Other Internet Marketing Options
The number one step before stepping into a marketing venue is to have a strategic plan. Setting up an email newsletter, social media page, or paid advertising campaign without a strategy and metrics (tracking) gameplan in place is like pulling out of your driveway to go on vacation without knowing where you are going. In the end, you will end up somewhere, but you don’t know if it will be a positive experience.
Your strategy should not only be well planned out, but it should also be malleable. A blog or another tidbit of information may offer insight in how you campaign can be modified to increase your ROI. After all, traffic is not the ultimate goal, converting prospects to customers is the final objective. Traffic is a means to the end.
If you haven’t had time to plan something out with clear goals, then don’t do it. No one is impressed with tumbleweed social pages or a generic newsletter. Move with intention tempered with intelligence. Don’t trust your developer to “just do it”. You know your customers. This means your business’s input can never be on autopilot.
Your only goal is not to go from prospect to “sale”. In today’s economic climate, you need to be able to allow your prospects to dip their toes into your products or services. Your goals could be to include whitepapers, blog articles, ebooks, trial offers, or other subtle goals that will lead to ultimate sales. Don’t think marketing is just black and white. It’s not.
And of course, everything about your business should be a harmonious relationship of you business experience with your developer’s experience in design and marketing. Its symbiotic.
Marketing is essential in business. I’ve been behind the scenes and watched the mentality of some marketing services. I sat in an office with one guy, a self-professed business genius, as he told me his goal was to control a business. He wanted to make them hostage to his services. This of course, meant controlling the business’s involvement, which also mean putting a cap on the potential success of his campaigns, but his goal was to create dependency, not maximize the success of his clients.
I wish I could let you sit in the conversations that I’ve witnessed. By not involving your company, you fall right into their web and consider anything being done as an unknowable voodoo. You would never let a salesman on this first day, represent your company, so why let anyone dictate the very elements of your business? You are your expert and you need to take that role very seriously.
Be better. Get involved and make sure everything you do is with intention and involvement. If you are unwilling to pay for the extra collaborative time, then don’t venture into new territory. You will also need to be fully vested in your internet marketing strategy. I live in the southeast and deer getting killed by a vehicle happens frequently. The deer doesn’t get killed by crossing the road. It’s rather because headlights cause the deer to freeze up and he gets hit from not choosing one side of the road or the other.
I’ve spent time in this book focusing on some of the snares in web development and search engine optimization, but there are plenty in just about every form of marketing today. Unfortunately many providers have the mind-set of the trailer manufacturer I used to serve. One of his popular sayings was that his only goal was to “separate the customer from his money.” I heard this innumerable times when I asked about their warranty or other after-the-sell services. He could only see as far as the sell and not the long-term value of a positive relationship. He’s successful but he’s facing the law of the lid due to his myopia. Many marketing professionals suffer from their own form of myopia. If you don’t involve yourself in your campaign, then expect mediocrity. When you launch a campaign, have the mind-set that this one particular move your are going to make is the only way which your target customer’s will assess your company. The more details you can plan, the better. The more flexible you are to trends and changes, the better.
Let’s take a look at some of your options.
Paid Ads (Google Adwords is the most well-known)
What is it? Paid advertising is a way to to have ads on Google, Yahoo, as well as social networks and specialty sites.
How is it charged? While some specialty sites may offer a flat monthly rate, most charge either on a “pay per click” or “pay per impressions” rate. This section addresses “pay-per-click” and “pay-per-impressions” as the flat rate is self-explanatory. Pay-per-click means you pay a certain amount of money for each “click”, the price is determined by a bidding process. Pay-per-impressions is based upon paying for a certain number of impressions. One impression means one person was on a web page where your ad was visible for them to see. It doesn’t mean your ad was clicked, viewed, or in anyway engaged. It simply means it was visible to that one shopper at that one time. Most pay-per-impression models are grouped into a “per 1,000” or more bundle of impressions.
PROS – The biggest benefit is its almost instant gratification. Services like SEO take months to gain traction. Paid ads also offer granular control of budget, ad message and landing page. It’s a great resource for testing the most effective advertising messages and landing pages.
What Is A Landing Page/Squeeze Page? A landing page is where a visitor “lands” when they click on an paid ad or other link. “Squeeze page” is another term for fine-tuned landing pages with a specific message.
CONS – You pay for every click regardless of the results. It requires fine-tuning over time. Optimal campaigns involve custom landing pages, and ad modifications.
COMMON MISTAKES – Small businesses usually don’t track, fine-tune, or take time to learn how to optimize paid ads and their landing page(s). Ads are often pointed to the home page of a website. Most ads should be directed to a special offer, squeeze page, or other specific web page with a very specific message.
Businesses often don’t consider their ROI. Consider a very simple example: Product A costs $5 to make and is sold at a retail value online is $45. That is a profit of $40 per sell. Let’s assume the cost-per-click to promote this product was $5 per click. Your Adwords on average, sells 5 products per 100 clicks. Your profit on the three sales was $200 and your advertising cost is $500. This means it costs $500 to sell $200 in product, or a loss of $300.
This is why its important to only track sales and gauge the value of any campaign goals strategically and also illustrates the importance of fine-tuning a campaign.
For example, let’s say this company lost $300, but then uses their developer to search their problems and make changes. The developer is able to make some changes and increase your sales from 5 per 100 to 15 sales per 100 clicks. Applying the same math, this equates to a $600 initial profit with $500 in advertising, or a +$100 return.
Fine-tuning, tracking and modifying online advertising is where the game is won or lost. It’s not the initial setup. Expect to spend money initially to just acquire some information to make educated decisions upon. If you have a “set it up and forget it” mentality, you should not attempt this type of advertising.
OPTIMAL SETUP – Let a professional manage it.
CAN YOU DO IT ON YOUR OWN? Sure. It will take work and refinement. Keep in mind, most businesses start on their own, waste money, then get serious, stop the service, or hire a professional. If you are not careful, you can run through hundreds or thousands of dollars without learning anything other than you are less rich than when you started.
TRICK OF THE TRADE – Run paid ads to discover the best keywords for your SEO campaign. Find out which keywords work best for your business within your geographic target region. Use these keywords for your SEO campaign. Use clicks and impressions as benchmarks.
Additional Details – Paid ads is much more than typing in a few messages and pointing them to the home page of a website. You need to think through your call-to-action and make sure you send anyone that clicks on your ad to a specific page about a specific offering that directly rates to that specific ad.
Hiring a professional consultant to track and optimize your paid ads can help make the effort successful. Businesses usually find increases their conversion ratio by a few percentage points turns a negative campaign into one that’s profitable.
Vertical Marketing – Vertical, or sometimes called niche marketing, is a website that serves people looking for specific good/services or specializes in a certain medium, such as photos or videos. For example, a church may advertise on a popular church directory website. The directory is a vertical with a specific focus on people looking for churches.
In your case initially, vertical marketing has as many snares as search engine optimization. Websites with minimal traffic or that offer poor results are hard for the average business to discern from high traffic sites.
Good Verticals are invaluable bad ones are worthless. Before you advertise anywhere, ask for traffic reports to see how many monthly visitors they receive. Also make sure the vertical serves your service area and you are on the most relevant page(s) in regards to your specific services.
This has proven to be a nice resource for revenue generation. If you can locate online resources that sell leads, then it’s worth trying. Do your homework before buying the leads. And if you buy leads, being “johnny on the spot” is important. If you wait too long, a competitor will gobble up your opportunity as these leads are often sold to at least 5 other competitors.
Okay, if you want to talk bait-and-switch, let’s talk press release services. My latest research of press releases for this book began in 2012. I thought the SEO guys were bad until I ran across this one very popular press release service, but first let’s discuss the REAL value of press releases.
Here is part of a conversation that is the most accurate in regards to press releases:
Me: Okay, so is this accurate? The SEO benefit is my product or service may come up on relevant searches, but not impact my actual website’s ranking. The most bang for the buck should happen in the first 60 days and the long-term value is reputation management? Correct?
The PR Rep: That is correct. Although most websites house releases indefinitely, they will be seen and interacted with the most over the first 60 days. After that they tend to be buried by newer content. But they are always available and searchable by search engines. Someone viewing your release is more likely to go to your website than someone who does not see the release at all, hence making your website more visited, but not actually changing the website’s ranking.
Okay, so what did the honest press release company say? Let’s break it down.
Don’t expect them to help your actual website get to the top of Google.
The biggest impact of a release happens in the first 60-90 days.
The long-term benefit is building is establishing your reputation when you are being researched by prospects.
So what happened when researching the bad guys? First they used SEO in one way, knowing you will assume its meaning it something else. Most businesses assume when they hear “SEO”, they assume its their business website that will benefit. This non-reputable company is taking the long-term value described above and weaving a misrepresented view of their services.
This same company also distorted their reporting portal. They made it look as though their services were having a major impact, but when independently tested, the results were minimal. The unfortunate answer is to get everything in very specific language when buying a press release and independently verify EVERYTHING. Oh yeah, the questionable PR Service has a long-standing reputation of not giving refunds regardless of how you were sold. I wonder why….
Forums have proven valuable for internet marketing. Forums are a place on the web where people “talk shop” about their needs. Jumping back to the trailer business I was able to help, they received a steady flow of FREE traffic from forums where we participated ethically. Notice the word ethically. Don’t SPAM forums with some general sales pitch. This is pretty distasteful and obvious to dedicated participants of a given forum. It can get you blacklisted from the forum all together as the site managers tend to not like having their sites plastered with SPAM comments.
Forums are worth your focus if you plan on becoming a community member with a servant’s heart to participate. Most small businesses don’t have a lot of resources to do this, so choose wisely and only participate in forums where you see activity within your service area. See if a stream of traffic starts to flow from these resources. If so, keep it up. If not, try another.
Everyone should blog, have their content searchable, and publish their articles to their social feeds. Again, have a plan in place and only create content is the relevant to your target market. Don’t write just to write.
It will take time to plan and create this content, but its benefits are worth the time it takes.
Don’t believe there are bad SEO services on the web?
Think again. There are still tons of junk SPAM plaguing blogs. This horrible practice is incorporated daily by armchair and “professional” services alike. If you catch your SEO professional spamming blogs, end the agreement as soon as possible and move on.
One book is not enough to encompass this enormous subject. This is meant to be an extremely high level overview. The mentality for 99% of small businesses is to have a presence on certain popular social sites, but not do anything with it. I get it. It’s daunting, confusing, and you just want to be on it to hopefully capture a few scapes until you get your social media legs under you. Trust me, this is not the way to go.
Instead of attempting to “eat this elephant” in a few paragraphs, I will speak more of my experience working with self-proclaimed social media experts with small businesses.
Any social media plan requires habitual work, monitoring, which of course equals your investment. A good social media plan that is actually viable requires more resources than most small businesses feel they can afford.
Here is what I usually witness when it comes to social media:
- Businesses have no clue how to gauge success within the realm of social media
- Businesses do gauge success on actual sales
- Businesses usually hire a person to “handle” their social media part-time
- Businesses spend very little time with their part-time social media person
- Businesses see little viability from this effort and lose interest.
- They revert to a modest standpoint consisting of a few like buttons and maybe a Facebook page.
Are you somewhere in this cycle? Are you just planning on setting up profile pages with no plan? Maybe you’ve been disillusioned with mediocrity wrapped in sensationalism? Don’t worry, you are not alone. Social media is tough because it takes time, thought, and expertise within your field. Blend these issues with questionable services scrambled with reliable ones, and its a mess for anyone to figure out.
Regardless of these hurdles, you need to create a strategic plan (or multiple plans) and diligently contribute a real effort. You need to learn where you demographic spends their time and create content, offers, and a presence that will do, what I call, the “Three E’s”: Engage, entice, and establish. You will need to participate in the planning, review the content, and give serious thought to your social strategy and how it fits into your overall strategy.
You can also buy ads on social media just like you can on search engines. Our reports show an inordinate amount of suspicious clicks on one of the most popular social sites, so be careful to track social media clicks in Google Analytics to make sure onsite time is more than 0.00 seconds (yes, it does happen).
When I look at the overwhelming nature of content creation, distribution, and unifying it in the “big picture” of online and offline marketing, I feel it makes an extremely compelling argument to establish a relationship with your developer and consider a retainer where it can be managed from the viewpoint of experience.
I know, you hear “cha-ching” and I hear it as well. If you aren’t able to go this route, then I would suggest:
Discover where your target markets goes on the web by asking a few trusted customers questions.
Work with a marketing professional to create a strategic plan along with content deployment and a call-to-action.
Create a profile on each social media source identified in the first bullet point.
Integrate on your website a way to automatically publish content from your site to each social media resource.
Make creating content a priority.
This is a crude strategy, but at least offers some structure on which you can build.
This is an effective technique, but again, it requires a commitment. Through a recurring email newsletter, you can promote your services to loyal customers and give them incentives that will help acquire more readership as you build your credability and sell products/services. Your email newsletter should be branded and content should be carefully considered. Make sure your links go to specific related pages and track how many people open, forward, and use your content.
TIP: Do not send unsolicited emails to prospects. This is known as SPAMMING.
Can I Trust My Vendor Provided Internet Marketing Reports?
I remember watching a comedy some time ago and two of the characters were debating the potential downfall of smoking cigarettes. To end the debate, one character said something like this, “Now who’s done more research on the issue than the good people at the cigarette company? Besides if they were killing off their customers, who would buy their products?”
This is of course tongue-in-cheek, but the point is you should never trust the organization that has a vested interest to validate the value if their own services. Of course, they will tell you how much potential it has and how great their services are working. Without tracking, you are at the mercy of their wily ways. I have personally compared independent research with renown advertising sources and have seen their results exaggerated in access of 100%.
Their goal is to sell you on the fact their services are worth what you pay, so bloating their results happens. At the very least, run Google Analytics on your website to confirm any reports given to your organization and let each advertiser know, you independently track their services. I’ve seen exaggerations with publications, press release services, SEO, and the list goes on and on…
What is a squeeze page?
A squeeze page is a finely-targeted website page designed to “squeeze” a designed action from your website visitors. Squeeze pages are used to get grow email lists, sell products, capture leads, etc. I’ve heard the term landing page and squeeze page used interchangeably, but usually the squeeze page is more geared to acquiring a very specific action.
I don’t have a lot of money to do this, isn’t doing something better than doing nothing?
My usual answer is to this to ask the person to rephrase the question. “Doing something” sounds misguided, or as one client once said, “throwing on the wall and seeing what sticks”. “Doing something” is good if it begins with a strategic plan involving goals and understanding your target market. I would recommend to create a very specific plan with whatever budget you are willing to assign to it, then gauge its success, make adjustments and fine-tune.
How do I find people to trust enough to do this stuff?
That is ultimately the million dollar question. Hopefully when you are using the book to find your web developer and SEO professional, you will find a rare gem that is knowledgeable across multiple disciplines and honest about where this knowledge ends.
If so, your web developer can help you find a resource where their skillset is lacking. Its not easy. There are so many amatuerish and deceptive services on the web, its difficult to avoid all the landmines.
Okay, I am done with my site and the SEO has started now I am ready to tackle the next project. What do you recommend as my next step?
Always start with a goal. Keep in mind, going from web visitor to customer is for some like going from blind date to honeymoon night. Offering an easy way for a visitor to interact with your business with a minimal commitment is essential.
Find out what you can offer as a “first date” then build a strategic plan around it. After that’s been figured out, then integrate the most logical internet marketing tools for the job. You really need a marketing professional if at all possible.