When it comes to an online marketing strategy, most business owners take a shotgun approach. From pay-per-click, banner advertising, display networks, right down to social media marketing, most business owners become lost. So they simply throw money at the problem and hope something works. The truth is you only need to follow seven simple steps to develop a winning marketing strategy.
So Why, Exactly, Does Online Marketing Matter?
The answer is simple. An online marketing strategy is critical to your success because if you do it right, you win. Do it wrong (or not at all) and you will lose. By lose, we mean go out of business.
Look, the numbers speak for themselves. According to the United States Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, the total online sales for e-commerce in just Q4 of 2016 alone was over $102 billion. That number will only continue to grow. In fact, according to Forrester, total online retail sales will reach over $370 billion by the end of 2017. So you need to grab a piece of that pie. Period.
If online sales totals are not enough of a reason, then consider this. Adweek reports that over 81% of all shoppers conduct online research before buying. Of that number, over 60% start that research by using a search engine. So if you don’t have an online presence and a stellar (four or five star) reputation, you are being ignored by over 81% of all shoppers.
Bottom line: when it comes to your business you must go where your potential customer or client is looking for you – and that is online.
But What Exactly is Online Marketing?
The reality is, the marketing world has changed. It is no longer about getting your name in front of as many people as possible – a.k.a. advertising. It’s not about branding, and it certainly is not about the 4-P’s (product, place, price and promotion) anymore. Just ask the Harvard School of Business.
In a five-year study involving more than 500 managers and customers in multiple countries and across a wide range of B2B industries, we found that the 4 P’s model undercuts B2B marketers in three important ways: It leads their marketing and sales teams to stress product technology and quality even though these are no longer differentiators but are simply the cost of entry. It under-emphasizes the need to build a robust case for the superior value of their solutions. And it distracts them from leveraging their advantage as a trusted source of diagnostics, advice, and problem solving.
The new definition of marketing is the study and management of exchange relationships. In other words, the sole purpose of any online marketing strategy should be about building relationships and bridging the gap between the “online marketing world” and real human interaction.
The New Marketing Strategy Paradigm – The Digital Marketing World
Marketing is confusing. Online marketing even more so. The best place to start in developing your winning online marketing strategy is to start with the new marketing pyramid.
According to the new paradigm, the first thing you must do is identify your business. What is your business? What solution are you providing to your clients? Define your business, your products, your processes and your employees. Yes, even your people. We recommend using Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas.
Your employees are the heart and soul of your business and are the bridge between the digital world and human interaction. Quite arguably, the human element is still the most important. Just look at the incredible results Dollar Shave Club had with their incredibly funny and “human”, viral YouTube video.
Dollar Shave Club launched in 2012 with their revolutionary video that generated 12,000 new customers in just 48 hours. Do you want to have over 12,000 new paying customers in just 48 hours?
But even more astonishing is that in 2013 the number of customers grew to 330,000. The Dollar Shave Club went on to generate over $140 million in 2015 alone.
Next, you need to establish your foundation, which in the new digital age is your website. Your website must be constantly updated with new and relevant information, and must also be optimized for search engines so people can find you in Google and other search engines. Lastly, your website must absolutely include social proof. This can be done in the form of reviews and testimonials.
Additionally, you will also need social media profiles. You must do this all while keeping your branding and message consistent across the board. Furthermore, you need to drive visitors to your site. You do this through blogging, social media, link building (referrals), as well as through Adwords and other marketing channels.
But driving leads to your site will mean nothing if you don’t have your foundation in place or if you don’t have a clear marketing strategy to convert visitors into leads. This is where most business make their mistake. A lead is not a customer. It is simply an opportunity to build a relationship. Push for the sale too soon, and you lose the lead.
You should have a clear marketing strategy that has easy to follow “calls to action” so that visitors have paths to become leads. One often-used strategy is to offer high quality content in exchange for contact information. Then, you should have an automated system in place that will eventually nurture these leads into paying customers.
Now that you have paying customers, you need to turn those customers into promoters of your business. These are known in the marketing world as broadcasters.The best way to do this is to set up a means to collect reviews and testimonials. Just importantly, you have to have a way to syndicate them.
Putting it All Together – Your Winning Marketing Strategy
Step One: Set Your Goal
Setting a goal is easy. It’s the follow up that takes work. In short, you have to measure your progress against that goal, refine your plan, and constantly improve. But there are two secrets to setting and hitting your goals. We call them secrets because they are so obvious that most people overlook them.
First, make your goal simple. It seems self-explanatory, but so many people make the mistake of creating complex goals. For example, someone says they want to lose 20 lbs. That is not easy to do. Why not, instead, make the goal simple? I want to lose two pounds in two weeks. Then, repeat that goal 10 times and you have hit your 20 lbs. See the difference?
Second, measure your results. It’s why you want to set easy goals. When you measure your results and see a victory, it encourages you to do it again. Or maybe even strive for a loftier goal. For example, instead of losing two pounds this week, you will lose three.
This goes exactly the same for your online marketing strategy. Set an easy goal. I want to increase sales by one percent over last quarter. Then pick a metric (like website traffic) to measure and improve. Keep measuring and improving until you hit that goal. Why just one percent? Because it is pretty easy to do and you can keep repeating the process. Once you have perfected that, you can easily increase your goal, or chose another one, to increase your bottom line.
Step Two: Define Your Customer
You must define your ideal customer. Period. It makes no sense at all to try and sell cat food to a dog owner. That is an oversimplified example, but you get the point. Unless you know exactly who your perfect customer is, you are going to waste marketing dollars. Need help defining your ideal customer? Simply follow this infographic.
Step Three: Always Be Improving
In sales, there is an old adage called the “ABC’s of selling”. It stands for Always Be Closing. In much the same way you have to always be improving. Especially when it comes to your foundation. Remember the digital foundation of your pyramid? You absolutely must have a rock solid foundation that can support your marketing strategy efforts. Why in the world would you spend $1,000 on a pay-per-click campaign if you have a landing page that simply does not convert visitors into leads? Or worse, converts them ineffectively.
What if you could improve your landing page conversion rate by just one half of a percent? If you were at 1,000 visitors per month, with a half percent conversion rate, it means you got 50 leads. If you improved it by just another one half of a percent, you double your leads to 100. Trust us. Improving your conversion rate is easy if you monitor, measure, and constantly improve.
Step Four: Traffic, Traffic, Traffic
In the new digital marketing world, it’s a numbers game. The more traffic you have, the more customers you will get – that is, if you’re utilizing online marketing correctly. So you need to break down your traffic sources into channels. Then you need to constantly monitor, measure, and improve these channels, including: Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube… the list is almost endless.
Step Five: Educate, Don’t Sell
Believe it or not, but this is where most businesses fail. They move way too fast and try to make a sale way too soon. In a winning marketing strategy, your job is NOT to sell. Your job is to educate and delight customers. You need to educate your audience on how they can solve their problems on their own. Heck, you should even give them a few tools to help them do it. This includes Ebooks, templates, or even a YouTube video showing them how to solve a problem. Why? Because it establishes you as the expert in the minds of your audience. You’re the know-it-all guru of [insert your product or service here.] As the recognized expert, who do you think your audience is going to call when they realize it’s just too complicated or too time consuming to do it themselves? The guy that tried to sell them, or the expert that tried to help them?
Step Six: Love Your Customer
If you followed your marketing strategy and followed steps one through five, you will have paying customers. But now what? The simple fact is this: you simply cannot disregard or forget about your paying customers. They are the lifeblood of your business. You must stay in touch and continue to nurture that relationship. Why? Simple, according to LinkedIn, Marketing Metrics and others, the probability of selling your services to a new lead is only 5 to 20%. Selling add on services to an existing customer increases that probability to 60 to 70%. So let’s make sure we show them so love.
Step Seven: Get That Promotion
When we say; “get that promotion,” we mean it both metaphorically and literally. The science is clear. Today’s version of word-of-mouth advertising is review sites. It’s why Google and Facebook now offer the opportunity for customers to review your business. It’s why Yelp is so popular,and why you simply can’t afford to ignore your online reputation. So what do you do? You ask for that promotion.
Every positive review or testimonial you can get from an existing client is a promotion for your business. In fact, in one study alone, the Harvard School of business showed – with empirical data – how increasing your reputation on Yelp by just one star can increase your revenue between 5-11%. In other words, if you are a $1million-a-year business, and you increase your reputation, you can increase your revenue by 10%. That is a $100,000-a-year promotion.
Look, a winning marketing strategy does not have to be hard or confusing. Just follow that old special forces axiom: break it down into minutes and miles. Don’t focus on the finish line you know it’s far away, focus on the minute at hand and the step right in front of you. Before you know it, with a sound strategy, patience, and hard work you’ve walked those thousand miles and crossed that finish line.