Not a 'marketer'? Don't fret, you can succeed!
Bdaily is looking at Online Marketing in this, our latest focus week. Here, Chris Stainthorpe of CustomerSure, a web-based customer feedback software, advises how to succeed in online marketing, even if you are not a ’marketer’.
Marketing your business online can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
The intersection of ‘marketing’, which many people see as hard to plan and hard to measure, and ‘digital’, which is still a rapidly changing field can at first seem completely impenetrable, but other businesses have mastered the basics and so can you.
When our business, CustomerSure, decided to take online marketing seriously at the start of this year, it seemed like an impossible ask. But through a mix of learning from the experts and not panicking at the first sign of trouble, we’re now seeing traffic to our site grow week-on-week, and conversions to paid customers are up too!
We’ll share what we’ve learned so your business can learn from it too. Feel free to ask questions or add your own insights/advice in the comments!
1. Get the basics right.
This may sound obvious, but ‘online marketing’ is still ‘marketing’, which means they share the same fundamentals. You wouldn’t try to execute a marketing campaign without objectives, an understanding of your audience, and a plan to reach them, so don’t approach online marketing any different.
If you don’t know exactly what your USPs are, what your value proposition is, who your ‘perfect’ customers are, and where you can find them, it’s time to get back to basics. There are countless textbooks and blogs on this subject, but our favourite resource was April Dunford’s “RocketWatcher” blog.
Once you’ve covered all these basics, it can help to print them out and stick them where you can see them. Even more so than ‘traditional’ marketing, there are a dizzying array of opportunities to take advantage of online. Being able to see your strategy will help keep you focused, and shepherd you away from ideas which are ‘good, but not for right now’.
2. Pick your tactics, don’t just go for what’s trendy.
As with any discipline, an industry of ‘experts’ (with varying degrees of expertise) has grown up around marketing online. Some people have good advice, some have bad advice, but regardless of what’s being promoted to you, stick to your guns and evaluate every tactic against your plan.
Twitter has pros and cons, as does pay-per-click advertising, as does mobile app development. Make sure you evaluate these pros and cons (as they relate to YOUR audience), and pick what’s right for you, not what’s being sold. Display advertising is one of the oldest forms of online marketing, and one of the least sexy, but if it works for your message and your audience, then it’s what you should be doing.
3. Use analytics, but use it wisely.
One of the biggest benefits of advertising online is the wealth of data available to you about the performance of your campaigns. Unlike traditional marketing, you can see exactly what worked, and what didn’t. There are many tools in this space, but your starting point should be Google Analytics on account of its cost (free) and massive power and flexibility, but be prepared to do a little work.
Knowing your pageviews have increased may give you a warm feeling inside, but if you don’t put in the legwork to find out why, then you can’t plan to do more of the same. More importantly, if you’re only tracking ‘vanity’ metrics like page views, rather than real business goals (i.e. contacted you for information, downloaded a free sample of your product), then you’re only ever going to work on things which make you feel good, rather than things which improve your business. Avinash Kaushik writes a great blog on this topic.
4. Offline marketing is important for online marketing.
Don’t be seduced into thinking that you can switch all of your marketing efforts to online, then sit in your office counting your sales as people retweet your latest viral campaign. You still need to be at events, building your brand, meeting your customers and potential customers and learning about how your product or service meets their needs.
You still need to have a brilliant post-sales customer feedback programme to ensure that every single customer is happy to do business with you again and recommend you to their friends (and to learn from your mistakes when things went wrong). If it’s relevant to the people you’re trying to reach you still need to be doing ‘traditional’ PR outreach, getting press coverage in the right publications.
It’s hard work, and it’s not always fun, but it’s vital to making sure your online messages resonate and reach the right people
5. Design: Not just making things look pretty.
Steve Jobs famously told the New York Times: “People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
He was talking about product design, but this quote encapsulates the attitude towards design which propelled Apple from the verge of bankruptcy to the powerhouse it is today. Any business will struggle to match Apple’s ability to execute on design without an expensive team of experienced designers, but you can use this ‘joined up’ philosophy to improve your own business, in particular your marketing efforts.
Whatever tactics you choose, make sure that the experience is simple and consistent as a person moves from their first encounter with your marketing to becoming a customer. Make sure the tone of voice and standard of writing is consistent across your social media channels, advertising and your website.
Make sure your visual design is clear, consistent across different channels and reflects your brand. Don’t copy the tone of voice of other companies if that tone of voice isn’t right for your chosen audience. You’ll get the best results from hiring professional writers and visual designers (be they freelancers or agencies), but cash being tight is no excuse to give your potential customers a poorly-designed experience, because covering the basics can get you a long way there, and you can learn the basics through practice.
Copyblogger is a great resource for tuning up your writing skills, and Hack Design is great for learning the basics of visual design (don’t be put off by the talk of ‘hackers’ – it’s full of advice that’s applicable to any small business or startup).
Following these five steps will get your online marketing efforts off the ground, but it’s just the start of a journey which will take time and effort before you start to see results. However, if you stick to your plan, read your data right, design things well, and back it all up with some solid offline marketing, you WILL see results, so don’t despair. Never stop learning, never give up, and use forums like bdaily to share your experience and learn from your peers. Good luck!