By Joe Sayles, Jr. – Approximate Reading Time 7-12 min.
“If you build it, they will come”… at least that is what you might expect. Then the harsh reality sets in and you realize, you have built a great website, but no one even knows that it exists. So what do you do next?
This great line from the 1989 Kevin Costner movie, Field of Dreams comes to mind regularly when I think about all of the small, local business owners I speak with today. It also takes me back to my early days online and feeling the same way.
Local business owners are usually aware that there is money to be made using the internet. They build or have websites built for them, but they quickly learn without the marketing knowledge or a strategic plan, their online business is like a boat in the water without sails, paddles, or an engine.
For most of these business owners, there are usually a few reasons for their business being stagnant online:
- They have no clue about how the digital world works or;
- They have no time to learn digital marketing;
- They have not created a budget for marketing online;
- They have a web presence of some sort, but they do not have a strategy for using the internet.
Small business owners know business… their business, their niche. They know production and how to make stuff work, or how to repair things. These business owners know salesmanship and how to stick to their budgets. Some even know a thing or two about marketing. But in today’s digital marketing world, it is EXTREMELY difficult to be good at everything mentioned above, and also remain current with today’s ever changing internet marketing strategies.
Heck, it is even difficult for today’s digital marketers. Digital marketing used to be a job for just one person, but now it has morphed into many different channels that are related, and yet so different.
For those on the outside (people not actually performing the marketing efforts), digital marketing appears to be one task. However, the closer you look the more you realize that there are many moving parts to this type of marketing. You also realize you need to develop a strategy for managing these parts, because it would require a large team to do it all. This is why digital marketing agencies exist!
Let’s take a look at small business marketing and why it is so important to have a strategy. My hope is this will help you to begin creating a digital marketing strategy by leading you into setting some very basic goals, then making decisions about how best to move forward with a strategy.
Digital Marketing Strategy
When creating a digital marketing strategy, there are a few very specific things that you need to understand:
- You can either wait for customers to find you (you never know if they will find you);
- You can go out and find them yourself (this might take lots of effort and time) or;
- You can pay to have them find you (this has the potential to get expensive).
You need to decide whether you want to let people find your website based on their website searches or by word of mouth. Or if you want/need immediate traffic by a much larger volume of visitors, you might want/need to pay for traffic. Better yet, you probably want a balance between these ways and you might need to decide how best to balance the way that will work best for your business.
There is no perfect answer, but when conferring with an experienced marketer, there can be calculated “guesstimates” for the amount of traffic from the different sources you need in order to meet your goals. Then, trial and error, testing and optimizing will help you find the best balance of traffic type that is right for you.
When I first began using the internet with business in (2000), I ran blogs. My content targeted “captive” audiences who used the blog to find the information they needed. There was no need to learn marketing because my blogs were, in essence, digital brochures… digital brochures that could easily be updated frequently. All I did was wait for my customers to visit my website for the information they needed, and I provided frequent updates. This mindset was fine for my purposes in the early 2000’s, but not for 2017. Unfortunately, I find that the digital brochure website mindset is still a prevailing mindset for many business owners who have not realized the value of finding traffic online.
As time moved on (2004-2005), I learned that people were finding my brick and mortar business by searching on the internet. Although I feel like I came late to this understanding, I realized that I could actually use the internet as a marketing channel to drive traffic to my website and business. At the time, I felt this was just a bonus channel of leads. (This is the way many local entrepreneurs still think.) Eventually, I came to realize that online marketing could become a main driving force for my marketing efforts.
In my third venture online, I discovered I would need to be found on the internet in order to grow as an online business. I faced the dilemma of “building it and having no traffic.” I invested in paid advertising, first in Google, then, Yahoo, then in MSN ads. Eventually, I used several other sources that I will discuss later in a different article. I had a little money to invest in advertising. I did not know anything about how I should best spend it and was learning by trial and error. I was trying to figure out who had the “real” knowledge to learn from, and who I should trust to learn from.
There were so many “voices” on the internet telling me to do this, and do that! After a couple of experiences working with outsourced marketing, and paid advertising, I decided I needed to learn the best sources of information or I would go broke. After learning who the leaders were online, I trained in the best information. (This is why you should follow my social media channels, because I share information from the very best sources.) From there, I would make a marketing plan for driving traffic to my website.
Many of you have probably found yourselves in the same situation. Perhaps giving up on finding the best ways to learn to do the marketing yourself. Or perhaps you have tried and not been successful with some internet marketing practices. Maybe you are able to read a lot of the information but don’t know where to start because you are stuck in information paralysis. This is not unusual and why one of my goals is to help business owners in this state.
Even today, I must remind myself to focus by building a strategy and working toward a goal. Otherwise, I can feel like I have Attention Deficit Disorder and get lost all over the place. The internet is like a vast ocean. I now realize that no matter what type of business you are marketing, you need to find ways to focus and stand out in the crowded sea of online voices.
So let’s get back to helping you develop a digital marketing strategy based on your goals and the different marketing channels available to you. The first thing to do is to begin thinking about your goals, your needs, and your abilities – both knowledge abilities and what you can afford to do financially. These goals will help you to develop your strategy.
The Different Types of Marketing Channels – Paid
If your goal is to find as many customers as you can immediately, then you need to explore paid advertising. Paid advertising is by far, the fastest way with the best odds of getting new customers to your website.
In the online world, there are many different names for paid advertising, and many more acronyms. Paid online advertising goes by the names “Pay-Per-Click” advertising, “paid acquisition”, “paid advertising” and “search engine marketing” (which in some places also means search engine optimization, but that is a subject for another day). It goes by the acronyms, “PPC”, “CPC” (Cost per Click advertising), and “SEM.”
There are even more specific types of paid advertising that people refer to. “Search” ads, “Display” ads, “CPA” (Cost per Acquisition) ads, “Native” ads, and “Programmatic” ads are all different types of paid advertising. For my purposes I will use the terms PPC, SEM, and Paid Advertising interchangeably.
Paid advertising has actually gained substantial appeal and momentum in recent years. PPC ads enable you to highlight your website in defined search engine locations (for instance, the top of the search page on Google or Bing) or on appropriate sites (for example, a niche related website to your site that presents Google AdSense through banner advertisements). Whenever your ad is clicked, you pay up to the amount of your bid depending on many factors that I will discuss at another time. Paid ads can be found in search engines, and in social media. Again I stress, PPC is the fastest way to get your website visible online.
The Different Types of Marketing Channels – Organic
Aside from the paid advertising methods, there are what is referred to as “natural” or “organic” (un-paid) methods of finding website traffic. These methods are based on search engine searches, or referrals from social media sources. The original organic way to make your website visible and stand out on the internet was through the process of Search Engine Optimization.
Search engine optimization (or SEO as it is typically called) is the process of enhancing a website’s search engine ranking for different search phrases, usually called “keywords” (or keyword phrases as I like to call them. In my early days and being literal as I can be, I did not realize a keyword could be a phrase.)
In SEO just like in paid advertising, there are different components, but they can all be categorized within one of two main component types, either as on-page or off-page SEO factors. On-page SEO elements include meta data such as meta tags and meta descriptions, title tags like H1 and H2 tags, image alt tags, keyword frequency and internal linking. These all work to tell the search engines what content and keywords the website considers valuable by being highlighted.
Off-page SEO usually describes web links and referral citations from external websites including top quality internet directories as well as pertinent, trusted internet sites. Sites like Google, Bing, .edu and .gov sites are usually the strongest off-page sites.
Social media sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are just as strong and also fall into this category that has morphed into a second major avenue of organic traffic that will be discussed in the next section. An important element of off-page SEO is acquiring external links from sources like those mentioned above, that have anchor text which contains your most important keyword phrases. Linking with other websites within your niche that have content related to your site content are also very valuable for your off-page SEO
Social media optimization (SMO), is the newest of the three main search engine marketing strategies. This strategy uses social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ LinkedIn and Pinterest to name a few, as vehicles with the potential to drive traffic to websites. There are many different types of social media websites, many of which are apps that are designed to be used with mobile devices. Social media site are often less geared toward SMO and building SEO value for your website, but are more geared toward generating social engagement. However, the strength of the social media traffic to these website when combined with links to business websites bring tremendous SEO value as well. Savvy business marketers are always exploring new ways to exploit competitive marketing advantages from social media.
If you would like to create a digital marketing strategy for your business, we have found a cheat sheet that you might find useful from Marketo at https://www.marketo.com/cheat-sheets/. The cheat sheet shows the value of How-SMBs-Benefit-from-an-ABM-Strategy-Marketo.pdf.
If you need further guidance in creating your digital marketing strategy, please contact us at http://envydigitalsolutions.com/digital-marketing-strategy/.
In upcoming posts on our blog, I will discuss the various digital marketing channels among other things, and how we integrate them into strategies for our clients leading them to digital domination that is ENVY’d (yes I misspelled it that way on purpose!).
About the Author:
Joe Sayles, Jr. is the CEO and CMO of ENVY Digital Marketing Solutions LLC a boutique Las Vegas digital marketing agency. ENVY Digital provides Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, Website Design, Webmaster Services, Conversion Rate Optimization, Social Proof Marketing, and Video Marketing for small business & websites owners.