Marketing your products, services, or brand online, if done properly, can bring the world to your doorstep. Simply put, for most businesses, you can’t afford not to have an online strategy.
The digital world changes so quickly that going into specific details here would become dated almost instantly. Instead, we’ll have a look at the general types of online marketing, their main characteristics and how they can work together to create a powerful lead generating machine.
Website – If you have a business, you need to have a website. It doesn’t matter if you think your products or services can be sold online. A business without a website is perceived as smaller, less capable and less professional than a business with a website. Having said that, a business with an unprofessional looking website is also perceived poorly by the public. If you want to be taken seriously, you need a professional looking and functional website. It doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, but it must be consistent with your brand and your positioning. Your website is often the first experience that your Target Market has with your business, and it can make a world of difference when it comes to building consumer confidence. A professional website can make a small business look very big, and a poor website can make a large business look very small.
Search Engine Optimization – Hopefully by now you either have a website, or have been convinced that you need one, and are well on your way to an online presence. You can spread the word about your website face to face, or with traditional print or broadcast radio. You can send out an email blast, or let people know your website exists through social media. All of these are good things to do, and will direct traffic to your website. Your website will really start to earn its keep, however, when it begins to act as a lead generation tool through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Search engines such as Google, index the Internet for information relevant to a search term entered by a user, and return the most relevant information. Whatever business you are in, you will populate your website with content relevant to your industry, and search engines will scan it to provide relevant information to people searching the Internet. There's a large industry built around optimizing websites so search engines can find them easily and organically.
Targeted Keyword Advertising Campaigns – One thing that sets apart current generations from all previous ones is the ability to obtain instant information on any subject through the Internet. When people want to find out where to buy a particular product, or find reviews of one service or another, they simply use a search engine and are supplied with more information than they could possibly digest. Aside from finding your website organically, search engines provide an opportunity for businesses to advertise to users who are searching for related products. If, for example, you own a business that sells equipment to restaurants, you could pay a search engine to display advertisements for your company every time someone searched for the keywords “restaurant equipment.” This is a very simplistic example of the powerful opportunity presented by targeted keyword search engine campaigns. In essence, what they do is pre-qualify prospective customers from the massive Internet market, and lead them to you.
Social Media Marketing – Prior to the emergence of the Internet, communities only existed organically in the real world. They were centered around geography or common interests, but with geographic limitations. If you happened to live in a particular town or neighbourhood, you were part of that local community. If you were a baseball fan, or a lover of a particular breed of dog, you might travel to broaden or enhance the experience of that community. But, in essence, communities were organized around actual person-to-person interaction. The Internet has made it possible for virtual communities to exist based on common interests regardless of location. Interest-based networks have always existed, but the web has made it possible for someone located almost anywhere in the world to connect and participate. What this means for you as a business with something to market is that these communities can be filtered and qualified to be targeted with your message. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Youtube among many others are social media platforms that allow you to directly market to your ideal customer.
Email marketing – This is somewhat similar to traditional direct mail marketing, but there are some major differences. In terms of hard costs, email marketing is inexpensive, instant and scalable. As your business develops, you will have a growing number of contacts to email market to. There are often databases of potential clients that can be purchased. Email is a very good way to keep your name in front of your customers, leads and prospects. It should be noted that intrusive or unsolicited emails can have unintended and negative consequences, and they can be illegal. All types of marketing need to align with your brand positioning to deliver a clear and consistent message.
Web Banner Ads – Similar to the way traditional newspaper or magazine advertisements are positioned next to stories or articles, web banner ads live alongside other content on a website. When clicked, a web banner ad will deliver a user to your website. One advantage that web banner ads have over traditional print ads is that they can deliver instant and trackable results. Usually banner ads are placed by an ad server on a number of different websites with related content. For instance, a website for a business that sells plumbing fixtures to developers would have web banner ads placed on developer or contractor forums. In the same way, search engines like Google have massive networks that allow you to people who are searching for keywords that you specify.
Mobile/App/Game advertising – With the widespread use of smartphones, a whole new world of graphically-rich online marketing has become available. In fact, mobile advertising’s reach is far greater than regular online marketing. Mobile media can run on a mobile web page or within a mobile application, often referred to as in-App. SMS (Short Message Service) has been called the “seventh mass media channel.” It has the potential to deliver customer loyalty offers or other time or location-sensitive marketing. Expect mobile marketing to continue to grow rapidly in scope and inventiveness.
Online Marketing Strategies
Internet channels can be used to connect directly with a tightly defined target market or customer profile. The level of demographic information available has become highly sophisticated in recent years, and strategies that were once available only to those with the biggest marketing budgets are now available to nearly every business.
Remarketing is a technique that allows you to essentially follow your targeted prospects across the web, marketing to them wherever they go. Even to websites that are not obviously connected with your industry. For example, if you sell welding supplies to the welding industry, and you have customers who also happen to enjoy cooking, you can still advertise to them when they visit a cooking website.
Whereas outbound marketing (such as banner advertising) pushes content out to a targeted audience, inbound marketing encourages people to qualify themselves as interested prospects.
One strategy is to engage prospects in conversations through social media, developing relationships and getting direct feedback that ultimately guide them to your website – often to your blog. Once at your website, they’ll have an opportunity to learn more about your company and how they can buy your products or services.
Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing that goes back to the old adage of “you need to give to get”. The idea here is that we offer content (white papers, surveys, blogs, etc.) to position you as an industry thought leader.
Your more comprehensive, higher value content can be “gated”, meaning, you ask your prospect to give you their name and e-mail address (for example) in return for receiving the content. This effectively allows you to market directly to someone who has an acknowledged level of interest in your products or services.