Have you ever stumbled on a website and noticed that it hasn’t been updated for two years? The pictures look outdated, the layout of the site isn’t appealing and it just seems…neglected. When you navigate to a competitor’s site where the graphics are crisp, the content is current and there is web chatter in the form of social media, chances are good that you’re choosing the competitor. In the world of the internet, you have less than five seconds to make an impression on a customer. If that impression isn’t good, they’ve moved on to the next company before your page even has time to finish loading.
For the small business owner, the internet can be a powerful marketing tool. The ability to reach millions of potential customers with one advertising campaign is thrilling – and overwhelming. How do you make sure that your voice is heard over the thousands of other companies just like yours on the internet? What’s the secret to having companies find your website? Like any other advertising plan, there is a method to creating a winning online marketing campaign. It is possible to maximize the power of the World Wide Web – it just requires a little more effort than most people expect.
In this article, we look at 1) things to consider before you create an online marketing campaign, 2) tools for online marketing success, and 3) the importance of having the right person manage your online marketing.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU CREATE AN ONLINE MARKETING CAMPAIGN
Before beginning any marketing campaign you need to spend some time considering branding. You won’t need to get out your cowboy boots and wrangle cattle, but the concept is remarkably similar. The concept of branding is to create a specific, unique look that is easily identified as yours. Just like in an old western where an escaped cow could be identified by the brand it carried, your company should have a ‘brand’ – a look – to tie your company and marketing materials together. It may include a logo, a color scheme or an idea that reflects the personality of your company.
DEVELOP BRAND NAME AND IMAGE BEFORE STARTING COMMUNICATIONS
It is important to develop your brand name and image prior to starting your online marketing campaign. Is your company colorful and playful? Modern and sleek? Traditional? Begin developing a look that you want to reflect the ideals and culture of your company. Using your ideas, combined with your company name and logo, you have the beginnings of a brand that will be representative of who your company is. You’ll use your company branding to tie your online marketing campaign together. It will encompass web design, social media and other online techniques, and can carry over into other media campaigns – giving your company a complete marketing look.
SETTING THE OBJECTIVE FOR THE MARKETING CAMPAIGN
Once you have established a brand, consider what you want your marketing campaign to do. Are you promoting a new product or service? Do you want to raise awareness of your company? Is there an upcoming event that your company is participating in? Identifying the key goals of the marketing campaign will help narrow your focus and ensure that your efforts are used in the right areas. Spend some time deciding on one or two specific goals that you want your marketing campaign to address, and then gear your efforts towards reaching those goals.
STUDY YOUR COMPETITORS
It may seem counterproductive to study what ‘the competition’ is doing, but that is exactly what you need to do before starting a marketing campaign. If you aren’t sure who your competition is, perform a simple internet search for businesses similar to yours. Even if a company isn’t in your local area, you can study the type of marketing that they are using. Is their online marketing successful? What types of online marketing are they engaged in? Do they seem to be winning the media campaign war? Or are they a glaring example of what not to do? When it comes to online marketing, the adage, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” has validity. Keep an eye on what the competition is doing.
STUDY THE MARKET
While you’re performing research on your competition, do some evaluation of your market. Who is your target market? How can you best reach those individuals? Do you notice any trends among your customers about how they interact with your company? If your target market is adults over the age of 65, your online marketing campaign is going to include different elements than a campaign geared towards 25 year olds. Knowing your market is essential when developing marketing materials.
After you’ve developed your company brand, determined the goal of the marketing campaign, investigated the competition and identified your market, it’s time to begin selecting the strategies that will best meet your needs. It can be overwhelming to know which strategies to use and how to best leverage the power of the internet for marketing. One of the best ways to get a feel for a successful marketing campaign is to study what your competition is doing – and then mimic their strategies.
TOOLS FOR ONLINE MARKETING SUCCESS
There’s a reason that big corporations engage in marketing blitzes that include billboards, television commercials, magazine ads, radio spots, commercial sponsorships and more: it works. Big corporations know that the more a consumer sees their brand, the more likely they are to give it a try. While you may not have the budget for a massive marketing campaign, you can duplicate their methods by creating a multi-faceted strategy for your online marketing. What are the components of a well-rounded marketing campaign?
Think back to your high school days when the power of peer pressure could sway people to wear hideous clothes disguised as fashion. That power has transferred to the internet, and has grown exponentially. While it may not cause people to wear fluorescent orange to work, social media can throw its considerable weight behind a product, or a cause, and the results are impressive. Social media can include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr. It can also encompass blogging platforms like WordPress.
Social media has several advantages. It has the potential to reach thousands of consumers easily – one tweet can be shared and retweeted thousands of times within the span of a few hours. It is generally low-cost and doesn’t require much training to utilize. When you develop a social media following, it is easy to stay in constant contact with customers and potential customers – keeping your brand and company news in the forefront. The biggest investment in social media is time – someone needs to develop the content and post the material. The time investment can also be a limitation – it is easy to overlook the day’s postings. Like peer pressure, social media is a fickle being. If you are not constantly monitoring and posting, your company will fall out of the social conversation, and you’ve lost any ground you may have gained. It takes times to build up a following of people on the internet – this is not a quick road to success. The benefit of social media is the sheer number of people that you can have contact with – all for next to nothing in costs.
If you have ever done an internet search for something, you’ve benefitted from the power of SEO. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process that puts ‘Mary’s Cleaning Company’ on the first page of a search for cleaning companies, instead of on page fourteen. The world of SEO is somewhat murky. Recent regulation and rule changes about how companies can increase their internet standing have made the process of SEO seem cumbersome. At its core, SEO is the process of making sure that when an individual performs a search on a topic related to your business, your company is found by the people who search internet listings. There are multitudes of ways that you can increase the SEO returns for your company: adding listing articles that have specific keywords, keyword stuffing, backlinks, to name a few. If you are serious about wanting to increase your SEO ranking, the easiest way is to hire content writers or internet copywriters. This investment can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands – it all depends on how quickly you want to build content on your website. One of the primary limitations of SEO is that the murky rules change causing an ever growing need for updating. In addition, the ‘buzzwords’ that people search for can change, and your site needs to change with it to ensure that you retain your ranking. One of the best ways you can avoid the murky underworld of SEO is to make sure that your material is filled with quality content that will bring your customers back time and time again.
Perhaps one of the most powerful online marketing tools available, email is a way to engage in a private conversation with your customer – at any time of day, anywhere in the world. Email marketing – done correctly – provides you with the chance to speak to the heart of your customer, and invite them to do business with you. Email lists can be developed through existing customers, sign-up forms on your website, blogging platforms that allow people to follow your postings. Because of spam rules, you will need to ensure that your email recipients have agreed to receive your emails – but this means that you have an audience that has chosen to hear what you have to say. Regular email updates allow you to keep your customer informed about new products, offerings or specials. It also allows them to engage in conversation with you – generating a feeling of connection that will help build your business. Email marketing programs are available to help you quickly and easily send out newsletters and more.
Do you have specialized knowledge about a subject? Does your company provide a service that people need? Creating and uploading videos to Youtube is an easy way to create interest in your business. Posting the link on your website, sending out an email notification or posting a blurb on your social media accounts can drive people to your video, and then hopefully drive them to buy your products. Demonstrating how to use your product, what your product can do or how your company brings benefits are all perfect uses of video. You are limited by needed someone with minimal video equipment and skill, or you can hire a videographer to record your session.
Creating a Slideshare presentation is a way to share information about your product, services or company through the sharing of content. You can create a slideshow that features specific information about a topic, a skill or idea and then embed that presentation in your website and blog or share it on social media. Slideshare presentations are downloadable – so the user can return to the presentation over and over to view it again – giving you repeated opportunities to sell your company. These professional looking presentations can give your business an edge over the competition, and add value to your website. By filling your website with valuable and useful content, the consumer is more likely to return to you as a trusted source – generating not only interest in your products and services but also sales.
For a targeted approach to online marketing, you can buy ads through platforms such as Facebook or Google. You can select your target market demographics, and then the ads are funneled to users based on their identification through Facebook, Google, etc. This direct sales method gets your company’s information in front of the consumers you want – increasing the potential for their business. This method of advertising can be costly, depending on the frequency of ads that you choose, the scope of your target market and the size/style of ad that you select. Success can be mixed – but with short commitments (some ad campaigns can be run for a little as one month) it may be worth the time and money to try.
FIND THE RIGHT PERSON TO MANAGE YOUR ONLINE CAMPAIGN
You’ve developed your list of what online marketing techniques you’re going to use – but who is going to do it? Engaging in a marketing campaign can be a full time job – which would be fine if you still didn’t have to do your other job(s). Divvy up the responsibility for specific tasks among people in your company. Have a guy who tweets every move he makes? Put him in charge of developing a social media presence. Find Pinterest up on computers during lunch? Assign that person the task of pinning product ideas on a company board. Once you have identified the methods of your online campaign, make a schedule – how often will things be updated? Who is responsible for coming up with the material? Who is doing the actual posting? If you’ve decided on including techniques that are beyond the skills you possess, or will take time that you don’t have, find avenues to outsource the task – the potential revenue may be worth the added expense.
TRACK THE RESULTS
You’re almost ready to embark on your internet campaign – but there is a final piece of information that you’ll need to begin. How will you know if the process is successful? Beyond that, how will you know which methods are working – and which ones aren’t? Make sure that you take advantage of the analytics that social media offers to track your campaign. Notice where the trends are: does a new tweet increase the number of visitors to your website? If you pin something on Pinterest, do you notice a jump in sales for that item? Set a schedule for evaluation. Spend time with statistics and charts and find out where your strengths are. Revisit the analytics periodically to ensure that you’re spending time and effort on things that are working – and change the things that aren’t.
Launching an online marketing campaign can be exciting and horrifying and exhausting. It requires attention and planning – but the potential growth for your company can be huge.
Some more food for thought on creating an online marketing campaign.