The internet is without a doubt the most exciting marketing opportunity your business will ever have.
It’s never before been possible to reach so many people with so little money or effort. The UK economy may not have emerged fully from the recession – but for those of us who invest our time and energy into smart online marketing, we have the best possible tool to beat this.
See, the real beauty of the web is the way it encourages entrepreneurial developers to fill any tiny opportunity gap they find. Every day someone somewhere around the world launches a new web concept, including new ways of talking to people who are online. Which means every day there is more and more opportunity for you to reach an audience that might buy what you sell.
Successfully exploiting these opportunities is not just about a one way conversation (i.e. “please buy this”). It’s about developing a conversation with prospects and building a buzz round your business.
There are a lot of marketing agencies that will take money from you to leverage digital marketing channels to do this. Or with a bit of help from Bytestart you can put together your own DIY digital marketing plan.
Decide what you want to achieve
Every marketing plan must have a goal. Data capture is a common one; many campaigns are there to build the biggest possible email list. Other goals could be to raise awareness of your business, change perceptions of your product or industry, or simply to get a good bit of public relations.
Start the conversation
You can’t talk to people until you find them or they find you. The easiest and most mainstream way to do this is to use Google. It’s not really a search engine; it’s a way of predicting what people want to do. If they type “gold handbag” into Google then you know there is a chance they will buy one. If your website then sits in front of them because you use pay per click, or perform well in natural search, they may visit you.
Use the methods your audience use
There are so many different ways to talk to people online; this is where the opportunity really lies. There are forums, blogs, YouTube videos, Flickr photos. There’s a whole industry based round “social networking” – ways of getting people connected online. That means having a MySpace page, a Facebook entry or a LinkedIn profile.
You can use Twitter to keep people up-to-date with your every move. Digg.com or del.icio.us are great ways of collecting together other people’s content. The key to picking your method is to look at what your audience is using. If you need to talk to students, it will be the edgy experimental sites. If it’s over 40s, you may find it easier to look in chat forums.
Get involved in conversations
Once you have the site visitors give them ways to get involved in conversations with you. Have a blog and a forum. Let them leave reviews for products (and yes leave the negatives reviews on; people prefer a more realistic overview these days than just positive spin). Read entries daily and respond regularly to keep the conversation flowing.
Give people a good reason to get involved
For every hundred people who visit your site only one or two will leave content. So give people a good reason to contribute content. Could they get a free product for every hundred reviews? Will they be inspired by you sharing your business stories? Could you have a draw for every review left?
Use hired help to generate plenty of content
It’s not unheard of for new websites that rely what’s known as “user generated content” to pay students to write it. It’s OK to do this as other people will respond to the content and start to leave their own. Just be upfront about it if anyone asks.
Never try to fib on the web
It’s so easy to get a range of opinions on products and services that “spin” has no place on the web. If your product simply doesn’t do something, don’t try to pretend it does. You will get found out, and it will damage your credibility and harm the conversations you are having.
Give stuff away
Stuff can be your industry secrets (fewer people will act on them than will hire you) or physical stuff. People love a freebie and if the giveaway is good enough, it will change the conversation they have with you.
Track and measure
As with all marketing you must be fully aware of what you’re getting for your money. Digital marketing is utterly measurable – if you spend £10 on something which gives you 100 visitors and they spend £50, then you know that spending £100 will generate sales of £500. Simple! Even when you are using lots of different ways to generate visitors and have conversations, the numbers will still work out like this. Get in the habit of reviewing figures weekly, making marketing plan adjustments where necessary.
Like all marketing, digital marketing takes time. Behind every overnight success is a lot of hard work that no-one ever sees. Genuine conversations in particular take time, but the pay off will be well worth it as you build a more loyal customer base.