There is a lot of information available about online marketing today; this post and some coming posts will try to simplify what you need to know. First, some things you need to know if you want to play in the online marketing space:
- First of all, unless you area a major online ecommerce site, you don’t need to run out and hire an agency to optimize your campaigns or your website. There are a lot of things you can do yourself.
- Second, remember that the online world is just another marketing channel, albeit an important one. That means that the same rules of marketing strategy apply; namely, you have to have a reasonable product/service to offer, and you must have something to say, i.e. good messaging. Too many people think that online marketing means pushing ads and coupons via email, online ads, and social networking sites. That is a losing strategy.
- Third, you need to put some skin in the game to be effective. Online marketing means more than just "tweeting" your company announcements and setting up a Facebook fan club. It is about creating an ongoing conversation with customers, partners, and industry players and influencers. And that means investing in generating real content. People don’t want to read your ads. They will engage if you have something to say that is meaningful them. Usually, this means creating objective content that brings value to your community of readers.
Now, the reason you should invest in online marketing is because it offers advantages that traditional channels don’t. For example, with online marketing, you can gauge the effectiveness of your efforts very quickly. For the first time, you can easily measure the success of your campaigns, in near-real time. That means, you can (and should) try different messages, different web page layouts, channels, etc. By seeing what works and what doesn’t, you can be more effective. On the other hand, this requires a different approach to how you build and run your campaigns. Gone are the "shoot and forget" days of campaign management. Today, you need to manage your campaign on a daily basis, continuously tweaking and improving the campaign to reach your business objectives.
How you should approach online marketing largely depends on your business. If you are an ecommerce site, you will be doing things differently than a site for an architect firm or for a site whose products are sold offline. There are, however, common characteristics across all sites – I will focus on those, here.
· Online marketing means many things – it can include email campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO), online ads, activities, webinars, virtual events, blogging, and a host of other activities. Pick the right channels for your audience. Also, make sure the message is appropriate for the channel. An email message will differ from blog text.
· Whatever you do, you must measure and monitor your campaign. This typically involves three types of monitoring – one is the type of sale response your campaign generates, via your website or call center, and second is the response your company is receiving in the broader online world (blogs, social sites, articles, etc.). And the third is how you stack up to your competitors. All need to be metered, measured, and monitored.
· Walk before you run – there are free things you can use to build and measure your campaigns. For example:
- before you engage with an SEO company, read the Google and Yahoo guidelines http://www.google.com/webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf, http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/search/basics/basics-18.html. You can realize vast improvements just by following these guidelines.
- Enlist the help of web analytics tools, like Google Analytics, Yahoo Analytics, and ClickTracks, which give you good feedback about what is working in a campaign…and what is not.
- There are also many social monitoring tools to help you get a picture of what is being said about you online. Some examples include SocialMention and HowSocialable, and there are new ones appearing on almost a daily basis.
This post is intended to provide a framework for running your online campaigns. As usual, the devil is in the details. Future posts will put some meat on the bones of this skeleton framework by providing some practical steps for getting started.