By Les Kollegian
Jacob Tyler Creative Group
Of all the Internet marketing trends that have come to light over the past few years – developments like social networking, the rise of mobile devices, content management systems, and so on – there’s one that seems to be growing in strength every day, and yet is hardly ever mentioned: utter confusion.
For all we are learning about how to do business online, getting our arms around it all is tougher than ever. Ten years ago, we figured out that search engine marketing and optimization was important; then we discovered that we could reach more customers through article marketing, and then blogs, and eventually social media sites. Along the way we integrated video, Tweets, real-time RSS feeds, and an ever-growing number of apps to stay in touch with customers and colleagues. Every single one of these is a valuable tool, and there are more great ideas every day. But the one thing we’re really missing is focus, a way to keep our online marketing plans on track and under control.
I know a lot of executives and business owners who are exhausted by their online marketing plans. They know they need to do search engine optimization, or maintain a strong Facebook presence, but they couldn’t tell you exactly why – or if it’s working. If this sounds familiar to you, I promise you aren’t alone. Thousands of companies, even well-run enterprises at the front of every marketing curve, are struggling to put their web strategies into a manageable format. It isn’t that they aren’t trying hard enough, there’s just too much to keep on top of.
To help you gear your online efforts towards results, not frustration, I’d like to offer five professional-grade tips for creating a web strategy that’s as profitable as it is manageable:
Make a goal, not a plan. Here’s where it all starts. It used to be that companies would have an overriding goal – something like fifty new Internet customers per month, or so many thousands of dollars in increased online revenue – and then work toward that. Now, it’s not uncommon to have a director of search marketing, another person focusing on social networking, a third developing apps for iPhones and Droids, and so on.
There’s nothing wrong with having a committed team working on different aspects of your online marketing, but everything they do should boil down to – and be in line with – some stated goal. If you don’t have that kind of focus, then you might do well in one or two areas, but the bottom line is going to suffer.
It’s worth mentioning that your goal should be reasonable… as in, realistic. Deciding you want to add a million new online customers by next month might be fun, and it might even bring you focus, but it’s not going to yield the kinds of results you’re praying for. Stick to what can be done, rather than wished for, and work up from there.
Get a shopping list. Knowing what you’re trying to accomplish in a business sense, you can begin to pick and choose which tools are worth devoting time and money to. Yes, there’s certainly a risk in ignoring something that’s cutting-edge, like next generation mobile apps, but there’s even more in pouring resources into projects that won’t actually yield any revenue. Not everything that’s possible is profitable, so try to divert your marketing dollars to areas where they’re most likely to come back from. There’s always room to build once you’ve got a working base, but a company that overspends or over commits will quickly find itself fighting an uphill battle.
Designate and delegate. It’s absolutely critical that each piece of the marketing mix have someone who’s responsible for it. Whether your point person is in house or outsourced, there has to be someone keeping things on track. Otherwise, your plan will quickly transform itself into a wish list. Even at a smaller firm, there’s usually too much for one or two people manage alongside their other duties, so spread the responsibility around.
This is an area where an outside firm can be a huge help. Lots of customers decide to save money by handling as much as possible in house, only find that it costs them a great deal more in the long run. Why? Because programmers, designers, and other professionals are stuck trying to juggle their normal work along with new Internet marketing initiatives. The end result is that both projects suffer – their day-to-day work becomes slower, less precise, and more mistake-prone, while the new ideas never get off the ground. If your design or marketing team has a creative team ready to jump in, take advantage.
Add pieces. With the instantaneous nature of the internet, this article will be outdated virtually by the time it hits your screen. Next week, next month, or next year will bring a new development or platform that most of us haven’t even heard of yet… and one that might turn out to be a big piece of your marketing mix. Recognize that it’s going to happen and handle it the way I’ve already recommended; figure out if and how the new idea is worth trying, and then find a way to work it into the mix to reach your bigger business goals. No matter what, however, resist the urge to jump in and try something just for the sake of “keeping up,” as that’s the quickest way to post a loss.
As you might have gathered by now, balance is the key. It’s not unusual for a business to actually hurt itself by picking up a new technique or idea, since it causes them to lose track of other campaigns that were working, or about to, before they switched gears and directions.
Measure and maintain. You’ll never know how you’re doing online if you don’t keep track. Of course, if you have a professional Internet marketing firm like ours working on your behalf, they’ll get these metrics to you automatically. If not, though, keep one eye on the speedometer, so to speak. Hard as it might be to believe, we regularly come across businesses that aren’t even monitoring their web traffic, much less keeping strong analytics to find out what’s working. Watching, evaluating, and testing your web marketing isn’t something you can do once in a while, or even once a week – you have to do it daily if you’re going to keep up.
The right marketing mix has more ingredients than ever, so you’ll need to follow this advice if you’re going to have a shot at cooking up some bigger profits this year.