As a new or small business, using the web to drive customer and client growth can seem at the same time very attractive and extremely daunting. This is why effective online planning is crucial for any new business owner serious about using the web to drive business. Taking the time and spending any necessary money in bringing on expert resources to develop a specific online marketing plan will, in the end, save you years of time, money and frustration. Be prepared to set aside at minimum 4-6 weeks for this work. You may also find that you need to hire a web expert or team to get you through this process and make an investment into that work.
Follow these steps and you will be on your way to plan for successful web marketing.
The first step is to determine your online marketing goals, which can include: developing online brand awareness, driving market share, creating a platform for ongoing online sales, qualified lead acquisition and online community creation and growth. If you do not have any specific goals in mind, then it makes sense to stop here and bring on someone with the expertise of validating, building and growing online businesses. In either case, once you have these goals determined and an online revenue model, if you will, then it is time for you to dig into some deep research.
At this point, you will need to complete a thorough analysis of your industry usage online, direct competitor use of the web, indirect or “web only” competition market share and your target audience and related online behaviors.
There are several online tools that you can trial that can use to start to glean important planning information.
www.Quantcast.com – Site demographics and hits information
www.Alexa.com – Internet Ranking information
www.Compete.com – Competitive links and sites information
www.websitegrader.com – Grades sites from an SEO perspective
http://www.quarkbase.com – Overview information of popularity of a site
http://www.keywordspy.com/ – Targeted keyword competitive information
There is no better research than your own customer or prospective client. Surveying your current customers/clients or prospective clients can easily be completed online, but must be done effectively to ensure the capture of meaningful information. Remember, you are asking for their time, so don’t take advantage of it. Multiple choice questions are generally better than asking for a long answer. In general, surveys 10 questions or less get
a better return. If you do not have a direct relationship with your customers a great way to ensure you will get people to participate is to offer a raffle or sweepstakes where they will receive something for participating Sample questions include asking your clients questions about what they want from your site, how easy is it to get around on your site, what offers they might find interesting, and what they like/don’t like about your service/product.
Most common e-mail marketing production services include simple survey tools such as www.Mailchimp.com (an Agent-cy favorite and partner).
Once you have an idea on what your target audience is interested in, your specific online marketing goals you may be in a position to determine what your online presence needs to be. Determining or scoping your web site is not a simple process. It must be well thought out, so much so, that you can share a vision of the site flow. If you are not to that point, you may require the assistance of a Technical Discovery, where a web site expert can help
to determine how the online business or web site will look and function for the best U/I, user experience. Many questions must be answered including, but not limited to:
Are you planning on selling online and if so, what items, types and quantities of items?
If so, how will you fulfill orders, handle shipping, inventory management and accounting?
If for lead generation, who is it you are looking to attract?
How are you qualifying your leads?
How are you managing your leads?
Are you selling local, regional, national or global?
Defining Appropriate Online Channels
After your initial planning and research, you will need to assess your online marketing channels (Search, Social Media, Online Advertising General, Affiliate Marketing, E-Mail, and Online PR) for which types and budgets are the most effective for your specific business. Through your research, you will get an initial understanding of channel
Some of the questions you need to ask yourself in determining this are:
Where do I need to market?
What is the size of my online audience?
Who is my audience (demographics/psychographics)?
Am I selling specific products or general services?
Can I partner with other sites to resell my products?
How often do I need to communicate with my customers?
Where is my target customer? In search, reading online, in social, receiving e-mail?
In general, if you are new to web marketing, you will need to prepare to spend time and money in online marketing for a minimum of 6 months to drive significant results (online sales, qualified leads, # of followers in social).
Developing Your Online Brand via Content
A major key to success in online marketing is to continually develop and distribute engaging content. This content must be relevant and qualified (credible to the source) for Google place importance on it. This content includes and is not limited to:
1. Web Copy
2. Social Media Commenting, Tags, Votes
3. Online articles
4. Web Casts/ Webinar Content
5. Online multi-media press releases
6. Tips and Tricks content
7. Editorial Opinions
9. Company updates
10. Creative – Banners, widgets, etc
11. Video content – humorous, promotional and educational
Determining Your Online Marketing Budget
There are multiple factors in determining your online marketing budget:
Creative design time
Content time and resources
Web Design time
Web Development time
Online media budgets
Social Media Administration
Social Media Management
Search Marketing Set Up
Search Marketing Management
Online Marketing Analytics and Measurement time
Strategy and Planning Time
Supportive Marketing Materials Development (Logo, Brochure)
Support Marketing Program Management (PR)
3rd party license fees (Quickbooks, Authorize.net, Word press, Magento, etc)
Mobile app development
You should line item these out and rank in terms of priority before assessing a total budget. However, as a rule of thumb, if you cannot envision spending a minimum of $50k over 6 months on your web business or online marketing programs, you most likely will not make a dent in developing a strong online brand.
While I have provided a ton of helpful information to get you started in planning, note that this work is time intensive and best if monitored by someone with experience in these areas. This is the why many managers face the dilemma of deciding to outsource or do marketing internally. Making any online tactic such as Search Engine Optimization, Paid Search, Social Media Marketing and Affiliate Marketing work takes both expertise and constant effective management.
If you have both the resources in terms of people, money and time to educate internal staff on how to develop, execute and manage campaigns and programs, then it is worthwhile to invest in areas such as Individual Google Certification, Web Design personnel, etc. If you do not and cannot afford to outsource these functions to a big consultant or online agency, then it is appropriate to spend carefully by hiring people to fix only your biggest holes
or to do jobs you know you can not do. Remember, web marketing is a tough job, but one that when done well, can pay huge dividends.
For case studies and information on Agent-cy clients where I have personally been involved in leading effective online market planning, see www.agent-cy.com or join me on Linkedin to view over 50+ new business online client testimonials at http://www.linkedin.com/in/onlinebranding.