In today’s business world, online marketing isn’t just effective; it’s essential
At one time, business essentials were limited to business cards, yellow page ads and brochures. Newspapers, radio and television were used by cutting-edge businesses of yore and still reap huge rewards for big-businesses today. Mass media are generally just not cost-effective for most local businesses. In the 21st Century, it’s clear that the impact of these tools is diminished by the world wide web. We search for products and services online from our desktops, laptops and cell phones. Yet most local business owners don’t take advantage of the affordability and profits available through online marketing.
Like a business plan and a budget, an Internet marketing strategy is essential for modern-day small business success. While a website provides a good starting point, online marketing requires more than a couple of static web pages. Instead, a successful internet approach requires a dynamic and well-rounded web presence that builds relationships in addition to sales, fans in addition to customers.
A comprehensive Internet marketing strategy replaces newspaper ads with banner ads, yellow pages with search engines, snail mail with e-mail, town squares with social networks and sales letters with custom content. The technology is as evolutionary as it is revolutionary, and smart businesses are taking advantage of current environment to trounce their competition.
Tools and technology aside, there are dozens of reasons to engage actively and often in Internet marketing. Here are a few of the most persuasive:
1. When they need information, modern-day consumers go online; your successful internet marketing program will make sure they find you when they are shopping for your product or service.
2. Online marketing has tremendous research potential; if nothing else, companies should engage in online marketing research in order to collect data about their customers, prospects and competitors.
3. By marketing on the internet, companies can reach a highly targeted audience; what’s more, they can reach it quickly, intimately and more cost-effectively online than traditional marketing approaches.
4. Online marketing lends itself to instant conversions. Customers can quickly and easily find what they want and immediately click through to purchase it.
5. Compared with many traditional marketing vehicles, Internet marketing services are both more affordable and more effective.
6. Internet marketing provides marketing power to local business owners; by marketing online, your company can enjoy big-business marketing exposure on a local marketing budget.
Action Steps. Some contacts and resources to help you get started with your online marketing:
Search engine marketing strengthens your online marketing strategy.
Once you have a website, Internet marketing via search engines will help your customers find it. Consider search engine optimization, which will improve your search engine rankings, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which markets your company via relevant, targeted search engine queries.
ACTION: Before you build a web site, use Wordtracker’s free keyword suggestion tool to choose keywords; use those keywords in your descriptions and meta-tags, PPC advertising via Google AdWords and Yahoo! Sponsored Search in order to build search engine traffic.
Select appropriate display advertising and leverage online marketing tools
Display advertising, including banner ads, is a basic form of online marketing. Because you’ll pay for impressions – banner ads are usually priced using CPM, or cost per thousand impressions – make sure you place ads only on websites that your target markets visit.
ACTION: Yahoo! Advertising provides Internet marketing services to design, purchase and place your Internet advertisements
Public relations promotes your online marketing image
Marketing on the internet includes more than advertising; it’s also about public relations. Generate publicity online and continually monitor, build and maintain your online reputation.
ACTION: Include Google Alerts in your online marketing strategy. Use them to keep tabs on mentions of your name, your company and your products online; search Technorati for mentions in blogs and social media. And, when you write press releases, distribute them via a newswire service like PRWeb, which allows you to tag your release for exposure on social bookmarking sites like Digg and Del.iciou.us.
Engage e-mail marketing to reach your online market
Promotional e-mails, including targeted messages and periodic e-mail newsletters, are effective, opt-in tools for one-to-one marketing. Send news or send coupons, but whatever you do, don’t spam.
ACTION: VerticalResponse is a popular e-mail marketing vendor that can help you develop and execute a one-on-one marketing strategy; browse its resources page for e-mail marketing research, tips and advice.
Pursue affiliate marketing to leverage online marketing relationships
A collaborative approach to Internet marketing, affiliate marketing consists of advertisements on other people’s websites. When a customer clicks on the ads and visits your website, your affiliate gets a small commission. You can also reverse the process and get profits from promoting other vendors’ products
ACTION: LinkShare and ClickBank are examples of companies that provide affiliate-focused internet marketing services, AffiliateScout.com and AffiliatePrograms.com are directories where you can search for affiliate networks based on location, industry, etc.
Make blogging an integral piece of your internet marketing strategy
Blogs offer business owners an affordable and personable way to connect online with customers. Blogging about your business, your industry and your life positions you as an expert, an advocate and most importantly, a real person.
ACTION: For a low monthly fee, you can publish your own blog via sites like TypePad and Movable Type; Blogger and WordPress, meanwhile, are free. Don’t forget to market your blog via RSS feeds; while most blogging software will create RSS feeds for you, online marketing companies like SimpleFeed can help, too.
Get involved in social networks to broaden your online reach
Social networks are the networking component to your modern-day online marketing strategy; giving your company a presence on popular social networks especially engages younger consumers and turns them into brand evangelists.
ACTION: While MySpace, Friendster and Facebook tend to be the most attractive social networks for companies who are marketing on the Internet, other sites, such as Second Life and Twitter, are becoming major players. Still other sites, like LinkedIn, are proving themselves important stomping grounds for B2B marketers.
Photos and video provide impact to your online marketing
Use pictures of your business, staff and customers everywhere you can. Images touch us emotionally and convey messages quickly. Remember that surfers have short attention-spans.
ACTION: Start taking pictures of your business’ world right now, poast them to your website and social sites, like your Facebook page.
Release viral marketing to spread your online marketing message
Whether you send a viral e-mail, produce a viral video or build a viral website, Internet marketing of the viral variety spreads far and fast, allowing you to start small and finish big.
ACTION: Consider uploading branded media to sites like YouTube, Revver or Flickr. A video or photo that goes viral can attract heaps of new business.
Generate online word of mouth with consumer-driven Internet marketing efforts
Internet marketing is about interactivity. Give your customers a platform for expressing-and sharing-their opinions online in order to build buzz and goodwill.
ACTION: Customer reviews provide credibility for companies that give consumers the power to do their Internet marketing for them; while many shopping cart solutions, such as Zoovy, now include built-in customer review functions, companies like PowerReviews specialize in them.
Tips & Tactics
Helpful advice for making the most of this Online Marketing Guide
o More than advertising for your website, Internet marketing should provide you with an entire online brand. Your Internet marketing strategy should go beyond just making sales and toward building an engaging online web presence.
o Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. When you’re marketing online, reserve a portion of your budget for offline advertising, such as direct mail, which you can use to push traffic to your website.
o Keep in mind that not all online advertising can be bought; a big part of Internet marketing is building relationships and earning reputations.
o Whether off-line or online, marketing requires a clear and comprehensive understanding of your target customers. Find out who your best customers are and where you can find them online, then go after them.
o Internet marketing is about usefulness. It’s not enough to build a pretty website; you must also build one that’s engaging and easy to use. If you focus your Internet marketing strategy on creating a positive user experience, it will eventually be profitable to you.