Are your web marketing ducks lined up correctly?
Because no matter which way you spin it, the online world is different to smaller business operators than it is to their larger counterparts due to their relative scarcity of time, budget and resources.
Just like big budget TV, press and radio campaigns, so much of what goes on in the online world is simply out of their reach, and so is often ignored.
Headline grabbers rule
This ‘enforced ignorance’ in turn means that much of their learning comes from quickly gleaned headlines and dinner party conversation.
And that means that they are only necessarily hearing about developments that are either revolutionary (such as Facebook or eBay), fashionable (like iPod apps and blogs) or are promoted by well-heeled PR departments (any large internet organisation) or smaller, louder eVangelists (such as the multitude of social networking or search marketing consultants).
The downside of this ‘skimming’ approach to web marketing developments is that many of its fundamentals are often skipped or missed altogether. The result is very flimsy web marketing foundations upon which to build their online presence.
Right idea, wrong priority
I have seen plenty of evidence of this in my own business as clients enquire about embarking on a social networking or blogging strategy when their most important web asset – their website – looks like it was created by an IT student back in the 90s, or worse, a well meaning family member.
Or they’ve never developed an email marketing strategy, still widely acknowledged as having a better return on investment than most other web marketing techniques.
Or they are nowhere to be found when conducting a Google search, etc, etc.
So even if business operators do manage to get some traction from a successful post, tweet or blog, they are in grave danger of stopping the query in its tracks as prospects follow the link to a substandard website et al.
Prioritising your web presence
As we’ve pointed out here before, online priorities differ from business to business. However the following checklist of web marketing priorities should provide some assistance in getting your web marketing ducks lined up before attempting the latest, coolest techniques.
Be sure to have each priority established and working well prior to moving onto the next technique.
1. A professional website with a Content Management System
Critical. If you fall over at this stage, all your other efforts will be a waste of time. If in doubt, check how good your competitors’ websites are. A good CMS will mean you can add valuable and search engine friendly content yourself.
2. Search Engine Marketing
While you are beavering away on social networking or other less effective techniques, prospects are searching for suppliers of your goods or services online and are ready to buy. If you can’t get a good ‘natural’ search engine position then supplement it with ‘pay per click’ advertising.
3. A regular eNewsletter
With the right tools, broadcasting an email to your ‘opted in’ list costs you nothing and is more reliable to get traction than most social networking. What’s more, it can be easily re-purposed for social networking. It needs to be given top priority in your online marketing strategy.
4. Closing the sale online
Take your sale as far as you possibly can online. The ultimate (in the case of digital products) is distributing it online. Next best is selling online and then ordering online. If you don’t your competitors will.
5. A blog
The same news you have written in your eNewsletter can be added to either an integrated or separate blog to reach wider audiences and attract valuable ‘viral’.
6. A LinkedIn presence
Now that LinkedIn has become more conversational like Facebook it is a more valuable business tool. It’s free to post a profile and join the conversation, so why not? And its Groups are worth their weight in digital gold as they inform, engage and often call for suppliers like you.
7. A Facebook Page
Again, because it’s free it’s a ‘why not’. But maintaining it can be both distracting and time consuming, so tread carefully.
Has become less important as other social networks have added ‘tweet’-like features, but still has a massive user base that shouldn’t be ignored.
9. Everything else!
Other web marketing techniques will come and go. But at present, all of the above are more important for most smaller businesses.
Has your business achieved results without these priorities in place? Tell us about it by commenting below.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.