Jo-Anna Francis explains that any business can easily get caught up in the day-to-day activities of doing the 'job’ and run out of time to focus on the bigger picture – the continual marketing of the company, the ultimate way to ensure that the business continues to thrive.

The timber industry is a prime example of an industry that has been slow to move forward with modern marketing trends, but is finally starting to appreciate and understand the new era of digital marketing and the benefits it can bring to their business.

Some still refuse to move forward with online marketing, and these may ultimately be the ones that find they are left behind by their competitors and suffer in the future. Many, however, are venturing into the world of online sales & marketing, and there is a dawning realisation that, while historically timber merchants have been led either by face-to-face sales via their yards or telephone orders being placed for delivery, a new era is upon us and the customer marketplace is hungry for it.

Technology has reached the masses and everyone from the weekend DIY-er to the large construction firm wants easy access to products, prices, stock levels and, most importantly, ordering. No longer is business restricted to between the hours of 8am and 5pm; sole traders and companies alike need to be able to order their materials out of hours and know that delivery is secured for when they need it.

Driving the success of the online timber merchants has to be a strategic and successful marketing plan, going beyond the historical success of geographical location and capturing the local market and word of mouth recommendation. While these remain an integral part of the success of any business, this has to be complemented with a wider-reaching course of action.

Offline marketing – print advertising, signage, leaflets, direct mail for example - can still help raise awareness and build familiarity, but online marketing is key to reaching a wider audience. There are so many mediums available for marketing online, from the companies’ own website, to blogging, email marketing and social media, through to creating paid-for online advertising. And the great thing about online marketing is that it needn’t have a huge budget attached to it, so it’s not just for the ‘big boys’.

The joy of online marketing is seeing and feeling the interaction with your customers and potential customers. Watching people actively engaging with your social media posts, sharing, commenting and reacting to what you have posted is exciting. As is sending out email marketing and being able to track who has opened it and who has clicked on which links, giving an insight into who is interested and what they are interested in.

The power to reach out to your audience is so much closer now than it has ever been, and companies not maximizing this opportunity truly are missing out.

Jo-Anna Francis is marketing consultant for Maidstone Virtual Assistant.