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Making new T

Using online marketing effectively could be a way to boost your business, take advantage of new opportunities and adapt to diffi cult market conditions. Alex Blyth explains how

he last couple of years have been tough for many businesses, and it’s been particularly challenging for the electrical industry. A collapse in the construction industry, as well as rising

material costs, plummeting consumer confi dence, and now a rapidly contracting public sector, have all impacted heavily on business. It has, though, forced many buinesses to look closely at

how they market themselves, and it has encouraged some to discover the potential of the internet as a marketing tool. While for some in the industry, websites may still be perceived as a hobby for geeks, email marketing as spam, and Facebook as just a way to keep up with friends, for a growing number of businesses they are tools that are helping them grow their operations, adapt to market conditions and defy the worst of the recession.

The power of the internet There are three very compelling reasons why every electrical contractor should consider using online marketing. Firstly, the internet is no longer a fringe interest; it is central to our lives. There are now around two billion internet users in the world and around 75 per cent of the UK population is now online. Increasingly, it is the fi rst place we look to make a purchase or fi nd a new supplier. Secondly, online marketing can be much more affordable than traditional marketing. Emails cost less than fl yers to produce and deliver, advertising online tends to be cheaper than in magazines or billboards – and, if you can get your search engine optimisation strategy right, you can appear at the top of the Google rankings without charge. This is not to say that online marketing is free. It does

require investment, often of time as much as of money. But, crucially, with online marketing you should be able to maximise the value of those investments because it is so measurable. You can track exactly how many people have visited your website, how many have opened your emails, how many viewed your ad, how many follow your Twitter updates, and so on. This means you can target your investments precisely and reduce any waste.

62 ECA Today Autumn 2010 About the author

Alex Blyth Alex Blyth is a freelance journalist, book author and training consultant. See

It is this combination of scale, affordability and

effectiveness that is drawing more and more businesses in the electrical industry to online marketing. For many, the greatest obstacle is knowing where to start. It is a vast virtual world out there, and it can be very intimidating for the novice. Here are the six key areas you should consider.

Six steps to getting started in online marketing:

1) Build a good website Steve Harvey is the CEO at Harvey Electrical, a fi rm of 35 people based in Poole and central London. The company was founded 31 years ago and now specialises in offi ce refurbishment work. Most recently, it fi tted out the Conservative Party’s headquarters in Millbank Tower in London. Harvey reports that much of the fi rm’s business arrives

via its website. ‘We work hard to keep our site updated with all our recent projects. For instance, if someone goes on it now, they can see all the work we’ve recently done with the Bank of New York in Canary Wharf. It demonstrates our credibility and encourages prospective customers to pick up the phone to talk to us.’

How to build a good website: ■ Don’t try to do it yourself; fi nd a good developer; ■ Ask your contacts for their recommendations; ■ Look at your competitors and fi nd out who did their sites; and

■ Make sure whoever you choose to work with on this understands your business objectives and will talk to your in plain English, rather than internet jargon.

2) Email prospective customers The Direct Marketing Association in the US produced a 2009 report The Power of Direct, which revealed that, in 2009, for every $1 spent on email marketing, the return was $43.62. No serious businessperson can afford to ignore a marketing channel that promises that sort of return.

How to start email marketing: ■ Pull together a central list of the email addresses you already have; consider existing customers, previous customers and prospective customers;

■ Put in place a system for collecting email addresses of potential customers;

■ Email them, explaining what you do and how you could help them;

■ Send them regular updates on interesting work you

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