So you don't work for a major shipping company, and you don't have several thousand pounds to spend on large broadsheet adverts which showed your non existent links to the Olympic Games? Panic not, there is still hope to get the message out that you ship short sea aggregates from the UK to Europe, or run reefer ships to the West Coast of Africa, and are looking to build your customer base.
Unfortunately, not every business out there has lots of employees and money to spend on marketing and advertising; indeed many shipping companies do not have a communications departments at all, especially with 2012 flat freight rates set to be the new 'normality' for months or even years to come.
For small businesses with very limited resources, implementing the right strategies to grow your business can be a real challenge. How do you utilise social media?
Whether you're targeting a business to business approach or even direct to the customer, marketing your services within the social media sphere can really increase your online presence, and eventually convert those tentative leads to future shipping leads.
For any young company, the various social media platforms available - and there are many now - are a great way to connect with future customers and build relationships. However, before your business puts a lifejacket on and takes a plunge into every social site, here are a some facts of life.
Before you decide which social media sites to include in your marketing campaign for your fleet, it is absolutely vital to determine who your customer is.
Which social media feeds do they tune in? How many of your potential customers are you already LinkedIn to? Who do you follow on Twitter? Do they follow you? Do you even have a Twitter feed? Have you asked your existing customer base? Survey Monkey offers a free tool to do just that. (http://www.surveymonkey.com/)
Let's not forget though, in times of crisis you might want to utilise these platforms to get some key messages out about business as usual or carry key messages to your existing customers.
Identifying your target audience will allow you to tweak your marketing plans to reach the key people or brands who are most likely to find value in your business and with whom you find a best fit.
In other words, if your company has limited resources and a defined business model, you're better off devoting the best of your resources to one thing: your target audience.
With limited time and budget and resources, setting a few manageable goals for your business is extremely important.
Don't expect to get 100,000 followers on Twitter, or armies of executives 'liking' your Facebook pages after just a few posts. Instead, set attainable social media marketing objectives, and perhaps identify some goals for producing leads. This will ensure the strategy will deliver the best results while expending the fewest resources.
Have you an efficient way to measuring results? Setting those goals is the right approach, but without a clear steer on results, you might be wasting those very precious resources in such a flat market.
Identify that which works; change that which doesn't.
As long as your communications 'team' (no matter what size and we know it can be just you!) clearly understands what the social media marketing goals are and how they, in turn, can support your business objectives, you should be able to achieve them by careful targeting.
Deciding on the right social networks in which to dip your toe is very important, especially if you have limited resources. Remember, however, building a successful social media presence takes time and it won't happen overnight.
When you've determined who your target audience is, consider the popularity of various social media platforms and who inhabits them. Business to business marketing tends to use LinkedIn, whereas you might consider Facebook when trying to get to your direct customer.
Do you really need a cupcakes and frocks profile on Pinterest? Do you know anyone communicating on Path? Start with one or two profiles and then build. Don't spread your resources too thinly.
You or your team will find it easier to manage a strong presence on a couple of sites, than it is managing too many social media sites with little or no engagement. Remember your customer won't be sitting there waiting for you to post something. Decide how many times you will post or blog. And stick to it. Sites with digital tumbleweed rolling through them bring serious zero credibility to the site owner.
There are a number of web tools that save time by allowing you to engage on various social platforms at once. One of my overall favourites is Hootsuite which allow a one time post to many different platforms.
Whether you work for a larger company or a small start up, having an effective social media marketing strategy in place will work wonders for your shipping brand.
Determining your tight target niche and setting goals that mesh with your overall objectives is the right place to start when planning a social media marketing campaign.
If you work hard and stay with it, you will see an increase in social presence and watch for the conversations and contacts to build.
Don't let limited resources limit your horizon; stay focused on your key influencers and core market and with your digital toolbox you're guaranteed positive results. It's also quite fun!
Director of Navigate Response