Last month I discussed the critical components you should consider when developing your internet marketing strategy and plan, as well as the best places to start: your website, search engine optimization, and analytics. Today I'll cover a few success factors that cross all the components of your plan, regardless of which elements you focus on first. Keeping these basic principles or success factors in mind throughout your planning and implementation won't guarantee success, but they can improve you odds.
Content is King
Regardless of whether you are emailing prospects, writing a blog, posting on Facebook, Tweeting, or adding a new page to your website, the quality of your content is the most important factor in your marketing success. The reason is simple. You can have the most technically advanced website or marketing software, but if your audience doesn't care about your message, none of that will matter. So start with your content strategy, thinking through why you audience will want to read or listen to what your company has to say, and ask yourself two basic questions.
- What content will position us as a credible company and as an expert in our field?
- What can we give our customers and/or prospects that is valuable to them? (unique information they can't get elsewhere, promotions, etc.)
As you develop your content plan, also determine who can create important content for your organization and how you can hold them accountable. Then begin developing an ongoing content calendar that applies to both traditional and online marketing. Finally, think through how you can share and reuse content across your various initiatives. Blog posts, for example, can be re-used for email articles or in print newsletters and can be tweeted.
Calls to Action (are Queen?)
As you are considering your content strategy, you'll also want to think through what you want your audience to do when they are reading your email, blog or tweet or searching through your website. This may seem obvious, but many business websites, for example, can look nice, yet have very few calls to action. So your marketing doesn't fall into this trap, ask yourself this simple question. In a perfect world, what would I want my audience to do after interacting (reading, viewing, listening) with my content? Buy, call us, register, click through to another area, fill out a form, provide information? Once you know what you'd like your audience to do, start to think through how you can in influence them to interact with your company. Think back to your content strategy and what you can do to add value for your audience. Put yourself in your audience's shoes and consider whether this type of call to action would convince you to act. Remember, you must give your audience something they believe is valuable enough to make them want to interact with you. What value can you give them?
Measure & Measure Some More!
Regardless of where you start with your interactive plan, you must start measuring your results from the beginning. It is amazing how many small businesses have websites or Facebook pages, but have no idea whether those initiatives are actually adding value to the bottom line. It is possible that your Facebook page (or other initiative) is actually hurting your business because it gives people a poor impression of your company or brand. Let's hope not, but it is possible. Just doing something (pick any marketing activity) to cross it off your list is not a great strategy. Instead, think what results you hope to achieve and begin measuring from the start.
The good news is that almost all internet marketing activities are easier to measure than traditional marketing. So measure from the start, whether you are measuring sales or softer metrics like leads, registrations, page views, or click-throughs. Then make changes to your marketing and measure again, learning and improving along the way.
Don't Forget Business Processes
Remember from the start that technology is Not a silver bullet. It can be used to enhance a process or to better measure the process or process results, but it is Not a substitute for good business processes. Whether we're talking about updating your website, writing an online press release, or tweeting an announcement, you still need to think through how the process will work in your company. As you develop your internet marketing plan, always think through and define new processes and how current processes will change (improve). Remember that a good process is defined, has an owner, and is measurable. If you don't consider these things, technology with will just make a bad process faster!
Keep it Simple (Ease of Use that is)
My final success factor for your internet plan relates to all the other factors mentioned above and to the various systems and technologies your small business with use for all your internet marketing. Because most small businesses are limited in both technical and marketing resources, it is critical that their systems are easy to use and intuitive. Whether you are looking for an easy to use web content management system or a simple email marketing tool, make sure you participate in a live product demo, so that you can see for yourself whether the toolset is really user friendly. If the system is not easy to use for non-technical people, it simply won't be used, regardless of how much functionality the system might have. So look for easy to use marketing solutions; tools that allow you to effortlessly update content and calls to action, painlessly connect to your processes and clearly measure your results!