online marketing advice

Poll Says SMBs Should Try Online Marketing

As the final installment in our five week series on the results from our online poll published on April 15th, we asked what the best piece of advice a SMB owner needs to help them grow their business and the last piece of advice was “Try online marketing”.

To answer this question, I wanted to share with you a fantastic article entitled
3 Internet Marketing Tips by Debra Murphy of Masterful Marketing, in which she interviews Susanne Morreale Leeber, the President of the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce. The article outlines a few Internet marketing tips for small businesses that I think provides a great starting point for SMB owners:

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1. Internet marketing is not a business model or a replacement for marketing basics

There’s a certain amount of confusion around this what Internet marketing really is. For some, Internet marketing is a business model – i.e. you have built an Internet based business. But for most small businesses, the Internet is a new media channel that can be used to reach your target market.

If you view Internet Marketing as another tool in your toolbox, then your mindset changes and you can apply basic marketing concepts to your efforts – that is who is my target audience, where can I find them and why would they want to connect and do business with my company?

2. Internet marketing is not a quest for the most likes, followers and friends

social-network-followers

Internet marketing is about building relationships and gaining visibility within your target market. Unfortunately there is something inherently important about fan counts, and it is human nature for people to check out your company profile on Facebook or Twitter and instantly judge them based on the metric of followers, friends or fans. But having many fake or uninterested followers does not help your business. So although growing your Facebook fans or Twitter followers organically seems tedious, those who follow you may actually care about and support your business. Using a service to quickly add 2000 fans only hurts you in the long run if you plan to do anything to market to these fans or followers.

3. Internet marketing is not about chasing the next new shiny object

Internet marketing is about creating a solid marketing plan, staying the course, evaluating your results and then modifying your activities as needed. I advise small business owners to create a marketing plan that’s flexible, can adapt to changes as the Internet evolves and fits your specific needs and overall marketing strategy. Not every new and improved online tool will be right for your business.

How does a small business owner effectively market their business online when they are trying to run their business on a day-to-day basis?

For many small businesses, it may seem that marketing gets more complicated and more confusing by the day, with constant changes to the technology and new platforms claiming help your business become more visible in the search engines.

The good news is that Internet marketing has transformed into a more sensible activity for small businesses, incorporating content marketing, search engine marketing including local search and social media marketing as the primary activities. The key is to find someone who you can work with who is knowledgeable about marketing and keeps up with the latest in this space. Doing so can help you focus on your base business, which is what you do best as a local business owner.

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With all of the pieces of advice we covered in our poll, I hope that you have a better understanding of what tools you need to get your marketing in order. Were these poll results useful to you? Did they provide the advice needed to grow your business? I look forward to engaging with you in the comments.

Steps to Making Your Online Campaign a Success

A large part of marketing these days involves developing some type of online marketing strategy. Online marketing can mean something as simple as using Google AdWords, or placing an ad on LinkedIn or Facebook, to generating an ad to be placed on a trade publication website.

The goal of online marketing is no different than that of any other advertisement: to increase brand awareness and find potential customers, in order to increase revenue and growth.

The huge advantage of online campaigns is that they are digital, and you can improve and adjust them throughout a campaign to help you achieve your objectives.  The other advantage of online marketing is that you have the ability to easily track and measure your campaigns by the day, hour, or even minute (if you really wanted to).

Generating leads and customers not increasing site traffic are indications of success and by tracking and measuring the success of your campaign, you can determine if your objectives are being met, and if not, you can adjust your campaign to meet them.

One example of how quickly you can react to an online campaign is to run an advertisement on a trade publication’s site, make note of the click through rate, use Google Analytics to track the traffic to your site and referral sources, and finally, to look at the conversion rate of traffic to leads.  If you see that there is a low click through rate, you might need to rethink your ad. But if you find you have a high click through rate, and high traffic, but see no leads being generated, then something is happening on your site that stopped a potential customer from becoming a lead. This might mean you need to make a change not to the advertisement, but to the mechanism that was designed to convert the traffic into leads.

Before you start planning your next online campaign, determine if you have the time and resources to properly monitor its development and success.  You might want to consult with a marketing agency, which can provide you with the insights and expertise necessary to make your campaign a success.

Over the past 20 years of marketing for small and mid-sized businesses, I’ve developed a number of questions that you should take under consideration before launching any online campaign:

  1. Clearly outline the goals and objectives of your campaign (e.g. increase leads by 5%, 10%).
  2. Identify which publication the ad should appear in (target the campaign to the audience).
  3. Clearly outline the time your campaign will run (1 day only, 1 week, etc.).
  4. Create an incentive offer, whether that is free product or service; leads increase depending on incentives.
  5. Put a tracking mechanism in place. That way, you can measure the results and make improvements to your marketing strategy as you go.
  6. An ideal tracking mechanism is Google Analytics. It is free to use, and is one of the most powerful online analytics tools available today. (It tracks much more than website traffic, as displayed in my example).
  7. Before the campaign launches, offer your campaign offer to existing clients.
  8. Post in your social networks the day you launch the campaign.
  9. Track your campaign by the hour, day, minute, etc.
  10. If you are not seeing the results you want, look at the flow of the campaign. Are there any ‘sticky’ places? See if you can make any adjustments to get your campaign ‘unstuck’.

Online marketing can generate the leads you are looking for, but you need to consider not just the message you’re sending, but also how you have planned to convert the message into a lead gen tool.

Do you have any questions on Internet marketing? What has been your most successful online marketing campaign? Or have you had any negative experiences with online marketing that have helped you to re-strategize your methods for future online campaigns? Feel free to share your questions and stories in the comments below.