Marketing a small business over the internet is the Wild, Wild West. Too many options, too little time, and it all sounds like it will work, right? Here’s a way to muddle through the confusion and maintain your sanity while seeing results in online marketing strategy.
Un-Scientific Poll Results
About a month ago I ran this poll on how small business owners are using internet marketing to drive their business.
The results are far from scientific but tell us something. 44% of respondents, with a pretty solid mix of men and women and nearly all over the age of thirty, not business novices, either don’t know, don’t use any or see mixed success. Blogging and creating good content seems to have moved the needle in second. Due to the number of respondents the validity of Social Media Marketing, PPC and Video as answers is statistically suspect.
In other words, most small business owners don’t know what works or haven’t yet found the key to that treasure chest of online gold. Almost half of people responding are just not sure what the heck to invest in, if anything. Here are some pointers.
Decide What You Want to Accomplish
This sounds condescending but it really isn’t. I had a conversation with a couple of business partners of mine a few weeks back on the PPC (pay per click) strategy, and they were arguing about where to put their efforts. These were two successful brothers who have done boatloads of traffic to their site with conversions to sales not being where they wanted them. I share their dilemma. One brother argued that they should pull all their PPC and cease blogging efforts and bore into revising their website around conversions. The other feared that ceasing content generation was not a good idea, that a void would open up and it would be doubly hard to gin up that traffic again.
My answer? Right!
Just remember this. Any monkey can buy PPC on Google Adwords and bounce their traffic, and if traffic were the end game, that monkey would be in fat city. For most of us, it isn’t, traffic is a means to an end, and that usually means more sales or some advance in the selling process (like they sign up for your mailing list). Answer the question, “What exactly do I want to happen as a result of my internet marketing efforts?”, and be overly specific. Get a reality check from those skilled in the art, as in business mastermind group peers who are doing well with online marketing strategy. Now you have a point of focus to work from.
Determine Who’s Doing the Work
Hiring consultants can be expensive to be certain, but understand this. None of the tactics in the poll above are worth doing lousy. Each requires a lot of time. If you want to do them all yourself, you’re kidding you. As a small business owner, you don’t have the time to do them all yourself, so if you want to start small and go it alone, just pick one category, one tool within that category to master, and a secondary tool to learn and do OK. That’s the decision you should make.
What do I mean? Well, let’s look at Social Media. That’s all the rage these days. There are so many social media sites out there you cannot possibly keep up with all of them. Sites like Youtube, by the way, are social media sites, as well as a ton of Social Bookmarking outlets like Digg, etc.
For my business, consulting and professional services, it made sense to me to go after LinkedIn and learn it to the max. So I did, and have become expert enough that other business people pay me to get their traffic to their profiles up and the inquiries coming in. Since I blog a lot, Twitter made sense as a medium to at least promote the blog, so I am learning and getting better at that. My strategy looks like this:
- Category: Social Media
- Master: LinkedIn
- Learn: Twitter
But Karl, there’s 600 million people on Facebook? Yep! I know little about Facebook. Oh, I have a page and post my tweets to it using some automatic tools I’ll tell you about in another post, but I suck eggs at it as a tool for my business. In fact, a friend of mine after seeing 3 consecutive postings on my business wall commented that he didn’t think it was possible to take the fun out of social media, but I found a way to do it. Facebook is too much about pictures and true socializing, joking, personal stuff for me to see a way through it for B2B success (note that Facebook is getting exploited first in the B2C arena). I’m not saying given enough time I couldn’t master and use Facebook for business strategy and economic gain; I just have decided to allocate my time elsewhere.
You can certainly leverage your time with selective outsourcing.
Outsource but Qualify
If you’re going to outsource, there are plenty of people out there you can outsource too who are better than you, but precious few who will really move the needle on your business Geiger counter. Check out this post I read and shared on LinkedIn by Zach Weiner on just that. This applies to more than Social Media; it applies to any marketing strategy. Check people out, look at their references and work samples where they’ve been successful elsewhere. LinkedIn is great for this, because LinkedIn recommendations are at least real with links to those people (see my strategy for getting Great Recommendations on LinkedIn).
The benefit to outsourcing your marketing efforts for your small business is that you can take a balanced attack given enough resources, meaning money. You can get some results using web video, make a social media splash, boost traffic with PPC and even outsource your blog for super content. Most marketing folks of any sort, including traditional print, radio, TV types, will tell you that a mix is important to cover the bases of how people like to be marketed to. Providing, of course, that you don’t suck at any of the tools you use, else better to drop it.
A word to the wise. Just like you don’t have the time to be great at everything, be a bit wary of the person who claims to be an expert in every bloody thing, whether it is web design or social media or anything else. It’s tough to be great at all things. I do LinkedIn well, but wouldn’t think to hawk my services on anything else I am not an expert at other than strategy on what tools to use. I do web video, but a specific kind of web video called Executive Video Interviews that capitalizes on my vocal talent and lack of technical acumen with all things high-priced video. If someone you are interviewing is pitching as an A to Z expert (what you really want), make sure there is a firm with multiple staff members who niche themselves in the specific tools of the trade.
Monitor Results and Adjust
The cool thing about online marketing is that it is much easier to monitor results than other means, which have always had a problem tying in tangible benefits and have promoted the logic that if it gets your name out there, it must be working. Everything that comes your way via the internet has statistics you can look at (interpreting them can be a challenge) and make adjustments. For instance, I just cut back on and revised my Google Adwords campaign based upon what I saw that was working and getting clicked on, AND what pages on my site were getting traffic without the results I wanted. In just a few months I can determine where the sore spot is and take action to remedy that.
Just remember to keep your goal in mind. For instance, most online marketing landing pages will have a series of pages that the user must click on to advance in the process. This is done for no small reason to be able to monitor engagement level of the sales process that is going on. Statistics show that every successive page has its share of attrition, yet those who run the gauntlet are now highly qualified prospects that are more likely to convert to sales. Marketers can tell who got to the page, who ordered the free report, who downloaded the video, and ultimately, who added something to the shopping cart. This helps you as a business owner know that of your traffic to the page, a certain percentage take the next step in the sales process. If you want that to be higher, change the landing page.
What are Your Methods to Navigate the Internet Marketing Seas?
Post your comments on what you’ve done to get the most out of your marketing, what tools you have settled on to become experts or at least familiar with, and if you’ve been confused to this point, what you plan to do next. You’ll get a linkback to your site and might get highlighted in a future article.