Guide to Online Marketing

Guide to Online Marketing

Introduction: The New Rules of Marketing

This guide to online marketing serves as a primer for small businesses. It was written to familiarize you with marketing on the web, how things have changed over the years and how you might take advantage of the new options that are available to you.

A Shift Has Occurred in the Marketing World

In a recent article, Bruce Clay, a digital marketing thought leader, mentions that a permanent shift to working from home (WFH) has occurred.  In his article “A Tipping Point for the Digital Marketing Industry: From Caterpillar to Butterfly“, he states: 
“We are facing a shift from the old adage of ‘location, location, location’ to ‘What’s the URL?’”
“In this new world, search traffic is just as important as foot traffic.“ ~Bruce Clay
He is correct, businesses that lack a workable digital strategy and at the very least, an online presence are at a disadvantage.
The businesses that have the ability to reach and serve this WFH group online have an advantage. They will greatly improve their chances to stay afloat in this current economy.

Online Marketing Channels

First things first, let’s get you caught up. In the past, traditional channels were the only way to reach potential customers. Businesses used TV, radio, billboards newspaper and magazine ads to market to audiences.

While the traditional ways are still effective for reaching most audience groups. The proliferation of the Internet has led the way to a host of new ways to market to customers. These online marketing (or digital) channels are named so because they are only accessible online.

Below is a list of the five most popular digital marketing channels:

  1. Web (paid, organic, display and content)
  2. Email
  3. Mobile (SMS and In-app)
  4. Social Media
  5. Video

Every business is different including those that sell the same things. You will need to spend some time determining which of the above channels is best for your business.

Here is some background information on the top five online channels and key factors to help you:

1. Website Marketing

Do I need a website?

You have to get in the game in order to win the game.  If you’re looking to grow your business, a website is a must.  Designing a website as well as using sound SEO strategies can help to grow your business immensely compared to not having one at all.

With the majority of consumers looking online for products and services, having a web presence is extremely important to being noticed.

Benefits of a Website

There are a number of benefits that businesses can gain from having a web site.

  • Platform to share your message – By having a website, you are able to share your message to the world.  Having a professional website will instantly show customers that you are a reputable force in your industry.
  • Reach customers all over the world – Years ago, businesses were often restricted by their location.  In today’s digital economy, companies can have customers all over the world by having a robust website.
  • Support platform – Another benefit of a website is that it can act as a great way to handle support requests.  Offering an online form for feedback allows you to handle customer requests without having them bombard your email box.  With a website you can funnel customer requests to the right person, every time.

What Makes a Successful Website?

A successful website does not have to cost an arm and a leg to be successful.  A simple website that is aesthetically pleasing and showcases your products or services should be enough to help you grow your business.

From an SEO perspective, it is important to continuously update your website with vibrant content as well as to share your content across multiple platforms to show the search engines that you are an authority in your industry.

The Impact of SEO on Websites

Over the past few years, Search Engine Optimization (SEO for short) has changed significantly.  No longer can you just rely upon choosing the right keywords, include those keywords in your content a few times, add a few links and expect to get a first page ranking on Google.

To be ranked consistently today requires a mufti-faceted approach to SEO.  While SEO is by no means dead, you must be extremely conscious of a wide range of factors that help to determine where you rank online.

2. Email Marketing

Email marketing is often overlooked because of its simplicity. Yet, it is one of the most effective ways to reach new and existing customers. All you need is a list of valid emails and you’re off and running.

You can inform existing customers about changes or new features of a product. You are also able share information that can benefit them through a newsletter you email.

Note: There is one thing you need to be aware of. To send emails legally, your subscribers need to have opted-in. This means that they had to have given you permission to send the emails.
Sending an unsolicited email is called spamming and this can get you in trouble. There are several automated email platforms you can use to keep you out of trouble.
Email automation companies, such as Aweber, MadMimi or MailChimp help you manage your email list and the opt-in process.

3. Mobile Marketing

Since the invention of the mobile phone, also known as the cellular or smartphone.  An extremely effective way of reaching potential customers has become available. This is especially true for reaching younger audiences.
We have become a society that wants to always stay in touch with each other. As a result, the mobile phone and tablet (iPad and Amazon Fire) have become very popular online marketing mediums.
Since people tend to always have their cell phones with them and turned on, they are a great way to market to people. This has led to the short messages service, better known as SMS. SMS is the process of sending a “text message” using you mobile phone.
Also, the creation of so many mobile phone apps, has led to marketing through In-App messages. This is where a message or ad is sent (pushed) to an existing or potential customer using a mobile app.

4. Social Media, Is it Friend or Foe?

Social Media is gaining in popularity and importance by the day.  It is imperative as a business that you utilize at least the top Social Media platforms: LinkedIn for business networking and business connections; Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for reaching all types of potential customers.  It’s rumored that search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing) look at your social media profiles to determine whether you are a true authority in your arena.

Posting consistent and fresh content to your Social Media profiles will dramatically increase the chances that you will be ranked higher in the various search engines. It will also increase your brand awareness, meaning it improves your business name recognition.

It is also important to have an updated LinkedIn profile as well.  An updated profile can help to build credibility for both yourself and your brand.  Customers will look you up on LinkedIn to determine if you really are a provider of the goods and services that you claim to offer.

5. Importance of Video Marketing

When customers are visiting your web site, they often like to see who is behind the “computer”.  By utilizing video content, you can show your customers who you are, which can help to attach a more personalized touch to what you are offering.  Videos help to build rapport and offer another way to improve your search engine rankings.

Google gives significant weight to website owners that regularly upload YouTube videos, so video marketing should be an important part of any effective digital strategy.  With today’s smartphones, creating a video is as easy as pressing a button on your phone and uploading it to Vimeo or YouTube channel.

Ongoing Promotion

Becoming an authority in your industry is a lifelong process.  Designing a flashy web site and not doing anything else, is not enough to gain the attention of new customers or to gain the attention of the large search engines.

Being successful online is about consistently creating content that shows your current and potential customers that you are an expert in your field. By building trust with your customers, you can continue to grow your business long into the future.

Having an online presence through a website as well as a presence on the major Social Media platforms is a great way to begin to build that trust that is so important to being successful online.

Final Thoughts: Branding (Creating an Identity)

What is a Brand?

A brand is your corporate identity.  Your brand often includes your logo, and website, but it can also include much more, it’s the essence of who you are and what you do.

Your employees are also an extension of your brand and if you are not treating your employees fairly, this can lead to them becoming frustrated which can then impact their interaction with your customers, which in turn will affect your brand.

As you update or launch your brand online, take some time to understand your brand and to determine your target market.  Marketing to an incorrect market can do little to grow your business online.

“Your Brand is the essence of who you are and what you do!”

Why is Shaping a Brand Important?

Shaping your brand allows you to determine how you would like for your potential customers to view your company.  Shaping your brand identity involves finding a target market and catering everything that you do to that market.

If your market is a young, hip audience, then your logo should reflect this demographic.  Effectively shaping your brand will allow you to grow your audience and increase your online traffic as well.

Consistent Branding is Important

When launching a website, your brand should be consistent across all platforms.  If you are using different types of marketing, chances are that each of these marketing methods will encourage potential customers to visit your website.   If these various marketing materials do not match the look and feel of your website, your customers will instantly be confused.


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