Dan’l Mackey Almy (left), president and chief executive officer of Iriving, Texas-based DMA Solutions, exchanges phone numbers with Leslie Simmons, marketing and sales manager for Coral Springs, Fla.-based Dave’s Specialty Imports. Almy also led the Friday morning workshop on digital marketing.
Dan’l Mackey Almy (left), president and chief executive officer of Iriving, Texas-based DMA Solutions, exchanges phone numbers with Leslie Simmons, marketing and sales manager for Coral Springs, Fla.-based Dave’s Specialty Imports. Almy also led the Friday morning workshop on digital marketing.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — If you thought that the Internet and social media were passing fads and could be ignored as marketing tools, Dan’l Mackey Almy said think again.

“It’s main stay,” said the president and chief executive officer of Irving, Texas-based DMA Solutions. “What will change is Facebook will go through phases and Twitter will go through phases. What we have to do is figure out how to use those tools to reach those audiences.”

Mackenzie Michel, marketing manager, agreed.

“If marketing is important to your company...then digital marketing absolutely is an essential part of that,” she said.

Their comments came during the morning educational workshop, “Competitive Marketing in the Digital Workshop,” Aug. 17, at the PMA Fresh Summit.

But the choice isn’t either digital or more traditional media, which include television, radio and billboards, Almy said.

Instead, companies should choose from among all media to find the best mix to reach their audiences.

“Based on what we’re trying to accomplish, let’s figure out what works and let’s use it,” she said. “It’s not digital versus traditional.”

Regardless of the mix, Michel said having a company blog, where somebody regularly writes on the Internet, is essential. The blog also should be compatible with mobile devices, such as smartphones, or you’ll lose audience.

The first step to designing a digital marketing campaign is figuring out your goals. Then you have to define your audience or who you’re trying to reach, said Megan Zweig, strategic marketing director. Knowing your audience also will help you craft your messages.

Are you trying to reach consumers who might buy your produce? Then you may want to target the 2 million or so people who consider themselves “foodies.” Or maybe you want to send a message to millenials – consumers between the ages of about 18-35 – about how the food is grown and your family’s long history.

Measuring audience response helps determine whether the message worked or whether there are additional opportunities, Zweig said.

For your digital campaign to be effective, buyers – whether commercial or consumers – have to be able to find your website or social media site. Using the correct key words helps search engines rank your sites higher.

Knowing how users found your website or social media site also is helpful in determining campaign success as is tracking traffic volume, or visitors, to your sites, Zweig said.

One of the benefits of social media is the opportunity to have two-way conversations with consumers, she said. But you must be available and respond when they contact you via a post.

To be effective, a digital media campaign also has to delight and nurture the user, Zweig said.

“You can’t just broadcast your information out there,” Michel said.

Instead, you need to listen, connect and engage such as by helping users with recipes or other information.

If successful, “you’ve just converted a website visitor into a brand ambassador,” Zweig said.

But to keep them coming back, you need to provide relevant content and do so consistently.

Although the mix of digital and social media may sound daunting to some, Almy said it is an essential part of increasing consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We have to move forward if we’re ever going to increase the marketing of our products with knowledge-based decisions,” she said. “We have to use the information and listen to what our audience says.”