3 Key Steps To Planning Your Online Marketing Campaign

In the last couple of decades, many new marketing channels entered the traditional marketing industry that was comprised largely of Yellow Page ads, magazine ads and TV ads. With a multitude of new choices today, small business owners have much more difficulty deciding where to focus their marketing dollars.

Traditional Marketing and Online Marketing
Traditional Marketing and Online Marketing

Marketing channels today range from email marketing to social media marketing, from directory listings to banner ads, and from Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) to search engine optimization (SEO).  To make it even more confusing, sometimes these channels have sub-channels with unique qualities of their own. For example, the social media channel has sub-channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

With that being said, if an average business owner doesn’t research carefully and only follows the rosy advertisements on the Internet, the chance that s/he would not get a positive return on investment (ROI) is very likely. In this article, I will point out the critical steps small businesses should take to avoid this common pitfall. Let’s get started.

First, you need to know about your buyers (or target customers) in as much detail as you can. When asked about target customers, many small businesses often state it very broadly. For example, an auto mechanic shop located in Minneapolis, Minnesota would say: “Our customers are men and women between the ages of 24 to 60 living in the Twin Cities metro, who drive.” That is not detailed enough to narrow down your group of target customers. You need to consider information such as:

  • What is the maximum distance your target customers are willing to travel to your shop before they settle for another shop that is closer to home or work? If it’s realistic to cover a radius of 20 miles to your shop, then anything beyond that is not worth pursuing. Focus your marketing budget on a more promising demographic area.
  • If your auto shop is located by the University of Minnesota, then a large potential customer base might be students between the ages of 18 to 28, who drive.
  • If your auto shop is located near a hospital, then its employees are most likely your ideal customers.

The overall point I want to make here is that you should gather enough information to build the buyers’ personas to better define your target audience. The more detail you know about them, the better you can tailor your marketing messages to attractively address their real needs when it comes to auto services. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, I recommend reading the book Buyer Personas by Adele Revella. You will gain a much more in-depth discussion.

Second, you need to find out where your target audience usually “hangs out” and which marketing channels/locations are most likely to reach them effectively. For example, if your business sells women’s clothing and accessories through your e-commerce website, you should find the channel where the majority of participants are women and/or those who can influence women’s decisions for purchases (such as their kids and female relatives).

You should do this research ahead of time with all of the marketing channels you consider. Then select the ones that will more likely give you a better chance of success. To accomplish this research skillfully, you may want to hire an Internet marketing company for the task. Here is an article to help you find a good online marketing provider.

Third, when you are considering online marketing providers to promote your business website, don’t let price be the only factor in your decision. Price is definitely not the key determination of online marketing success. Unfortunately, it is however quite often a common factor in many online marketing failures. Why? Because it’s a common tactic of many online marketing scammers to trap naive businesses. When an offer sounds too good to be true, then most likely it is. Use your common sense, and it will serve you well.

Here are some characteristics of capable online marketing providers you can use in your screening process. Good online marketing companies often are those who:

  • Can rank their company website on the first page of Google’s organic search for keywords related to their business demographic.
  • Have great Google Reviews showing 4 or 5 stars with testimonials that link back to the clients’ websites showing phone numbers to call for references.
  • Have a legitimate business name registered properly with state or local government agencies.
  • Always have a written agreement or contract for every client.
  • Are more interested in learning about you, your business and goals than about how much you are willing to spend. Reputable providers understand that if they provide a valuable service, they will get paid.
  • Tell you what you need to hear (not what you want to hear). To them, aligning their promises with your expected results from the beginning is very important. Don’t be offended if they are honest with you. Your overall goal is a positive result, not empty promises, right?

While the Internet helps small businesses connect with customers 24/7 through websites, it also enables unqualified providers to masquerade as professionals to scam people. It’s often difficult for a business owner to tell the difference. Therefore, these six qualifications will help you screen effectively for a qualified provider.

Overall, these are the three steps small businesses should take to successfully direct their online marketing campaign. I hope you find this article helpful. If you do, please share it with others so they can avoid the common mistakes people often make when deciding the direction of their online marketing campaign.

Phong Nguyen

BA from St. Olaf College
MBA from University of St. Thomas
SEO from "the School of Hard Knocks."

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