Online vs. Approved Messaging: Which is More Important?
March 24, 2011 by Maria Ford
Think about your company’s main product line or service offering. Without saying the product’s actual brand name, what do you call it? How do you tell someone what type of product or service it is? For example:
- A Mac PowerBook is a laptop (or is it a portable computer or a notebook?)
- A Subaru Forester is a sport utility vehicle (or is it a truck or a van?)
- A local firm provides a mediation service (or is it dispute resolution?)
For any given product or service, you will face choices in how you describe or categorize its position in a chosen market. With the web and search engines today playing a dramatically increasing role in the research that your target customers perform to find products and services, the terminology they use to search for solutions has begun to influence how companies describe their offerings.
If you are familiar with the concept of search optimization of websites, the statement above will probably seem obvious. What’s often less obvious is that there may be a direct relationship between how products and services are described in off-line media and how they are searched for online. You should think about whether that’s the case in your business or industry – and if it is, your marketing content may need to change.
To illustrate this point, we’ll look at two clients of ours who are addressing this reality.
Example 1: Voice-Over-IP-Based Business Phone System Provider
We’ve been writing marketing content for a variety of VOIP-based phone system companies for many years. One of those clients offers a VOIP-based business phone system without any hardware – that is, the service is delivered completely over the web in what is called a “hosted” business model. Their customers need VOIP-enabled telephones and nothing else – no servers or phone switches or PBXs.
Customers for these types of phone systems tend to be web-savvy, so online marketing and our client’s corporate website is important to their marketing efforts. For the company’s first few years in business, it targeted web searchers who were typing in terms like “VOIP” and “voice-over-IP”. More recently, a shift in this behaviour has changed the company’s game plan.
Larger service providers like Primus (formerly Magma) and Bell started to market “hosted PBX” phone services to homes and small business. Three years ago, “hosted PBX” was a practically unknown concept to most non-technical people. Now, with large companies spending a lot of money to advertise and brand “hosted PBX” – primarily through print-based mass mailings – online search habits have changed. As the term has become part of mainstream language, we have worked with our client to repurpose its website navigation and content to capture web users who now search primarily for “hosted PBX” solutions.
Example 2: Lumber & Building Supplies Company
The construction/building supply industry is in many ways very different from the VOIP market. This industry tends to be less web-savvy, with business interactions still conducted primarily on paper, face-to-face, and via fax.
Yet, the clients we work with in this sector recognize the importance the web plays in reaching home owners and do-it-yourself retail customers. While trades people and suppliers may not yet be frequent web users, middle-class retail customers are.
As part of the search engine optimization (SEO) and website content writing services we provide, we have learned an interesting fact. What one of our clients was calling building “packages” web searchers are calling building “kits”.
On the day we presented our SEO research and content recommendations to the client, they were about to go to print with tens of thousands of flyers advertising their building “packages”. The President of the company asked, “Does it matter if our fliers say ‘packages’ and our website says ‘kits’?”
Our reply was YES, it does matter. We advised them to make a last-minute change to their print materials to use the phrase “building kits” rather than “building packages”. Our client wishes to attract the people searching for building kits to its website, and we will ensure that its website is optimized to do that. By changing its print materials to match, our client will build on the existing momentum and will create local brand awareness for the same key term.
Think about where your product or service fits within your industry then think about your company’s branding power. Do you have the resources and the heft to put behind the branding of a new or unpopular term to describe what you have to offer? If not, it pays to factor in online search habits into more than your website content – it pays to factor it in to your core messages in all their forms.