Media these days is filled with buzzwords, and one that I can’t seem to get away from is the word “virtual”. It’s great that there’s a way to categorize “trending” topics, but sometimes when we hear these words or phrases so many times, they seem to begin to lose their meaning. In this case, there’s virtual reality, a lifelike computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional world within which one can move around and interact with the environment. In the tech world, we have virtual machines, which are essentially programs that simulate actual computers, running an operating system and applications. There’s even such a thing as a virtual piano, a program that lets you experience playing the piano online using your computer. But what’s virtual marketing, and how does it apply to your business?
It’s a virtual world.
It may help a bit here if we can get some understanding of what the word “virtual” means in today’s world. Oxford Dictionaries provides a number of definitions. We seem to have evolved past the traditional meaning of the term, “Almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition”. The computing definition, “Not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so”, seems to bring us a little closer to the mark. The most modern definition, though, seems to come closest to what we’re discussing: “Carried out, accessed, or stored by means of a computer, especially over a network”. When we talk about a virtual service, what we really mean is a process that is outsourced and housed off your site, which simulates having someone in-house performing that function. So, a virtual marketing agency is one that functions as if they were your in-house marketing department, effectively taking on all those responsibilities.
Don’t be scared of outsourcing.
“Outsourcing” has kind of a bad rap in today’s economy. After all, we keep hearing about all the corporations who have outsourced their jobs overseas, and the terrible effect that has had on our workforce. Actually that phenomenon is more appropriately termed “offshoring”, and isn’t really what we’re discussing here at all. We’re referring to the process of delegating non-core work to an outside third-party, which is a growing trend in the current business climate. The point here is that given that you’ve probably got more on your plate than you can manage, and that it makes sense to focus on the key functions that are essential to your business, and at which you excel. Everything else can be farmed out to people outside of your organization who have expertise in those functions. So, if, for example, accounting is not in the core skills and functions of your business, it makes sense to delegate that work to an accounting firm. Likewise, unless your focus includes marketing and its strategies, you’re better off employing the services of a virtual marketing agency.
What will a virtual marketing agency do for your business?
Let’s take another look at the “dictionary”, in this case, webdeveloper.com, which gave this definition of “virtual marketing” a few years ago: “Virtual marketing is the basis of search engines positioning, ranking and optimization, website indexation, banner advertising, e-mail marketing, content development, social media marketing, research and many more.”. This pretty well covers most aspects of digital marketing, which is a completely different beast from old-school marketing methods, like print advertising, cold calling and so on. It’s not just that those are outdated media, although they are. Honestly, when was the last time you looked in the yellow pages when you needed to make a purchase, or actually took seriously a call from a telemarketer? But even more importantly, using the internet for marketing purposes provides a greater opportunity to connect with more and more qualified leads, especially when you utilize the current inbound marketing methodology. See below.
Inbound marketing? What’s that?
Inbound marketing is the modern response to the antiquated methods of marketing mentioned above, which could be called “outbound”. Those methods involve reaching out to prospective customers, using a variety of means to “get in their faces”, so to speak. This approach interrupts what people are doing, demanding their attention, to answer a call or reading a mailing piece. Most people’s lives today are simply too busy to accommodate those interruptions, and moreover, it’s easy to tune them out, using caller ID, spam filters for email, and simply tossing the junk mail into the recycling bin, unopened.
Inbound marketing, as the name suggests, takes the opposite approach, attracting potential buyers by enticing them with valuable content that addresses subjects that are important to them. A large part of the virtual marketing process involves developing a buyer persona, a sort of stereotypical profile of your customer base, and identifying their concerns or pain points. Since they’re already looking for answers to their questions, the approach is to offer relevant content, and make sure it’s readily available and visible in their searches. For this reason, inbound marketing is sometimes also known as content marketing.
Will a virtual marketing agency produce the content for me?
You bet they will. In fact, it’s much of what they’ll do for you. Content offerings are most frequently written copy: blogs, white papers, eBooks, etc.. But they can also be other media: images, infographics, and even audio and video. However, there’s more to virtual marketing than simply producing the content. There’s the essential step known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the science of ensuring that your website and content offerings rank high in Google searches so that prospects can find their way there (see our eBook - how to rank #1 on Google). There’s also going to be a lot of strategizing as to the best approaches, and detailed analytics to see how effective your marketing campaigns really are.
Have we intrigued you about going virtual with your marketing? Give us a call, and we’ll be happy to discuss your business goals and the ways in which we can help you achieve them.