In conversations with propane marketers across the country, I find that more than half of them have some level of online marketing program in place.
Some marketers invest more resources in online marketing, while others think that simply having a website is enough.
What is your attitude toward online marketing? It will be a significant factor in your future business success.
Multiple sources now verify that more than 80 percent of shoppers for goods and services conduct online research before buying. More than 50 percent of those searches are done on mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets. Some of those shoppers may still go to a brick-and-mortar store to make the purchase, but much of their research is already done online.
The phone book’s Yellow Pages, long a mainstay of advertising in the propane industry, will likely disappear in the next five years. It won’t matter how much you think propane shoppers are using the Yellow Pages because the phone book will disappear. Are you embracing this sweeping change in shopping habits, or are you letting online marketing apathy creep in?
Your website is the keystone of any good online marketing campaign. More shoppers will be looking at your website to check out your brand and image than any other marketing activity you do. Whether shoppers find your website depends on how optimized your website is. Ongoing search engine optimization (SEO) and periodic pay-per-click campaigns will get you the ranking you need to show up on the first page of an online search.
Propane marketers who do not keep online content fresh, do not have a mobile-friendly website, do not have an SEO plan, do not invest in pay per click and do not consider overhauling their website entirely every three to four years will probably find the results of their online marketing programs unimpressive.
Facebook should also be an important component of your online marketing campaign. It can drive followers to your website and your place of business, depending on what type of action you want them to take. The number of followers you have can be a misleading performance metric. Unless you are able to actively engage your Facebook audience, as measured by likes, comments and shares on individual posts, your followers might not see your posts.
For instance, the average Facebook user has about 250 friends, but when you look at your Facebook feed, you are not seeing posts from 250 people. Instead, you are seeing posts from the same dozen people over and over again. Facebook uses engagement algorithms to determine which posts you see in your feed. In other words, if you have a friend whose posts you never like, comment on or share, the friend will stop appearing in your feed. On the other hand, your friends with whom you regularly engage are the people you will continue to see in your feed.
Your company’s Facebook page works the same way. You may have 2,000 likes on your page, but unless those people frequently engage with your content, you will not show up on their walls and they will not see your posts. That means little to no traffic will come to your website from Facebook.
I recently called a propane marketer who showed signs of online marketing apathy. One of his complaints was that Facebook “just wasn’t working for him.” After leaving his office, I checked his company’s Facebook page on my mobile device and found that he hadn’t posted anything new since last year. Online shoppers notice a lack of activity and will continue to search for another company with whom to do business that cares about marketing its image and brand.
Yes, it takes some time and resources to maintain a successful online marketing program. Some propane companies may need to outsource marketing activities to get them to where they need to be if they don’t have those types of resources in-house. Just remember that Yellow Pages won’t be around much longer.
Tom Jaenicke is vice president of propane marketing services for Warm Thoughts Communications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 810-252-7855.