A Word from the General Manager - October 2014

October 1, 2014

How can we use social media to lift sales?

Brian Isard

A few years ago, I came close to buying a wood packaging business. Fortunately, I had a good lawyer who persuaded me that the franchising model wasn’t a good fit in our industry and I backed away from it. Something that stuck with me was a comment the business owner said to me when I asked him if there was anything he would do differently. He said to me: “My one regret is not putting my marketing dollars to work on the internet in developing sales leads”.

In the decade that I worked as a sales manager, I had little exposure to marketing through social media. My marketing plan typically dealt with four aspects:

Understanding how to segment your target markets

Deciding on how to position products or services compared to the competition

Defining your pricing strategy toward the various market segments

Selecting the right media approach to reach and influence your selected target market

My marketing efforts dealt primarily with brochures, product specifications, testimonials and trade show booths.

Learning how to market a business through the internet is something of a challenge for me and I need some help in understanding how a successful Twitter account or Facebook page can boost sales, create contacts, and drive in traffic in an industry such as ours.

What I am told by people in the marketing industry is that about half of Canada’s population is online every day and half of people starting to search for a product or service do it over the internet. From that perspective it’s important for a company to have a presence online. 

Marketing a business has always had a big technology component and in an ever changing business landscape it’s a good practice to be sure that you are moving with the times.

Most of us recognize that a website is essential to a successful business these days but often we struggle to make it an effective sales tool. In some cases we end up with a confusing and badly designed website which doesn’t enhance your company’s reputation and does a poor job of promoting the sales effort.

Last month at our Western Focus Meeting we had David Saxby from Sparks Communications provide us with an overview of how to integrate social media into your company’s marketing plan. One thing that caught my attention from his presentation was how companies are using social media to build brand awareness for their businesses.

This is an area of marketing that the association has been hard at work to develop as we strengthen the brand of the Canadian Wood Packaging Certification Program. 

David Saxby explains that there are six basic functions or uses of social media and it is interesting to see how they are being applied in the wood packaging industry: Outlined below are examples of how members of our industry are applying social media to their marketing efforts.

  • Social Networking Check out what the National Wood Pallet & Container Association is doing on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/
  • Blogging (a live newsletter people can share their opinions) Check out Kamps Pallets in the USA northwest at http://www.kampsinc.com/pallet-industry-news-blog/
  • Social bookmarking (sharing articles, websites and links with others) Check out Herwood Inc. and their shared article at http://www.businesselitecanada.com/emag/2014/aug_2014/#166
  • Media Sharing (YouTube, Flikr, Podcasting)  Check out St.Boniface Pallet Co which has great animated video that catches people attention. Check out their website at  www.stbpallet.com  and a link to their new YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbWz3_JJ--4
  • Reviews and opinions – commenting through live forms of media – chat rooms, blogs, crowdsourcing, opinion polls etc. Check out the Pallet Enterprise’s http://www.palletforum.com/
  • Wikis – (e.g. Wikipedia) Check out ISPM:15  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISPM_15

Any social media strategy works best when it is targeted to a specific audience. The social media strategy is the same as any other marketing strategy. First you need to identify who are your potential customers/guests? Where are you likely to find them? Who are the decision makers? How are you going to reach them? 

Social media is changing how we communicate. This means there has never been more immediate or available ways to connect with your stakeholders. While it is a great tool, it must also be used with care, whatever the size of your business. It is constantly evolving, so you must have a robust but adaptable strategy to cope with this.

David Saxby has kindly provided his Marketing Tips eBook as well as information on learning how to integrate social media into traditional marketing that is available through the CWPCA Knowledge Centre on the members only side of the website.

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