There is no question that in this age of the digital buyer businesses must have a strong online presence and take advantage of readily available, powerful online marketing technologies.
However, there is so much information, and for that matter misinformation, about this subject that it makes it difficult for business owners to proceed with their eyes wide open.
The key is to cut through the noise and think about online marketing in strategic terms. Taking a strategic approach will ensure your online marketing efforts generate desired business outcomes: increased brand awareness, leads, and ultimately sales.
Without a well-thought-out strategy, you will be just “doing things” online. Before you get active on social media or re-develop your website, ask yourself why you are engaging in these tactics, and whether they will have a direct and measurable impact on your revenue growth.
What Does Taking a Strategic Approach Mean?
Taking a strategic approach means starting with the big picture. What are your growth targets, and where is that growth going to come from – increased market share, releasing new products or services, targeting new geographical markets, etc.
Once you establish your sources of revenue growth, you must identify your target prospects and clearly understand their buyer’s journey.
- How are they searching online for what you do?
- What information are they expecting once they find you online?
- Are you making it easy for them to make an informed buying decision?
- Are you creating friction in the process by not meeting their expectations?
Based on this insight, you can align your business development activities with today’s digitally-driven decision-making process.
You should also understand what your competitors are doing online – are they ranking well for relevant search terms, are they keeping their websites current, are they active on social platforms, etc. You don’t want to fall behind and leave yourself at a competitive disadvantage. If your competitors are not active online, it’s an opportunity to take a lead position.
You must have a well-developed positioning strategy that distinguishes you from competitors and is effectively communicated through all your online activities. This requires thinking about your business from an “outside-in” perspective. Prospective buyers will likely form their first impressions about you online. You may not get a chance to compete for their business if your online presence leaves them wanting.
Today’s buyers expect you will share your subject matter expertise online to help them make informed decisions. Businesses that do the best job of educating online will win a higher percentage of the available business. This requires a commitment to consistent development and distribution of quality, insightful and relevant content. You must be a content publishing organization if you want to be successful online.
A well thought out, “end to end” business development process (lead generation, lead nurturing, conversion, post-sales) that is aligned with your prospect’s buyer’s journey is required to move them from awareness to interest to engagement to close. Making it easy for prospects to buy from you should be a key driver when developing an online strategy. And because this journey is increasingly being executed digitally, your prospects have heightened expectations about their online experience.
It’s only after this type of analysis that you can effectively identify and optimize online tactics; how should my website be structured for search and conversion, how can we use social platforms to engage with potential buyers, email marketing to keep prospects informed, online advertising in order to be found, content to establish credibility, etc.
You Have to Execute
Analysis will only take you so far. Relentless execution of the right online activities is what ultimately drives results. This requires an online infrastructure (technologies and processes), a proper budgetary commitment and capable human resources to manage the day to day activities.
Finally, you need to be able to measure results through ongoing review of the analytics. In this day and age of digital marketing, there is absolutely no reason to fly blind. The data is readily available and must be used to guide decision making and real-time adjustments that will produce a better return on investment.
The Bottom Line
We encourage you to jump into online marketing with both feet – all we’re saying is jump in with a sound strategic approach and a solid plan. A well-thought-out, integrated online marketing strategy is the right way to proceed if you want long-term, sustainable results.
Online marketing is constantly evolving, as is buying behavior. If you want to be competitive in today’s digital age and realize a return on your investment from your marketing efforts, you must take a strategic approach. It’s that simple.
Core Online Marketing helps SMEs create the right online connections for business development purposes. We take a strategic approach to digital marketing that drives results. Do your online activities have a direct impact on your revenue growth? Download our free Online Marketing Self-Audit to find out.