Organizations have spent the past few years preparing for a digital marketplace. Even so, few businesses envisioned that market forces and a global health crisis would force most of them to find ways to go fully virtual in 2020. With even more people turning to online solutions for their problems, businesses have never had a more appropriate time to turn to online marketing to reach their target demographics. The big question on everyone’s mind is: how?
Review Your Business Processes
Before you move forward with a new marketing plan, you need to review the old one. Marketing plans complement business operations and goals, so collect data on business operations too. Doing this manually is possible, but it is tedious.
Machine learning tools, such as MLOps, can help make this easier. Use machine learning to revolutionize more than your marketing plan. It can also optimize your business operations, such as inventory management and your distribution chain.
Automate Everything You Can
After reviewing your current marketing plan, you might prefer to use online marketing as an addition and not a replacement. Automating, as many tasks as possible can save you time and money. Even if you plan to use online marketing to overhaul your marketing plan, why do extra work if you don’t need to?
Here are a few of the many things you can automate for sales and online marketing:
- Social media
- Text updates
- Coupon campaigns
- Customer support for frequently asked questions
It will be hard to justify online marketing’s place as your business’s best friend without results. Sure, you can measure the progress your business has made but strategic progress is the way to go. To have this, you must start with setting goals. Start small by choosing one to three aspects of the business you want online marketing to improve.
Here are some common choices:
- Boosting awareness among your target market in your local community
- Improving your website’s passive conversion rate
- Growing your online community engagement by 25%
Build an Optimized Website
If you don’t yet have a website, now is the time to get one. There are many companies that start off with just a social media page and they do well, for a time. Third-party platforms change ownership, features, and algorithm on a regular basis. This makes an independently owned platform a crucial tool for online marketing.
It is better to have a basic website instead of no website at all, but you need an optimized website. These load quickly to reduce customer wait time. They are also fine-tuned to fit mobile devices. Search engine optimization ensures these websites also show up in searches. The proper design then guides people from being mere visitors to becoming loyal customers.
One of the best features of online marketing campaigns is that it’s relatively easy to track almost any method you choose. Tracking everything ensures you can tie campaigns back to the bottom line and see what aspects of your online marketing plan work best for your business. You can then fine-tune your plan for the next quarter.
For example, when you invest in search engine optimization, you can track results by the boost in organic traffic or traffic that comes from search engines. If you want to see whether your online coupon campaign worked, track those specific links for clicks and conversions. There are many free tools to help you do this.
Claim Your Google My Business Page
Google is committed to indexing as many businesses and locations as possible. It is particularly interested in providing listings for businesses with a local and physical presence. If you have a brick-and-mortar, claim your free page and fill out the information. Keep this information up-to-date, especially when it comes to your store hours and prices.
Why is this important? Hubspot estimates that 51% of shoppers turn to Google to look for information when making a purchasing decision. It also reports that 65% of e-commerce sessions begin with online searches. Google prioritizes its own business links above others. It also considers a person’s location when providing results, so it’s an easy boost to local marketing efforts.
Create Good Content
To create good content, you must first identify what it is. Ultimately, your audience decides what counts as good content. For most brands, this describes the content that informs, entertains or both. When creating content, it’s also important to stay true to its core message and incorporate storytelling.
Decide what kind of content resonates more with your target demographic and where to find them. For example, fashion companies that target millennials may spend a great deal of social media resources on Instagram. They can then link their online store to the app. If it’s fashion for outdoor lovers, the content might include people wearing these items out in the wild.
Invest in Search Engine Optimization
Hubspot estimates that 64% of marketers actively spend time on improving search engine optimization. You should too. SEO requires analyzing your website performance as well as those of your competitors. From there, you can make more informed decisions about what keywords or hashtags to use to attract more traffic to your website and social media posts.
It’s also worth noting that Google ranks social media posts in its results, so keyword usage is as important there as on your website. Social media platforms that regularly rank in search results include Facebook, Quora, Pinterest and Twitter. Remember that your guest posts also show up in social media results, so choose your keywords carefully here, too.
Use Pay-Per-Click Ads
Google owns the largest and most popular search engine tool in the world. In fact, despite the company’s best efforts to fight this for IP reasons, its name has become synonymous with completing an online search. Is it any wonder that business owners want their webpages to appear alongside organic search results?
Search engine optimization may take as long as four to six months to yield results. So, if your website is new or you are still in the process of optimizing it, PPC can give you the jumpstart you need to reach your target market. Other PPC platforms you can consider include Facebook, Instagram and Quora.
Google has not confirmed the specific role backlinks play in search engine ranking. Even so, marketers believe it plays a crucial role in determining how many other websites trust your content. The more popular or trusted the source of the backlink, the better your chances of improving SEO.
Backlinks from sites ending with .edu and .gov are among the most sought after. These are often not as difficult to score as you might think. Strike up a deal with a local university or local government office and see if you can get your business mentioned or listed. Links from popular blogs and news organizations are also highly coveted.
Make it easy for customers to figure out how to use your products and services. If they can find this information online with a quick Google search, they might not need to call or chat with your customer support team. Unfortunately, many companies create tutorials for their specific products and stop there.
Expand your tutorial catalog by including how-tos that expand into adjoining topics. For example, consider a small winery in California. The company might create basic tutorials on how to safely open a bottle of wine or the best methods for storing its wines. It can then extend its tutorials to include recipes for making some of the foods that pair well with its most popular bottles of wine.
Partner With Brand Ambassadors
The days of relying on Hollywood stars to promote your products are long gone. These professionals still get recognition from top brands, but social media influencers often make much better matches. Self-made social media stars have a much closer fan-base, allowing them to wield greater influence over your future customers.
Find brand ambassadors with customer bases that align with your own. Review the influencer’s content to reduce the likelihood of your brand becoming entangled in controversies. Decide on how you plan to fairly compensate social media influencers for their hard work and create a contract that solidifies this agreement.
Keep It Cohesive
Online marketing involves a lot of moving pieces. It can be so easy to type up a tweet or shoot off an Instagram photo that business owners do not always stop to check cohesiveness. If your customers move from your website to your social media pages, they should be able to identify they are interacting with the same brand.
The message should also be cohesive. This goes beyond ensuring you have the same prices and product information on all platforms, though, this is extremely important too. A cohesive message refers to the tone of the business and how well its content reflects its core values. One company that does an excellent job of this is Ben & Jerry’s.
Online marketing brings so much to the table for businesses of all sizes. It can reduce your marketing expenses while also expanding your reach to a global audience. The key is creating a winning strategy, building a plan around it, and using insights from machine learning to revise your plan along the way.
Guest Submission by Kevin Gardner.