The landscape of the Web and online marketing is changing. In a nutshell, the consumers of our content have the ability (and therefore the expectation) to interact with us at any time, any place, in any fashion. And if we can’t deliver a natural, integrated experience to them, they’ll find someone who can.
Quite a tall order for a small business already stretched thin by the need to be everywhere. Even a larger company has the burden of multiple management layers and slower decision processes that make it hard to adapt to the latest algorithm update.
There’s hope for all of us, though. You see, with the complexities of semantic search, integrated marketing, and a more natural approach to web design, comes a simplicity that anybody can run with. In the current landscape of online marketing, authenticity and authority prevail.
Fundamentals. Things that we don’t need to leverage against an algorithm.
Sure, creating this footprint of yourself and your marketing campaigns across the Web is now more sophisticated. However, the only real sophistication comes with the tools we’re using to effectuate our ideas. The ideas themselves…the content, the strategy…are all based on fundamental marketing and business concepts that we’ve used for centuries. We just do it differently today, as you can see from the discussion below:
How do we forge ahead as online marketers?
Below are seven fundamental must-haves (and one must-be) that apply to business of any size.
1. Have a strategy
Every piece of content you put out online has to have strategy and purpose behind it. If it’s a post on social media, what do you expect to gain in return? Is the response from that post going to help you tailor your next post on that network? When do you write a blog versus a SlideShare presentation or YouTube video? If you do all three, do they link to each other seamlessly?
Without strategy, you are just creating noise on the web. You are also missing out on key opportunities when a piece of content you create resonates with your audience, but you didn’t build any conversion around it. This applies to your website, email campaigns, social media posts, ads, even offline content that drives traffic to your website.
2. Have complete control over your entire web presence
Logins and passwords are important, this goes without saying. More important is knowing where you are being found online, and where people are talking about you. Establish profiles and verify information where necessary. Keep a record so you can periodically check to ensure your branding is consistent everywhere someone finds your content. And be sure that whomever is responsible for communicating on your behalf in these various channels does so in a way that represents your brand, and your brand’s voice.
3. Have an understanding of what your web presence does to make you money
Many popular blogs about online marketing recommend best times to post, blog templates, frequency, etc. And many of these blogs make money from ad revenue, so they need page views and a consistent flow of traffic to stay afloat. This may not be the case for your site. Maybe your website’s primary goal is to get people to pick up the phone, or to provide customer support, or sell stuff!
Blogging strategies aside, your website itself should have a purpose and goal that ties back to its performance as an asset for your business. And your decisions on how to approach marketing to your website should check out against that purpose and goal every time. Otherwise, you’re creating noise and leaving opportunity on the table.
4. Have a plan and calendar for content marketing
The first three points talked about strategy and big picture. This next point puts all that into play. Having a strategy allows you to create a calendar for your content, identify the best places (and formats) to distribute it, and also when it’s appropriate to repurpose it. Here’s a great guideline, quoted by Sergey Andrianov of ASMART Solutions, Inc.:
“Put the small thoughts in the social networks, medium thoughts on others’ blogs, but bring all the big thoughts to your own website.” ~ Sergey Andrianov (Pin this)
Oh, and if you haven’t read it yet, pick up a copy of Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman’s excellent guide, Content Rules.
5. Be exceptional
This should really be #1. There’s an old saying in sales to “promise what you can deliver, and deliver what you promise.” This adage is so true in business today, where consumers have thousands of choices for every decision, and we as businesses have to find ways to stand out from the crowd.
The absolute best way to do this for the long term is to be exceptional. Those companies (and marketers) that can provide an exceptional experience from start to finish are going to win every time. Gimmicks and tricks will only work for the short term, if at all, and the cost of employing these sneaky techniques will eventually outweigh the benefits. Might as well start drinking the Kool-Aid now & drop the idea of quick fixes, opting instead to just be exceptional.
6. Have a team
The concepts of online marketing success are fundamental, yes; but the execution is far from it. The bottom line is that you can’t do this yourself anymore. Find trusted vendors and partners who spend their days in the trenches, tracking the changes to the technical side of the Web so you don’t have to. At minimum, you will need an experienced writer (or several) and graphic artist, along with a search and social marketing professional; add a programmer into the mix for support when you have a unique campaign that needs a special landing page or integration with your systems.
7. Have a thought-out plan for your campaigns
Armed with the big picture strategy, a content calendar, and an exceptional message, you have what it takes to grab & keep your customer’s attention. In this must-have tip, we talk about your actual campaigns. Make sure that all roads lead back to your conversion points. Do not leave “island links” in email campaigns or landing pages, or even social posts. Your message is already airtight, don’t leave leaks for someone to sneak away.
8. Have a documented way to measure and test
What good is an exceptional message, delivered by an airtight campaign in a completely integrated fashion, if you have no idea whether or not it “worked”? Since you went into your marketing plan with a goal, be sure that you put measures in place to track the performance of your campaigns, your website, emails, and everything else that’s part of your online presence. Again, enlist the help of services and professionals to make sure you can understand the complete picture. Build yourself a library of experiments, large and small, so the next time around you can test against what you did previously to make it better.
Are you ready for the future of online marketing?
This is no small task, but the rewards are great. Especially for smaller (or more agile) companies who are looking for a way to compete. If you are wondering where to start, ask yourself these two questions:
- What makes your company exceptional?
- Why should your company be the one worthy of your customer’s undivided and loyal attention?
Answer that, then start building from it.