Most of my previous blog posts have been written in an attempt to add something to the information already carried on the main Waste Aware Business website, by offering in-depth advice on waste issues or looking behind the scenes of the waste industry. Other posts have discussed events that I’ve been to, through which I have attempted to show different ways that businesses in Scotland have tried to engage with the environmental agenda.
However, none of my posts have yet really touched on what it means to co-ordinate this national campaign on a day-to-day basis. I haven’t, for example, written about the nuts and bolts of my role here at Keep Scotland Beautiful. So I thought I would try to offer some insight into that today by discussing some of the marketing techniques we use to achieve value for money and maximise our exposure.
One of the key aims of the Waste Aware Business campaign is to promote the website to businesses around Scotland. This is in order to highlight the information available via the website (such as the directory) and also to encourage businesses to think about introducing sustainable waste management by focusing on the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle).
This is not always an easy task, particularly with a limited budget. To achieve exposure I work closely with partner organisations so we can share resources such as space at events etc. In reality this means that, as I update the online events calendar (either when I get emailed about an event or find one on another website), I contact the organiser of events that are likely to offer an opportunity to talk to businesses about the campaign. Sometimes this involves making presentations and other times it involves “networking” where, typically, I will end up in a room with hundreds of other people, all of us trying to persuade the others that what we have to offer is essential to their lives. Networking has its place, and certainly serves a useful purpose as a way to complement other elements of the campaign, but it is never enough on its own. This is mainly because the people who tend to attend networking events are people who have a service to offer, which rules out a large proportion of the business community.
For example manufacturing companies, builders, hairdressers, newsagents, estate agents, mechanics and a great many other business types are unlikely to attend your typical networking event.
To reach these people and let them know we exist and what we can offer them, we have to (horrible phrase alert) “think outside the box”. So, for example, I might write articles to appear in various publications as editorial content. This means they are not paid for which helps us. Also, if they are written in a way that captures peoples’ attention, they help to indirectly drive people towards the website. Of course with editorial I cannot overly plug the website or campaign. On the other hand with advertorial we can do exactly that, and we appear in various publications in both advertising and advertorial formats.
An example ad (from some time ago) shows the sort of thing we put in publications:
This sort of thing helps to quickly show the reader what we offer and how they can access it. In keeping with other Waste Aware Scotland advertising it is straightforward, to the point, simple and effective.
One of the key things to remember is that we are promoting a website. How many people are going to read a magazine, see the above ad and log on to their computer to find a recycling service? Clearly some will, especially those who actually happen to see the ad at the same time as they are actively looking for a recycling service for their business. They are the easy pickings! To reach maximum exposure to all kinds of business throughout Scotland we must do more than simple press ads. Which is where online marketing comes in.
Earlier this year I set up a variety of online marketing mechanisms. One of them was this blog which, although fun to do and a useful way to put across information to our readers, is primarily intended to get you to visit, use and tell your friends about the Waste Aware Business website. Sorry to be blunt about it but if the blog generated no additional visitors for the main campaign we would be hard pressed to justify it. Fortunately it does seem to add something of real value to the campaign which can be measured both in terms of visitors to the blog and, subsequently, visitors to the website as well.
Blogs are good because they are free. However they are difficult because they require regular updates. Stories don’t write themselves. Content really is king (this is true of all online portals) and without something to write and someone to write it, a blog would never work. I don’t write as many posts as I would like but the blog is only a small part of the overall campaign. I also try to write posts which will stand the test of time, so that the body of information within this blog remains relevant. This means that a new visitor who comes to the blog can scroll through older posts and, hopefully, find something of interest.
Other online marketing techniques include search advertising, where we pay to appear on search engine results pages for certain terms. We are in the very fortunate position of having a number 1 Google ranking for a range of search terms. For example “business recycling”. This means we get traffic from people actually looking for business recycling. But what about people looking more specifically for recycling for a particular waste stream such as “paper recycling”? I investigated where we did well and where we did less well in the natural (unpaid) listings on the big search engines (Google, Yahoo and Microsoft). For the materials for which we didn’t appear in the natural listing I used Google Adwords to ensure a paid for search entry appeared for those search terms.
To complement this, we also developed online banner ads to appear on various websites. The ads are material specific (e.g. “Paper Recycling”) and they link to a specially developed page in the WAB website which shows Paper Recycling services across Scotland. These ads were delivered through the Google content network using a Media distribution agency. All in all the production (by a different media agency), delivery and distribution of the ads cost less than we expected. In fact the ads are still appearing, despite the fact we used last year’s budget to distribute them! I can also get detailed statistics about the ads at any time through the Google Adwords account. This means I can work out which ads are performing better than others which will help to inform future campaign elements of this type.
Examples of the banner ads:
As we move beyond these banner ads and look to increase our exposure using new marketing methods it will be interesting to see what role the Internet plays in achieving our goals. I suspect it will be vital.