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This is a story about the past. It’s a story about reading the sign posts on the fork of the road and trusting your gut when you pick a direction. It’s a story about predicting the future trajectory of marketing based on data points that got us here.

In my opinion, the core of marketing has and will always be about communication. However, the way that customers communicate with one another isn’t the same as the way that businesses communicate with them. So, in order for your message to spread, your business needs to adapt.

We know from McKinsey Quarterly that the average consumer is first aware of a product, that they pass into an active evaluation phase that includes searching for information, they select a brand, evaluate their choice and then pass through a loyalty loop upon their next trigger.

All of these touch points are important places for your business to be.

Awareness

Traditional Media sources are still the largest single resource for creating awareness about your business en masse. According to McKinsey’s findings, “Brand awareness matters: brands in the initial-consideration set can be up to three times more likely to be purchased eventually than brands that aren’t in it.”

In another study by eMarketer the results found that traditional media were the biggest motivation for beginning a search on a smartphone, followed by word of mouth.

Active Evaluation

After the initial consideration set of brands, consumers start actively investigating additional companies by going online, asking friends & family and checking reviews. In a recent survey conducted by Deloitte, they determined that 75% of consumers go online for information. Of these, people going online, about 1/4 interact with businesses through social networking sites.

So if consumers are going online, can they find you?

This is where search engine optimization comes into play. I think the most efficient form of SEO is to have a prospect type your name into a search bar. When they do, your business should show up. Here’s the problem with that, most consumers search for a solution, not specifically your business. Udi Manber is the VP of Engineering at Google. Udi has talked before about the challenges of search. On Google, a full 20-25% of searches have never been seen before.

What this means to me is that your website needs to be updated almost daily in order to have relevance and be found. This is why blogs are so important. Each entry can be individually optimized for search engines and contains relevant up to date content that satisfies the changing needs of your customers. Creating content adds to the longtail of search terms and is a search engine strategy.

But the Yellowpages.ca group told me that when I buy an online listing they help my SEO ranking…so I’m good, right? Nope, not exactly. A Toronto based SEO company Amalgam Design conducted an interesting experiment about the usefulness of yellowpages.ca listings. Without getting into all the specifics, Amalgam did some digging and found that of the 30 business listed in the online directories from the Yellowpage.ca, none of them showed up in the first 20 pages of Google.

So what you may ask?

Well, theres a number of reasons why this is an important finding.

First, and foremost, in the search engine world Google is King. In Canada, Google handles over 75% of the search volume. Consider Google your best sales agent and if your best sales agent doesn’t know about you, they can’t tell consumers to add your brand to their consideration set during active evaluation.

Second, is the fact that the top ranked organic searches get the most attention from consumers. In this eye scan study, researchers found that the first three organic listings recieved 100% of the searchers attention. The searchers attention decreased the further down the page a listing was. Additionally, 70% of searchers don’t go beyond the first page.

So being on the 20th page of a Google result isn’t likely to help your business get added to the shopping list of a consumer’s brand choices.

Where are we again?

First was the use of Traditional Media to generate awareness. Then came the importance of Google as a sales agent to recommend your business to prospects. The third part is winning in store which leads us into post-purchase evaluation and the loyalty loop.

Stay tuned for Part II later this week.

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