The world of marketing looks a lot different than it did 20 years ago. According to a recent study, the average American spends more than 24 hours per week online. This is totally changing the ways that people buy products and services. The customer has more power than ever in the buying process: they can compare prices, read reviews before they buy, and share information with other customers. The internet is arguably the most important medium that businesses can use to promote themselves and capture their customer’s attention.
It’s easy and often free for businesses to develop some sort of online presence. But many companies are in such a rush to jump in that they don’t bother creating a solid online marketing strategy first. Without taking the time to do this, your business will likely miss out on a lot of opportunities, and will ultimately fall behind.
Online, the customer is in control – they can mute annoying ads, and maneuver away from pages they aren’t interested in. Online marketing is all about making the customer want to come to you and being able to keep their attention. The best way to do this is to make sure the product or service you’re selling is relevant to the customer, and that you reach them at just the right time.
Vendors reach out to their online customers through online search engines, email, social media, videos and display ads. In marketing, these different paths are referred to as “channels”.
Before you start developing your online marketing strategy, you need to make sure you already understand and have clearly outlined three things: your business, your brand, and your customer. Once you have a clear understanding of these three things, they will serve as the foundation for the rest of your digital strategy.
Know your business
Mission Statement: this should be one sentence that summarizes your company’s purpose. In other words, why does your company exist?
Objectives: these are the goals that are needed to keep your business running smoothly and uphold your brand identity.
Value Proposition: For each of the objectives you outlined, define a value proposition. You are essentially backing up your objectives. A good value proposition explains how your product solves a problem for your customers, what specific benefits it delivers, and explains why a customer should buy from you instead of a competitor.
Elevator Pitch: if you had to explain what your business does in one sentence, what would it be? Your elevator pitch should summarize the most essential information about what your business does.
Know your customer
With your customer strategy, you’re trying to reach the correct audience, understand that audience and what motivates them, and know what channel you can use to reach that audience.
Identifying your target audience is extremely important in digital marketing. This is because unlike traditional marketing, there is no broad audience for you to market to – instead, there are really only niche markets. The customer is in control, and they exist in a landscape that’s personalized just for them. You have to be very specific about who you’re targeting, or you won’t reach them.
You can have several different “target audiences”. How old are they? What gender are they? What interests do they have that are relevant to your campaign? What are their goals relating to these interests that you can help them accomplish?
Finally, where are you going to find these people? Specifically identify what mediums you can use to reach this audience. Are they likely to belong to a particular social media site? Are they likely to visit a particular type of blog or website?
Now that you have a clear understanding of our business, our brand, and our customer, we can finally begin to build an effective online marketing strategy.
Start Planning Your Strategy
Your marketing strategy is going to be made up of many smaller plans that are designed to accomplish each of the goals you outlined for your target audience(s).
The next step is to develop a marketing strategy for each of the channels that you plan to market on, using one of three types of online marketing media: paid, owned and earned.
Paid Media is all the media that you pay for. This includes paid ads, display marketing, and Google AdWords.
Owned Media is everything that you own. This includes your website, your blog, your customer email lists.
Earned Media is your press. This includes all your social media activity, articles written about you, and links from other sites and blogs.
Elements of Online Marketing
The number of online marketing options available can be a bit overwhelming. And it’s not getting any easier: more types of marketing opportunities continue to spring up every year as people create and adopt new types of technologies, devices, and explore new ideas.
Remember: your online marketing strategy does not need to include every single type of marketing channel out there. All you have to do is evaluate which options are open to you, and choose the ones that make the most sense.
If you don’t have a big marketing budget, it might be wise to use free methods first. If you’re thinking about trying to use a new type of channel, be sure to evaluate how much energy will need to go into setting it up and maintaining it. Then evaluate whether it will be worth the effort. Keep in mind, some methods may be high effort and low value, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t still be a good return on investment. This just means that they don’t have as high of a value as some of the other methods. Nonetheless, this doesn’t always mean they aren’t worth exploring too.
Use KPI’s to keep track of how well your campaigns are doing. For websites, you may choose to define the KPI as the number of viewers per month. For a social media site like Facebook, you may want to define the KPI as the number of likes you get.
Keep track of all this information, and review it at least once a month. As you put your online marketing plan into action, you may find that parts of it aren’t working out. That’s ok! Keep revisiting your plan and reworking it. Try to keep improving it as you learn more about your customers, your brand, and the online landscape.