Remember the carnival game where you had three darts to throw at a wall full of balloons to win the giant stuffed panda?  Most of the darts would hit the wall, or skim by the balloon, and if you did manage to pop a balloon it would typically be for a rather unexciting small plastic whistle and definitely NOT the giant stuffed panda.  The problem with this game is that you don’t know where the panda prize card is pinned, and you may not have the greatest aim.  But you know it’s there somewhere so you just keep on paying the carnival to throw more darts.

If your online marketing feels like that then you need a strategy.  Most small business owners I know are bombarded daily with calls and emails from companies that promise to get you on the first page of Google, or pitch advertising on their amazing website, or promise to build you a website for free, or claim to have the secret sauce for better Adwords, and the list goes on.  Some of these pitches may have merit and others are scams (like the one about “I have a spot reserved on the first page of Google with your name on it”).  The trouble is that without a strategy, these little “opportunities” can eat away at your marketing budget and leave you with nothing to show for your money.

Since every small business is different, your marketing plan should also be unique.  But there are some common elements worth considering.  With that in mind, here are;

Diane’s Top 6 Basics Of A Successful Online Marketing Strategy:

    1. Your Website:

      Your website is the foundation of your online marketing strategy.  If it isn’t interesting enough to convert prospects into buyers when they land there, then your digital marketing spend will be wasted.  It must be mobile friendly (if you need to stretch the text to see it on your phone then it isn’t), or Google simply won’t send you much traffic, it must look professional and modern, it must have a strong call-to-action, be well written, visually appealing, and have ample clear opportunities for a prospect to contact you.  Prospects are only half paying attention when they go there so will scroll right on by your contact information unless you include it in several places.  Don’t make them click to find it.

    2. SEO:

      No one can guarantee to get you on the first page of Google but there are some steps you can take to get there for several keyword terms.  Have a competent professional perform an analysis of long tail keyword searches in your industry.  Translation:  what are the phrases people are entering in Google to find businesses like yours?  The top keyword terms are likely highly competitive.  This means that your biggest competitors are likely writing tons of content around them and even paying for Adwords to appear at the top of search terms.  Look for adjacent terms that may make use of geographic searches  (e.g. “Miami Small Business Marketing”) for which there are sufficient monthly searches to justify optimizing content around them.  Once you find your target keyword phrases, use them (but don’t overuse them or Google will flag you for keyword stuffing) in your website content, your social media posts and look for opportunities to create content off of your website that will link back to yours.  Remember that Google looks at both category and geography in search results so your search on the same keyword phrase in Coral Gables will return different results than my search in downtown Miami.  Since Google is often where we turn to shop or research topics of interest, it can be a highly effective way of reaching prospects in the market to make a buying decision about your services, or to educate them about your company while they are searching for information.  For example, a prospect may search for “natural remedies for acne”, come across a doctor’s blog article written on that very topic and reach out to him for an appointment.

    3. Google Adwords:

      Think of SEO as being a strategic form of online marketing.  Over time, if performed correctly, your website will rise in  natural search for your target keyword phrases.  Google Adwords, on the other hand, are tactical.  There will be target keyword phrases where SEO has not yet floated your website to the top and for these it is worth paying for a search campaign.  So if your website is already on the first page of Google for a particular keyword phrase, you would not want to also pay for an Adwords campaign for that same keyword phrase.

      Google Adwords is a competitive advertising platform where companies bid to be returned higher in the search term results.  The ads appear on the top and sides of a Google search page identified with a tiny “Ad” to distinguish them from natural search results.  It is critical that the words you use in your ad are not only compelling, but send the prospect to a page on your website optimized around those same keywords as otherwise Google will charge you more per click and not display your ad as high in the results.  So using Kim Kardashian in your Ad text that sends prospects to a page about tax preparation services would not be a good marketing strategy (unless of course Kim happens to use your services and wrote you a testimonial about them)!

    4. Facebook Ads:

      In general we go to Google to research topics of interest and find where we can shop for products and services we need.  We go to Facebook to see pictures of our friends’ kids, and may just happen to see an ad that interests us enough to click.  But the compelling part about Facebook is that they know SO much about us that your ads can be highly targeted, including age, sex, geography, and most importantly, our interests.  So if you are trying to pinpoint a market segment that is tricky to reach via other channels, Facebook Ads can be a great way to find them.  But they may not respond the same way they would on Google, since Facebook Ads are more of an interruption, and they may not convert to the same extent.  Facebook users tend to respond better to attention grabbing ads with a strong call to action, a contest, or lead magnet like a free download or coupon.

    5. Social Media Activity:

      In the primary research we perform while preparing marketing plans for our clients, we consistently see word of mouth and social proof as the top two most important factors in making a buying decision, and of course they are intertwined.  People care about the experience others have had with your product or service.  This explains why we walk into a Best Buy and pull out our phones to check the online reviews of whatever gadget may interest us.  Your prospects view your website as your online business card.  It provides helpful information about what you do but they know it is all about how YOU want to project your image.  Social media is where others have a chance to weigh in on what you do.  Prospects look for testimonials and reviews, as well as the type of information you share.  While the social media channels you select for your business will differ, be active on the ones you choose, and don’t use these channels to sound “salesy” or you will lose people.   This is especially true on Linked In where you will be publicly shunned for doing so.  Be visual and be interesting.

    6. Email Marketing:

      Yes, it really does work.  In fact email marketing is probably the only digital marketing method that is cheap and allows you to actually reach a high percentage of the people you target.  Even for professionals, email marketing is a way to remain top of mind with your network.  I’m not talking about buying lists and spamming people, rather this is a channel to consistently deliver valuable information that positions your company as the experts so your prospects will think about YOU when they are in the market to purchase your product or service.  At a minimum you should create a monthly newsletter with your original content that directs traffic to your website to learn more.  Optimally you should also engage in drip marketing campaigns initiated from your website and online advertising that continue to engage prospects with relevant and interesting content in order to nurture them into becoming clients.

General Best Practices For Online Advertising:

a.  Keep your headline & post text short – 5 words or less for your headline and 14 words or less for your post text according to research by AdEspresso on 37,000 successful Facebook ads.

b.  Use attention grabbing words like “you”, “free”, “because”, “instantly”, “new”, “top”, “win”, “now”.

c.  Create an emotional impact.  Our brains treat most of what we see as spam.  Stand out by doing or showing something exciting, surprising, shocking or fascinating.  Remember we need to trigger that old fight or flight assessing croc brain of ours before our logical brain will engage.

d.  Include a call to action.  This is also generally good advice no matter what you are doing.  Examples include “shop now”, “learn more”, “sign up” and “save now”.  Facebook allows you to create these using buttons.

e.  Make sure your ad goes to a landing page for your service.  This is another generally good piece of advice for online advertising.  We’ll talk more about best practices in landing pages in a future post but don’t just send people to your home page.

f.  Test multiple ads against one another.  Test different images, calls-to-action and ad content.  See which ones drive the most traffic to your website.

Concerned that your online marketing strategy feels like you’re still throwing darts?  ZenChange offers a free, no obligation review of your online presence with specific recommendations on how you can improve.  Call us today at 305-761-5782 or email us to learn more.