a boring speech on the boring bits I thought that I would use Zen quotes to make in a little bit more interesting. This is the transcription of that seminar.

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Zen Online Marketing Mastered by WebCoursesBangkok

We have learned about what goes into making well-designed sites for you to attract your customers to, but now I want to talk about what it takes to make that site actually successful, because unfortunately the adage “Build it and they will come” just doesn’t fly here.

This presentation is called Zen and the art of Online Marketing because what I will do is not drone on about rel=canonical url structures, or how to set up a Facebook fan page what I will do is use the lesson of Zen to illustrate areas that you as a webmaster must concentrate on to become successful.

A new student approached the Zen master and asked how he should prepare himself for his training. “Think of Online marketing as a bell,”* the master explained. “Give it a soft tap, and you will get a tiny ping. Strike hard, and you’ll receive a loud, resounding BONGGG.”
*He was a very tech savvy Zen master… think Mr. Miyagi with an iPad

You get out what you put in.

Online marketing is a process that it directly reflects the amount of work that you put into it. If you work everyday, engaging prospective customers, asking sites for links, developing worthwhile content, working on your calls to action, analysing your data and developing your email database your return will reflect what you put in.

What I am going to do is use Zen quotes to illustrate different aspects of online marketing and how you can apply them in the online world.

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A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step

There is no time like today to start promoting your content, your services and your offers.
Take a look at your site today, and think about it. Ask yourself one question, “Would I buy what I am selling” “am I offering the right things’ “am I talking at my customers or with them” ”does my site inspire trust and confidence about my product or do I look a little dodgy”

A jug can be filled one drop at a time

Do a little bit everyday and you will see the benefits?

You don’t have to go to your website today and start hammering everything out, take it easy and slow, set yourself a good pace and one that you can maintain.

Many people start developing content thinking they can upload a new post everyday. Its fantastic if you can but it is a lot of work. We at WCB produce 4 posts a week and that is really a full time job, podcasts, blog posts, tutorials, interviews and the like. Its hard work to maintain, especially if you are running a business at the same time, but just remember that everything you do has have an effect on your site and your customer. So one step at a time.

Water and words are easy to pour but impossible to take back

Think about your personality, what you say and how you say it can effect the perception of your brand for a long time.

There is a site, actually there are many sites whose sole contents is comments on Facebook. Failbook.com is a great example of that. The lesson to learn here is to be careful of how you present yourself online because like an elephant the internet never forgets. That pic of you blind drunk vomiting in your shoes at a friends party might be funny to some, but your customers may not agree.

Also remember that everything that you say online represents your brand personality, if your negative and sarcastic or abusive how do you think that, that reflects on your brand? Not very positive… unless your brand is like that, Perez Hilton is a good example of that sort of branding.

The flip side is if your always positive and happy, you may come off as unrealistic. It’s a tricky one to manage but if you can, your brand will prosper because of it. BE HUMAN

When you do talk online, and I don’t mean Facebook, even the product descriptions of your items is talking, are you presenting a personality? Can our readers get a sense of what your brand values when they read your description.
Adding a little personality to a section of a site that on mass is dry and boring, can add just enough of that wow factor to make you a little more memorable.

Also if you’re really good at it, you can have a product description that people actually want to share on their social networks.

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The world is a mirror, smile and the world will smile back

If you produce quality content and you give it freely with no hidden agenda you will receive natural links (natural links by the way are valued by search engines as a way of determining how excellent content is) and people will talk about your brand

Today most sites just tell you information and hope that that is good enough they tell you the features of their product or they list the benefits and hope that that is awesome enough to engage you…. Often its not

When business produce press releases, get on your social networks and tell you specials…
They just yell at you hoping that you will listen and take action, which used to work in the 50’s when advertising was all about new and special offer and that, but now it doesn’t quote work that way. Taking the same principals and overlaying them on to the new media channels will not only get you ignored but will cost you potential clients.

A company that was adding value with quality content recently was old spice.
(I have to admit I am a total old spice campaign fan boy)

They weren’t pushing their product they were pushing a personality and a branding image. They made unique interesting and original content that people loved, found funny and shared. That sharing is what got their content tons of natural links and mentions and shares.

Almost every video they have produced has a hero shot of the product, people know that it’s an advertisement, but they just don’t care, its awesome enough to be an ad.

As you may know links to your site that are gained naturally (not through purchases) are about 60% of the reason your site gets ranked over others.

A natural link is the goal with any content publication and by not pushing your product but by being a person, you will get those links but it takes time and creativity.

No snowflake falls in the wrong place

A link from anywhere is a link, a mention of your brand is still a mention, any publicity is good publicity (unless your BP), its how you react to it that makes all the difference

Talking about links, any link is a good link, it is preferable that you get links for sites that are based around the same theme as yours as an example, if you have a web school based in Thailand you would want to try to get links from, of course, other schools, but think creatively about it. What else could be related, things to do in Thailand? Computer software sellers? Graphic design websites? Education resources and so on…

Be creative and think about how far out can take it, then spend the time to look around and send an email to webmasters and see if you can get some links.

One way to get links it to produce content for others, article submissions, guest blog posts, commenting on other peoples blogs, twitter is in the process of becoming indexed, posting in forums and so on and so on.
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The quieter you become the more you hear

Listen to your audience, what are they talking about and how can you leverage off it?

What are your customers saying about you? Where are they talking and how are they painting your brand and personality.

I have two examples of companies listening and not listing to their customer base, these are both personal experiences.

One is with a company called alterian, they are an analytics company who I have used their software, one day I was trying to generate a report and I couldn’t log in to their server, then hen I could, my details were all wrong and things were just borked!

So all I did was tweet out my frustration that I couldn’t access the server and it was annoying the hell out of me.

I left for about 10 min then suddenly I had a reply on my twitter from then, telling me that they were looking into it, they thanked me for making them aware there was a problem and to be patient BAM! I was hooked and my pissed offness was gone… 5 min later I get another one, saying the problem was fixed and that they were very sorry for the problem.

I was impressed.

The next one was air Asia, and they did bad, their site was not working, I couldn’t get through to the call enter, their online help desk was borked.. It was all broken and I couldn’t get anything to work.

So I started to have a look around to see how active they were on social media, they have a twitter with 54K followers, they have Facebook pages that are optimised with custom landing pages and multiple languages so for all intents and purposes they are all over it.

So I tweeted out, my intense displeasure, thinking that I would have another great story of monitoring and customer service. Nothing. I then sent them a direct tweet and still…. Noting…. I left a message on their Facebook…. STILL NOTHING…

Days later… still nothing…

When your being active online and your promoting all the channels that you occupy make sure that your doing the most simple and effective thing that can turn a disgruntled customer to an evangelist…. LISTEN.

There are tons of tools out there alterian, twitter search, social mention, so use them and you can do better than air Asia.

Before enlightenment I chopped wood and carried water, after enlightenment I chopped wood and carried water.

Never stop, just because you are getting your target visits, and maybe your starting to make links and sales online, don’t stop doing what you are doing, sure farm it out to others in the business, but never stop engaging with your audience. They can break you just as fast as make you.

I am going to use the air Asia example again, and it is when a business becomes successful on line there is a tendency to step back form engaging with your customers.

Maybe your Facebook has 50K fans and you think, well I cant talk to all of them, but I think that what your doing is not making life easier for your self what your doing is creating a divide between you and your customers.

That engagement is what sets a business apart form others, take dell for example, in 2005 a single but quite well known blogger called Jeff Jarvis wrote about issues he was having with his computer, that blog got picked up and syndicated through out the blogosphere and the next thing you know, people everywhere online were talking about it.

Dell hell was what cam out of that, it was a site devoted to people complaining about their dells, but then other people started commenting on how to fix problems, giving each other advice and helping each other out.
Dell didn’t like this to start but saying we don’t endorse and so on… then they saw that all they were doing was ignoring the valid concerns of their customers.

After some time though Dell started to not only speak to the customers on that site but they started to make major internal changes to address these issues!

If you weren’t continuously working on managing your relationships online you would have missed the opportunity Dell had then to address in a public forum any issue that many of their customers and potential customers were talking about.

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A teacher opens the door you are the one who decides to enter it.

You never stop learning and you should never stop reading and studying what is going on, new technology and new fads. You have to always be on the ball otherwise you might miss the next excellent opportunity.

There is tons of information available for free on the internet, that can help you learn more about online marketing than your head can possibly fit.

Its up to you to keep your finger on the pulse of what is new and happening online.

The best thing it get yourself a Google reader account, and start subscribing to blogs, some I recommend are
Mashable for news about new technologies
Web Courses Bangkok for great articles on marketing and web design
SEOmoz for SEO info
Copy Blogger for tips on how to write great content and the list goes on.

There is only one thing worse than getting talked about and not getting talked about

Not really Zen but unless you talk to your customers and listen to them you will never get them to do the hard work at spreading word of your business through out their friend and associate circles.

Web Courses Bangkok’s biggest source of students has been through engagement with the social medias and through recommendations on Facebook and the like from our past students we have attracted more students. We hope that if you become a student with us that you will recommend us as well!

I think is quite relevant, people will always be talking, and they used to talk around the water cooler now they talk in forums, Facebook, twitter and all the different online hangouts.

Its up to you to find the conversations and start engage with your customers, be human and produce relevant, interesting and creative content.

This how you can be successful online.

Any questions?

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