According to Group M (a media investment company), 48% of all sales are either purchased on, or influenced by the Internet (source). This statistic probably does not surprise you, you are already aware that the SEO and paid search (PPC) advertising completely changes the way that people make purchases with the same impact that Lawrence Taylor changes the way quarterbacks think about holding onto the ball. iTunes replaces CD stores, Netflix replaces Blockbuster, and Amazon pretty much replaces everything. So if the internet is so great why can’t you can’t you just have someone create a Facebook page or develop a web page and expect users to come and make purchases? Isn’t the Internet a place where anyone can put up a web page and have immediate success?
The truth is the Internet is not as easy to dominate as it used to be. When the Internet first began (In a time known as “The 90’s” when Steve Urkel and Dunkaroos were the talk of the town), you had very limited competition. Your development team could create a simple HTML site, put in some words you wanted to rank for on Google in your page and users would come. However, the Internet has changed from the minor leagues that it was in the 90’s to the major leagues that it is today. To keep it in 90’s terms it has changed from Steve Urkel to Stefan Urquelle.
Today, the Internet is an incredibly competitive arena and you compete with highly intelligent people from all over the world. Each new tweet, post, YouTube video, and web page fights for the attention of your potential customer. You need to be effective in your Internet marketing or you burn out your time, money, and determination and have very little to show for it. This post helps you avoid the mis-steps that I took early in my career and teaches you how to do effective Internet marketing. Here are three baseline strategies to guarantee that you do effective Internet marketing:
1. Know Your Audience
My previous career was a morning show host in Santa Barbara, and during that employment my boss made it a point to yell at me every single morning “Know Your Audience”. At the time I thought I was dealing with a crazy person (and to some extent I still do), but he was right. I was in Santa Barbara, reporting on sports and talking about the Red Sox (my favorite team). It didn’t matter how well I reported on Johnny Damon or Kevin Millar – it was a mismatch of the audience and the content. Santa Barbararians want Dodgers and Angels talk. Once I understood the importance of knowing my audience, I began to report on Matt Kemp and Vlad Guerrero, and our ratings grew rapidly. In the same way knowing your audience is true for radio, it is even more true for the Internet – it is absolutely vital to know your audience.
You need to know your audience to:
- Create content your audience cares about
- Make references your audience understands (I still struggle with this – did you get the Lawrence Taylor reference?)
- Post on social networks your audience uses
- Create offers your audience gets excited about
Now that you see why it is so important to know your audience, let’s discuss how you get to know you audience.
Go to your audience
This is the most obvious and beneficial way to get to know them, but it is also the most time-consuming. You put in all of the legwork, but also reap all of the rewards. The way I recommend to do this, is to use Meetup.com. For example, if you run a real estate marketing website and your target market is realtors, then use Meetup.com to find when realtor groups meet up in your area. Meetups are often free and at these meetups you actually get to know and understand your audience. Talk to everyone there and find out what their pain points, goals, and motivations are.
Have them come to you
This method is not efficient, because you don’t get a large sample – but you do get a deep dive. At least once a week I meet with someone in my audience. I try to keep it local to wherever I am (and since I travel so much this includes places like New York, Arizona, Boston, Greece, LA, and San Diego). To find someone from my audience I generally ask for a referral from someone I know who lives in the area, or use LinkedIn or Twitter where you can search by keywords. You will have to get used to some rejection (Only about 1 out of every 7 people I ask agrees). Once, I find someone who I think is an ideal audience member I offer to take them out for coffee (always offer to pay) and I just talk to them. I create a no-pressure meeting and I never try to sell them, it is purely informal and informational. I do try to hit certain topics, but my goal is to keep it conversational. Here are the topics I try to hit:
- What are your pain points?
- What are your goals?
- What is currently preventing you from using a service like mine?
- Gather information online. If no one will meet with you, don’t let your feelings get hurt. This isn’t high school, they aren’t saying you are uncool and plan to stuff you into a locker like Screech Powers – people are just busy. What you need if no one will meet youis gather information online. You can do this in a couple of ways, but this is what I recommend:
- Go to twitter’s advanced search – https://twitter.com/search-advanced
- In the “all of these words” tab, type in your topic
- Begin following the people who are of interest to you, see who they follow and try to see why
2. Provide Value
Effective Internet marketing utilizes a different strategy than traditional marketing because of the emphasis on providing value in your marketing. In traditional marketing companies push products or services on potential customers. Traditional marketing messages only talk about their products, this type of marketing offers little value to the consumer. Examples of traditional limited-value based marketing include those used car commercials where the dealer yells at you about what types of cars they have, followed by a shot of an inflatable wavy arm guy. Traditional marketing is ineffective because technology has changed the power in the consumer/marketer relationship. Now consumers fast forward commercials on TiVo, delete spam mail (just because it is digital doesn’t mean it provides value), and register for do not call lists. Effective Internet marketing techniques (which I refer to as inbound marketing) provide value to the consumer. Your company’s goal with inbound marketing is to earn people’s trust rather than buying it. To determine if you provide value for your end consumer ask the following two questions:
- Does this marketing entertain my audience?
- Does this marketing educate my audience?
If your company constantly creates marketing that educates and entertains you earn customer loyalty. Additional benefits of value based marketing include creating a two-way dialogue fostered by social media, and creating a positive connection in the eyes of your consumer. When users are entertained and educated, they become engaged and talk back to you and provide feedback.
Some way to provide value in your internet marketing include:
Blog for your audience
This is the most important part of your Internet marketing strategy. If your Internet marketing strategy is the Beatles, the blog is John Lennon. Try to blog a minimum of once a week, but if you have to make a trade-off – go for quality over quantity. For our blogs we like to have a minimum of 500 words, but it is much more important that it actually helps our audience. Blog pieces like the one you are reading often take 6-7 hours to write but we find that when it actually helps a reader we have a fan for life. Make sure your blogs are entertaining and educational.
eBooks are great for a couple of reasons. The first is that you have a chance to further expand on a topic. This is helpful because there are some topics that just do not fit into a blog, and need an eBook dedicated to them. Another reason that eBooks are great for internet marketing is that an internet marketer can put in a “gateway”. If the user wants to receive a copy, your company asks for their email address.
Many office workers listen to music and podcasts on their computer in their office. Podcasting provides an opportunity for your potential customers to actually hear your voice and connect. This rich digital media choice is a great way to really connect with your customers and educate and entertain them. Like the others methods mentioned, make sure that your podcast topics offer real value to the end consumer.
3. Always Be Testing
One of the least used, but most important strategies in Internet marketing is to always be testing. I think that marketers are afraid of tests because they can be proven wrong, and they think it makes them look stupid. However, that is the opposite of what happens. When you are testing you constantly improve and it is the smartest thing that you can do. Your website offers a virtual treasure trove of data, and it is up to you use this data to improve your marketing results. The first step is to pick and action that you would like your consumer to perform (“called a conversion”), and then measure it. Some examples of conversions include downloads, purchases, leaving a comment, or requesting more information. Once you have your baseline for conversions, begin A/B testing (also called split testing) it to optimize. I recommend your read the book You Should Test That to learn how to properly run tests. Split testing is actually much easier than it used to be. In the past you used to need an advanced math/nerd degree to understand this stuff, but now I use programs like splittester.com, UnBounce, and AdWords to test to see what offers work best.
Some variables to test:
- Offers – See what offers your customers respond to. You can try two different eBooks to see if one is much more of an incentive for your customers. Your conversion would be downloads of one eBook vs. another.
- Content – Try out different content to see what resonates with your audience. Your conversion might be how many of your users leave a comment.
- Titles – Titles play a large role in how often your content gets clicked on. If you have great titles you will receive many more clicks. Your conversion could be the amount of people who saw the title vs. the number who clicked it (also called click-through rate).
How do you create effective Internet marketing? What is your favorite Internet marketing technique?