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SELF HELP: Internet marketing expert John Leland is in New Zealand
SELF HELP: Internet marketing expert John Leland is in New Zealand

When United States author Tim Ferriss was hunting for a title for his bestselling self-help book, he used Google Adwords to discover which name clicked best with the world wide web.

He settled on The 4-Hour Workweek, which became a New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek bestseller.

Internet marketing expert Jon Leland says that kind of market research would have cost tens of thousands of dollars under the old marketing model, but Ferriss paid just "a few hundred dollars" to have the 12 titles appear when people on Google searched certain terms.

"If the proof is in the pudding, his book is a huge bestseller. It was well-named and the title is important. That's the kind of innovative approach that's out there if you understand how all the pieces fit together."

The problem is most businesses don't, he says.

Leland, who is president of US internet marketing firm ComBridges, will visit New Zealand this month, and hopes to give a wake-up call to businesses caught napping by changes in technology and how they can be leveraged in marketing.

"I call it the Grand Canyon gap between people and technology. A lot of businesses don't understand search engine optimisation or what keyword research is and why it's important. If a business doesn't understand its keywords, it doesn't understand how its customers are talking about it."

Just being on the web in all the right places is not enough, and companies cannot expect to set up a Facebook page and watch the customers and revenue roll in, he says.

"You have to offer some expertise and lead with value. It's the quality of the posts or content you generate that is going to help build relationships, or the quality of the offers you make."

Any notions of calculating a return on investment from a Facebook page or Twitter account should be parked at the door, he says.

"People don't talk about the return on investment of their retail store's window display. They just know they need to have a presence on the main street and show off their wares.

"Being present on the internet is the new main street."

Twitter has the world aflutter, but it's more important for businesses to be on Facebook, post videos on YouTube and have a blog than join the Twitter chorus.

Twitter is "enormously powerful", but focuses on issues and news that people are interested in and follows experts and celebrities, he says.

Firms should also look to leverage group-buying or daily deals sites, such as Treat Me and GrabOne in New Zealand, which use social-media networks to spread the word and attract eyeballs to a business and its offers.

That trend presents businesses with another challenge.

"Even more than social networks [group buying and deals sites] are leveraging mobile technology. It happens through the web, but it also happens with instant alerts on your phone.

"The mobile internet is going to be truly ubiquitous and truly real-time and it's coming on very fast. A lot of businesses don't have a website, or if they have one, it's not very good. Now, more and more, businesses need to catch up with the mobile internet."

Leland is talking at a social media conference in Hawke's Bay on Friday, and in Wellington and the South Island next week.