There are many people who offer online marketing services. There are also many people who call themselves online marketing experts because they know how to:
- Build a WordPress website
- Implement search engine optimization (SEO)
- Set up your Google Places page and other local business listings
- Develop an AdWords campaign
- Send out an email marketing campaign
- Create a Facebook Business Page with the new iFrames landing tabs
All good stuff and important. But do these experts know marketing? Can they help you determine:
Which online marketing components are the best options for your business?
- Who your target market is and how to best reach them?
- How your customers search for your products and services?
- What strategies (see diagram) are needed and which activities will be the most practical and successful given your time and resource constraints?
Anyone who calls themselves an online marketing expert must ask (and get the answers to) these five online marketing strategy questions before providing a proposal for services.
1. Do you have a marketing plan and is online marketing included?
Every business needs a marketing plan. It should be concise, focused and easily amended as your business evolves. Online and social media marketing are simply executing marketing activities using the Internet and social media platforms as a channel of communication. If you have a marketing plan but online and social media activities are not part of it, you should update your plan to include these strategies before you execute the tactics.
2. What is the goal of your online marketing?
Understanding what you are trying to accomplish with your online marketing can guide the activities so that you achieve results. Do you want to:
- Drive quality inbound leads
- Build your mailing list
- Develop your expert reputation
- Cultivate relationships for the future
- Increase brand awareness
Without knowing the answers to this question, you can’t select the right activities to ensure you achieve your goal. Make sure the person implementing your online marketing knows the answer to this as well.
3. Who are your target customers?
Selecting the right online marketing tools is only accomplished when you know where your customers can be found online. Creating a Facebook Page for your business does you little good if your target market spends little time on Facebook. Is there some benefit of having a Facebook Page for your business? Yes, but it may not be the first thing you work on given your limited resources and time. You may be better off spending your time on creating a LinkedIn group that discusses the challenges your target market faces, creating visibility for you and a valuable forum for them. But the only way to determine the priorities of your action plan is to truly understand the needs of your ideal client.
4. What keyword phrases would these target customers use to find you?
Understanding how your target market searches online for your products or services helps you develop your top keyword phrase list for all of your marketing efforts. If you don’t have your top keyword phrase list defined, how will they provide search engine optimization across your website and your other web properties?
5. What are your resources, both time and money?
There are many things we can do to market our businesses online, but the action plan must be in line with your resources. You must know how much time you can spend personally verses what you will need to outsource in order to succeed. If you are expected to blog 3 times a week and spend an hour a day on your social media activities, make sure you can devote that time or have the budget to hire a resource to manage your online marketing. Marketing your business is a balancing act between working on your business and in your business.
Strategy before Tactics
I’m all for small business owners hiring someone to help them achieve their online visibility, but executing tactics before you understand what you want to accomplish and how may cost your small business time, money and results. Many of these online marketing experts are great at execution, but lack the skills and experience to help you develop your online strategy. So before you sign that contract, ensure you have a plan first.
What other things must you know before you engage an online marketing tactics?