It is Essential to have a Holistic Approach to Your Online Marketing Strategy
2016 was definitely an interesting year, which has included some crazy presidential politics, widespread “fake news” on the Internet, the continued takeover of the online world by mobile devices, and the evolution of social media platforms to include new features and services. If we look closely at all this, we may lose the big picture, but if we take a few steps back, it gets clearer. People are relying more and more on the Internet for their news and information, and the need for real-time access and ability to respond continues to accelerate. This has broad based implications for business, including B2B and B2C.
One thing that is critical in the success of any company is establishing leadership and authority online. It takes time, especially for a startup, and it is not a straightforward path.
So what are the keys to success in online marketing in 2017? Here is my top six:
(1) Build Your House on Land that You Own, Not Space that You Rent
As Michael Hyatt said, “When it comes to your (online) platform, you can’t afford to build your house on a rented lot.” You must to have your own website, your own domain name, and your own brand presence at the top if you want to have a successful marketing strategy. The temptation is very high to use and leverage a platform that has already been built by others. The problem with that strategy is that the owners of that property are constantly changing the rules, so it is difficult, if not impossible, to execute a branding and content marketing strategy on such a platform. Social medial platforms should be used as market channels, not the primary platform for your business. Companies that have made the mistake of building their house on a rented lot, so to speak, have sometimes paid dearly for this mistake. I am talking about social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn, but also blogging platforms like Medium and Tumblr. You should have a brand presence on at least two key social media channels that are important to your audience and your customers. You need to “hang-out” where your audience hangs-out. I also use blogging platforms like LinkedIn Pulse, Medium and Tumblr to repost my blog content. Social media platforms have tremendous reach, so they are potentially powerful channels for communication and distribution of your content. Use them in this way.
(2) Be Social on Social Media, Even as a Business
It is called social media for a reason. That is because you need to be social. You need to use social media channels as a way to interact with your audience and your customers. As mentioned above, pick the channels that work best for your business. There are a whole host of channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, Pinterest, Medium, LinkedIn, Google+, and many others. Craft a strategy that works for those channels and how your audience uses those channels, but also use those channels in the best way for your brand. With some channels like Twitter, you need to post frequently to build your brand, and this requires some level of automation. But don’t be a robot. Interact with your audience. Reach-out. Build alliances. Actively communicate. Be “live” with your audience sometimes.
(3) Implement Content Marketing as a Linchpin of Your Marketing Strategy
Content marketing is about creating and distributing valuable content to your target audience and customers, and it is also a critical part of a successful company’s marketing plan. There are various different mediums including: blog posts, white papers, video blogs or vlogs, infographics, memes, illustrations, landing pages, live video, podcasts, webinars, contributed articles, and demonstrations.
Creating content is important to establish your online credibility and leadership in yours and your company’s areas of expertise. As you get online, most people don’t know you, and so they can’t trust you. If you look at traditional marketing, you need to spend time with customers to build-up your credibility and to get customers to trust you. Online it is even more difficult, so you have to give stuff away for free without being overly promotional. As you establish your credibility and gain the trust of your following, you can start to market to them. If you really have something that they want and need, then they will engage with you. This is how you build your online sales funnel. It is the same old marketing story: AIDA…Attention, Interest, Decision, and Action.
Content marketing when done correctly also works to build the online authority of your web site. First you need to produce great content, and then use solid digital marketing principles to make sure that your audience sees it. “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?” I’m not sure. However, I am sure that even if you write great content, and you don’t do the right things to make sure it shows-up in search results on your key topic, or in front of your audience via a Facebook Ad or an email, it is likely that your audience will never see it.
(4) Use Inbound Marketing Due to It’s Superior ROI, Even if You Use It in Combination with Outbound Marketing
Outbound marketing is the traditional form of marketing where a company initiates the conversation and sends its message out to an audience. It includes TV advertising, direct mail, billboards, and the like. Outbound marketing is the opposite of inbound marketing, where the customers find you, mostly through various paid and natural search engine marketing efforts.
The fundamentals of inbound marketing are writing great content, getting it in front of your target audience, and getting them to desire more information. It’s also wise to invest in video marketing to aid with this. A lot of early starters use a stock video to enhance the inbound marketing conversion rates. With that said to drive leads and conversions, you need to write great content, have a clear call to action for the target customer, give them something additional for free so you can get their email address, and market to them directly through email in a targeted and segmented way based on their area of interest. It is worth checking-out HubSpot’s Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics.
This is the way that inbound marketing campaigns should be run. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Consumers and business people are bombarded with advertising and promotions into their email inbox, and it is hard for the consumer to sort through it all. As a result, a lot of people don’t open the emails that they consider SPAM, or unsubscribe from the email list. As such, it is critically important that you are offering something that the customer really wants or needs, and you are using traditional marketing and sales principles, but in an online world.
I remember when email first started going into widespread use. There were so many people that had no clue about email etiquette including how to write an email, which customers they should put on the distribution list, who the email should be TO, and who should be CCed. Should you ever use BCC? If so, when? How do you state action items? When is it better to talk to someone in person versus sending an email? Unfortunately, many people, including a number of business professionals, still don’t know how to properly use email. The use of email as an outreach campaign to customers is very similar. However, email marketing has now been in broad based use for long enough that there are some good statistics and “best practices” about what has the best chance of working, and what does not.
Good inbound marketing requires an intimate understanding of your customers’ problems, your solutions, your unique value proposition, and an ability to clearly and crisply articulate that value in an environment where attention spans are short and growing shorter. That said, in today’s world, all companies need to be online, and they need more than just an online presence, they need to have an online focus and strategy.
(5) Know the Rules of the Internet, Use Them to Your Advantage and Outsource as Appropriate
Just like driving a car, you need to know the rules of the road on the Internet. This is easier said than done since Google is constantly changing their search algorithm, and the major social media channels like Facebook are constantly changing their rules as well. In this environment, you need to hire a number of experts that will specialize and keep current in the various aspects of your online platform development and management, or you will need to outsource. I think the best strategy is to outsource, unless you are an extremely large enterprise. And even then, you still may want to outsource.
Like starting any agency relationship, you need to know enough to keep the agency honest, and be able to ask tough questions. You need to understand some of the underlying tools and technologies, and measure results. Fortunately, it is much more straightforward to measure ROI for online marketing than it was for traditional marketing.
(6) Automate Where You Can
The sophistication of the tools to manage the elements of your online platform has improved dramatically over the last few years. However, you still need to have a level of sophistication and expertise to use the tools correctly. It is very easy to use the tools in a suboptimal way if you don’t understand the rules of the road, as mentioned above. However, you must use these tools in order to be effective and efficient in implementing an online platform strategy. Even if you outsource your digital marketing, you should have a basic understanding of key tools and what they do. You should have a strong partnership with your marketing agency where there is a level of transparency, and you can ask questions. At the same time, the bigger focus should be on ROI, as long as you feel that your agency is delivering results in a competitive and cost effective way.
The Internet is a noisy place, and it just keeps getting louder and more cluttered. Strategies that worked even two or three years ago no longer work to establish your online leadership and authority. Social media platforms keep changing their rules, Google keeps changing their algorithm, and numerous tools for managing inbound marketing, social, and digital strategies have been introduced into the market.
Bottom line, we have learned that success online requires a holistic marketing strategy that includes many of the traditional marketing and sales strategies that were used before the Internet, but now, digital marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, and inbound marketing are required to ultimately succeed. It is key for any business to ensure their marketing is spot on, so whether you decide to take these tips and run your marketing independently or consider an external agency is up to you. However, I would recommend you visit MXA Digital to see what external businesses can offer you. There are plenty out there, so choose one that suits your business if you do choose to collaborate with an external agency.
I will go out on a limb and say that any business, not just a business that was started online, but any business, big or small, that does not have a comprehensive online strategy & focus, and not just an online presence, will be dead or severely in trouble in the next 10 years.
This is Patrick Henry, CEO of QuestFusion, with The Real Deal…What Matters